Day 4 of the LRFF is when things start getting a little hectic—there are so many excellent showings at all times of day it’s like swimming in a movie paradise. Luckily, this weekend, you’ll have several chances to catch all of the most talked-about offerings. Of many incredible selections that showed last night, one of the most compelling was Benjamin Dickinson’s First Winter, about a group of handsome hipster yoga aficionados living in an intentional community at a rural farmhouse. Things are peaceable at first—everyone is emotionally open, meditates together, and gets along lovingly. But after the power goes out for an unexplained reason, tensions in the house come to a head. They’re low on food, the attentions of their leader, Paul, are straying to another woman, and one of the residents is cultivating a pretty substantial drug problem. When a former resident, Marie, turns up out of nowhere, her resurfacing presents an awkward comfort in this group of psychologically struggling and somewhat damaged beings. First Winter sold out at all four of its screenings recently at Tribeca, and it’s most certainly one of those provocative, of-our-time films that need to be seen and whose subject matter serves as an excellent conversation kindling. Needless to say, the house was packed for its first LRFF showing.
After the screening, Dickinson revealed that the community leader, Paul, was played by his real-life yoga instructor, Paul Manza, and the farm where film was shot is actually Manza’s facility. Dickinson explained that, with limited resources and seemingly unable to secure the funding for the film he really wanted to make, he turned to what he had access to: friends (most of the actors are acquaintances) and the farm. What results is a gorgeously shot psychological examination, with just enough information withheld that the viewer is helplessly involved in deciding the film’s outcome.
Afterwards, everyone headed over to the most anticipated party of the LRFF, the Sync of Swim Boat Party—and what a scene. The dance floor on the second level was packed with folks, the roof was full of revelers enjoying the night air and the sparkling view of downtown from the river, and Velvet Kente performed their usual heartfelt blend of jammed-out songwriting. When the boat docked after our breezy cruise, many of us headed over to the Argenta Rooftop after party, where, amazingly, there was yet another DJ and even more dancing into the wee hours.
Today, you might want to put in a full day at the fest—there are back-to-back showings of some truly prime movies. In particular, Wolf, showing at 6 PM, is a taut, complex story of a working-class family who discovers their son has suffered child abuse at the hands of a trusted acquaintance—and, what’s more, he still has intense feelings for his abuser. It’s a smart twist on the concept, supported by some explosive performances. Also at 6 PM, we welcome the lovely and immensely talented Lea Thompson to the LRFF for the screening of the film, The Trouble with the Truth. She will be on hand afterward for questions, along with the film’s director, Jim Hemphill. This will be another packed crowd, so make sure you arrive in time for seating.
Later, at 8 PM, head over to the new Oxford American Magazine offices for a screening of the whirlwind documentary, Tchoupitoulas, and discussion with the filmmaker afterwards. You’ll probably want to park it there—tonight’s Oxford American Best of the South Soiree will also be held at the offices, with a live performance by Little Rock’s legendary soul band, True Soul Revue, and the announcement of the recipient of one of LRFF’s most prestigious awards, the Oxford American’s Best Southern Film Award.
With the award comes a $10,000 cash prize. Oxford American publisher, Warwick Sabin, spoke of the OA‘s eagerness to participate in the LRFF as sponsor, saying “The OA has been supportive of the festival since its inception, not only because it’s our home turf, but we respect their goal to create the best film festival in the South, and we want to be a part of that goal.” Regarding the importance of the OA Best Southern Film prize, Sabin said, “We established this prize to make a bold statement and attract the best talent and reward cultural achievement.” Traditionally having hosted the LRFF Opening Night parties in other locations, with the procurement of the OA‘s new offices in Little Rock, the magazine is thrilled to feature a screening in addition to hosting the party at their building, “We want to make the most of the building in terms of contributing to the cultural life of Little Rock and writ large of the South,” Sabin says. “Now that we have a home of our own, it’s only natural to share our home with everyone.”