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Arkansas Cinema Society Shifts To Digitial Programming Due To Coronavirus

Arkansas Cinema Society

While movie theaters remain closed due to social distancing measures brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, the Arkansas Cinema Society is partnering with several local organizations to present a series of documentaries for patrons to watch online.

The Shelter in Place Virtual Film Series features five films and all four parts of a documentary series, split into two screenings, each selected by a different organization. The series began on Sunday, April 19 and will run each Sunday through May 31. The films will play twice, once at 2 p.m. and again at 6 p.m.

Kathryn Tucker is the executive director of the Arkansas Cinema Society. She says the society is in a unique position where they can still offer programming during this time of social isolation.

"I really want to try to provide, kind of like pinch-hit for the rest of the arts because there’s so little art programming right now," Tucker said. The society is partnering up with the Arkansas Peace and Justice Memorial Movement, the Arkansas Minority Film and Arts Association, Just Communities of Arkansas, Arkansas PBS and the Washitaw Foothills Youth Media Arts and Literacy Collective to present the films. 

The remaining films are:

- Meet the Patels

- For Sama

- Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World

- Music in Arkansas: Origins

- College Behind Bars (Parts 1 and 2)

- College Behind Bars (Parts 3 and 4)

As far as why the series is documentary focused, Tucker says one reason why they chose documentaries for the series is they aren’t as available to view.

"They need a little extra attention a lot of times and people a lot of times don’t know what documentaries are good and what to watch. And so having a curated series I think is helpful and always shining a light on the more underexposed awesome films I think is part of our job," Tucker said.

Audiences will view the films through the screening platform OVEE, which after the film is over, will allow participants to submit questions for the Q&A.

Each participating partner in the series picked a film to screen. The film the Arkansas Cinema Society selected is "For Sama," which received an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary this past year. Tucker says she first saw the film during the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival in the fall and is one of the most moving films she has ever seen.

"It’s about a Syrian refugee named Waad al-Kateab, and she is the director, cinematographer and essentially star of the documentary. For five years, she was living in Aleppo when the Russians started bombing and for five years, her husband was a doctor, they stayed to take care of everyone who was injured. And the story is about her giving birth during that time," Tucker said.

In addition to the film series, the Arkansas Cinema Society is also launching a series of webinars focused on different aspects of the film industry. Tucker says this series actually benefits from the current social distancing policies.

"It’s so much more accessible than having to fly someone here. So we can get really incredible talent to participate much easier, not that they wouldn’t be willing to come. But there’s just a limit to what ACS can afford in terms of travel," Tucker said.

Tucker says they will announce each webinar at the beginning of the week and they plan to run them until the period of self-isolation ends. More information on both the film series and the webinars can be found at the Arkansas Cinema Society’s website.

As for future programming plans, the application period has ended for the second annual Filmmaking Lab for Teen Girls, which is still set to take place this July. Tucker says they received 30 applications for the program, which only has 12 available spots and are in the process of interviewing applicants.

While last year’s program occurred over eight weeks in the spring, Tucker said the main piece of feedback they received from past participants was when the lab took place.

"They just wanted more time with us. So that’s what we’re doing and that’s why we’ve moved it to the summertime instead of the springtime. So I’m really looking forward to being able to dive in a little bit deeper into each trade within the filmmaking process," Tucker said.

With one filmmaking lab under their belts, Tucker says she’s looking forward to using that experience for this year’s lab and working with the girls

"It’s invigorating and I love watching them, kind of, come into themselves and get more confidence from the beginning to the end and then the premiere of their films is always just… it always give me chills to talk about it. I just love the program and I can’t wait to do it again," Tucker said. 

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