The filmmaker, well, he ain't from around these parts. He's actually from the Netherlands, and took time out of his life to come to Hot Springs and present his film. Always a wonderful thing. Last year, we saw a film about Vancouver's homeless, The Devil Plays Hardball, and the filmmaker came down for that one, as well. But I digress. As I sat there listening to the filmmaker gush about his project (deservedly) and cracking jokes, I was also being blinded by the flash of a camera. One of the volunteers with the festival was taking pics of the audience as we listened. Once he stopped, I got a good look at him. He was an older fellow with a long white beard. And I wondered how he had landed here, in Hot Springs, taking our picture.
Before the filmmaker had started to talk, I could hear the various folks around us, all talking about where they had come from and where they lived. What struck me as interesting was that in a lot of ways people who live in Arkansas as adults deliberately choose to do so. I'm sure it's the same elsewhere, and I'm sure that some of the people who live here never really felt like they had much choice. But looking at the dude with the camera, I just got the sense that he had one day jumped up and said he was moving to Hot Springs and that was that.
You get that feeling in a lot of towns in Arkansas. Eureka Springs and Hot Springs both seem to draw these very eclectic groups of bikers, artists, new age types, hippies, and they all mix well with the good-old boys who have breakfast at the coffee shop on main street or central street or whatever street is the main drag. Even my home town, Yellville, has drawn in artists and celebrities over the years--Andrei Codrescu recently purchased a cave outside of town and has been known to visit the music on the square. John Dillon's kids rode my school bus. Our old neighbor swore one time that she saw Burt Reynolds at the Harps in Bull Shoals. Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen are friends with some folks over in Argenta--Cathy ran into them one night when Henry the family dog took off in the neighborhood. Ted and Mary were having a sit on the porch. There are other examples, of course, but you get the idea. Folks here are actually pretty liberal when it comes to dealing with other people, by and large, in the sense that they tend to let other folks alone.
The interesting thing is that the outside world still pictures Arkansas as Deliverance land (that was shot in Georgia, by the way, not Arkansas), not a cultural hot-bed where we have 18 year old documentary film festivals and such. Not only do we have a pit you can dig for diamonds in, but we also have a double-wide library you can visit (thanks, Bill). We've also got a large number of small farmer's markets popping up, and the local food movement impulse is starting to sink in (not that in many parts of the state local food was ever out of style). Sure, we might throw a few turkeys out of a plane every second weekend of October, but we got culture. And, as someone who left for a good decade and came back of her own volition, I can see why people choose to live here. I guess I just had to see it from somewhere else to get it.
Now, if I can just get to a part of the state where there is no traffic report in the morning unless it involves a cow or a tractor, I'll be doing good.
By the way, the film festival is on until the 25th and the Austin Hotel and Convention Center has clean rooms with $5 valet parking. You can park and walk to the Malco.