New HSDFI board chair named

The Hot Springs Documentary Film Institute recently added four new members to its 19-member board of directors and elected new officers, including Margaret McLarty as the new board chair.

McLarty, who is originally from El Dorado and has lived in Hot Springs for 20 years, previously served as vice chair of the board.

“I’ve been involved — well, started out, really — as a volunteer at the film festival and then I’ve been on the board since September of 2019 and last year became vice chair, knowing the intention was for me to become board chair starting January,” McLarty said.

She succeeds Joel Rush, who had served two terms as board chair. A term is for two years, and McLarty said that she is able to potentially serve two terms in the position.

McLarty originally was just a spectator at the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, which led her wanting to get involved in the organization.

“It is my favorite nine days in Hot Springs. It first started out as, you know, going to the festival and seeing a film and finding out how fantastic it is, and then, we bring in up to like 90 industry guests each year — we haven’t in the COVID years, but we were before that — and it really transforms the town. the Arlington and different places and just the buzz of everyone in and from all over the world,” McLarty said.

“So I started finding out how fun it is, too, so I just increasingly started volunteering. I started off with picking up industry guests from the airport, whether it’s a filmmaker or subject of a film, and you have these interesting conversations, and it’s just people from all over the world coming in and telling their untold stories,” she said.

McLarty started volunteering with the festival six years ago. “There was a point that I’d go to one film, then the next year I’d go to two films, and I’m like ‘This is so much fun I have to just wipe my calendar clean for the nine days’ and I started doing that you know because the films start at 9 o’clock in the morning and end at 11 o’clock at night and we have parties every day, at least two parties every day for nine days, so it is fun- filled,” she said.

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“It’s expansive,” McLarty said when asked of the appeal of documentary films. “It broadens your perspective. It doesn’t matter if it is, you know, something about immigration or, you know, prison reform or once I saw a documentary on graffiti artists for trains and I left there knowing this whole network. It’s not just art on trains, I mean there’s this whole story behind it and to walk away and like to have this whole new perspective about when you see graffiti on trains, I’ll think of it differently,” she said.

“Documentaries, the nonfiction storytelling, it’s so important in this time, that we have nonfiction film genre,” McLarty said.

McLarty also noted that five documentaries that were nominated for Academy Awards this year screened with the HSDFF in 2021: “Attica,” -chair-named/”Flee,””Summer of Soul (… Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised),””The Queen of Basketball” and “When We Were Bullies.”

“There are 19 board members that I have the pleasure of working with and actually our board members extend from coast to coast now. We have board members in Los Angeles and board members in New York, and the board determines strategy for the institute,” McLarty said when asked what her new duties will be.

“I work directly with the executive director,” McLarty said. “And I’m focused on, an increased focus on growth and to increase to improve organizational structure, to strengthen organizational structure and outreach, and I’m really hoping to grow the festival,” she said.

“I am so excited. It is really so rewarding, and it’s really so rewarding because of the wonderful people that I’m working with, I mean the board is just so professional, these wonderful professionals from all over the country and then our supporters are amazing and volunteers,” McLarty said.

Joining McLarty as officers are Vice Chairs Mary Zunick and Neal Gladner, Treasurer Lesley Nalley and Secretary Stephanie Alderdice.

Four new board members also recently joined the board: Joan Botts, who has a career in marketing, Ra A. Hearne, a filmmaker who is a descendant of “Roots” and “Malcolm X” author Alex Haley, Matt Rogers, an entertainment attorney , and Ben Walters, who is the international business development manager at the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.

“It’s been great, you know, just the collaboration of working with different people and really hope to also reach out to other festivals and kind of network with other organizations, other film festivals, you know, to get ideas and kind of collaborate,” McLarty said.

The other board members are Brad Burleson, Lisa Cole, Amy Hale, Kerri Jackson, Jean Lacefield, Scott Lauck, JoAnn Mangione, Joel Rush, Kate Schaffer and Angie Wilson.

The festival will be held from Oct. 7-15.

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