Film festival to unveil new poster, reaches out to Polish Film Commission

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 593 views 

An effort by the Fort Smith International Film Festival is part of the community outreach to foreign nations that U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, has said will be vital now that Fort Smith will be home to a foreign military pilot training center.

The festival on Thursday (May 18) is unveiling its 2023 poster prior to a screening of “Poets Are the Destroyers,” a film by Bentonville native Nancy Pop. The screening, part of the festival’s Thursday Night Film Series, is at The Bakery District in downtown Fort Smith and is set to begin with a reception at 6 p.m.

This year’s film festival theme is “refocused,” celebrating a storytelling renaissance by moviemakers who suffered production obstacles posed by the global pandemic. The third annual festival is set for Aug. 25-26 at Temple Live in Fort Smith. Festival submissions have surpassed the first two years of the festival, with more than 400 film entries from more than 50 countries, nations, and tribes. The deadline to submit films is May 25 at the festival’s website.

“Our connection to the Cisterna Film Festival has led to Italy being our 3rd largest submitter of films behind Canada and the United Kingdom,” Festival Director Brandon Goldsmith said.

The festival is a project of the River Valley Film Society, which has plans to expand its community reach.

“The River Valley Film Society’s goal is to entertain and educate through movies. Soon we will be announcing a King Opera House movie series with Arts on Main (in Van Buren),” Goldsmith said.

Ebbing Air National Guard base in Fort Smith, home to the 188th Wing in Fort Smith and co-located with the Fort Smith Regional Airport, was selected in March by the U.S. Air Force to be the long-term pilot training center supporting F-16 and F-35 fighter planes purchased by Singapore, Switzerland, Poland, Germany and other countries participating in the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program.

Community and political leaders have said it will be important for the region to welcome pilots and families from all countries, especially Singapore, which is expected to have a larger presence in the area.

Womack said in a late April interview that Singapore officials have expressed to him a desire to be involved in the community. He told Talk Business & Politics during a May 5 interview that it also will be important to welcome all foreign military personnel and dependents who will call Fort Smith home for lengthy training cycles.

“The one thing that was consistent in those conversations is that their (Singapore) people will become assimilated and involved in the community where they live. So a lot of that will be on us,” Womack said.

Goldsmith said the festival is working with the Polish Film Commission and has received several Polish movie entries. The Air Force has said that Poland could be the first country to have pilots training in Fort Smith.

“But more importantly, they have shared with us their film catalog so that we can show Polish movies here in order to teach the River Valley about their culture and provide entertainment to the pilots and families who will be coming to Ebbing National Guard Base for training with the Foreign Military Sales training program starting in 2024,” Goldsmith said.

The 2023 festival poster was developed by UK artist Alex Williamson, who partnered with Bryan Alexis, a professor at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith. According to the festival, Williamson is a commercial illustrator, graphic artist and academic based in Bath. He has created work for The Wall Street Journal, Adidas, World Health Organization, Guinness, Time Magazine, The Economist, The Guardian, The Atlantic, Fortune and more.

“It was a great honor to collaborate with my friend Alex on this project. We spent much time in critical discussion, passing visual and typographic arrangements back and forth across the Atlantic. We feel we arrived at a poignant and vibrant design that raises the visual game for the Fort Smith International Film Festival,” Alexis said.

Pop’s film, “Poets Are the Destroyers,” tells the story of a young poet “who faces crippling writer’s block amidst an unexpected pregnancy,” according to the festival, and was a Filmland: Arkansas 2022 feature selection. Pop received her bachelor’s degree in theatre performance and playwriting from Marymount Manhattan College and has trained with Anthony Abeson, Brian O’Neil, The Second City, Magnet Theatre, Berg Studios, and Pacific Performance Project East.

The festival interacts with regional film industry players such as the Cherokee Nation Film Office and Arkansas Cinema Society to identify capable regional directors, actors, film technicians and skilled tradespeople, Goldsmith said. About 600 attended the 2022 film festival in person, with more than 200 attending virtually, he said, noting that the economic impact to Fort Smith was over $130,000, Goldsmith said.