summer tour - hot springs

some say leland has hit the road and day one finds us in hot springs, arkansas. the restorative waters of the springs have been drawing visitors from the world over and from every economic class for well over two centuries. old hickory himself made the springs the first federal reservation in 1832 and since then the famous and infamous, including babe ruth and al capone, have availed themselves of the luxurious bathhouses that line the main drag. in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the american bathing experience was a booming business. prior to the advent of modern antibiotics, the spas that blossomed all over hot springs were celebrated for their medicinal properties and were constantly busy. that has tailed off in the modern era, but it still maintains a couple of bathhouses and remains a bustling tourist destination. and you can still get a rousing workout with a medicine ball at the fordyce bathhouse museum.

on the film front, hot springs is a linchpin of the documentary community. housed in the historic malco theater, the hot springs documentary film institute has been toiling away quietly here in this corner of arkansas for twenty years to build a wonderful legacy devoted to promoting, showcasing and teaching people about non-fiction film. this october, the twentieth annual hot springs documentary festival is going to screen over one hundred documentaries from all over the world, both feature and short subject, both experimental and more traditional. for ten days, it will be the mecca of the documentary community. throughout the rest of the year the institute offers a soundstage, film and audio editing suites for community use, living space for visiting filmmakers and educators and does a ton of educational outreach work with arkansas schools. they are working to restore the malco theater and they have a documentary library of over 17,000 titles. the gentleman who did sound for us tonight is actually on the selection committee and, as part of the winnowing process, has watched over three hundred films that are eligible for selection since february. they are a devoted group and do mighty work in the name of non-fiction film. i go to bed tonight in the documentary capital of the world. pretty neat.

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