Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival Archives Move to U of A

Image from the brochure of the October 10-18, 1998 Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival at the Malco Theatre in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
Special Collections, University of Arkansas Libraries

Image from the brochure of the October 10-18, 1998 Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival at the Malco Theatre in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The University of Arkansas Libraries’ Special Collections is pleased to announce the acquisition of the archives of the oldest all-documentary film festival in North America. 

The Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival Archives offer a significant addition to Special Collections’ extensive film holdings on twentieth-century art, culture, environmentalism, and politics. Totaling close to 300 linear feet, the Archives will provide scholars and researchers access to rich resources documenting the history of one of the country’s most prominent film festivals.

Promotional still from Sunrise over Tiananmen Square. Copyright HSDFF, October 8-17, 1999. Image courtesy of Special Collections, University of Arkansas Libraries.

“The Hot Springs Documentary Film Institute’s staff and board of directors feel very privileged to have our cherished archives join the distinguished Special Collections at the University of Arkansas, and are thrilled that the ever-evolving historical records of the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival will be protected for current and future generations,” said Don Gooch, chair of the institute’s Board of Directors. “We look forward to seeing them shared with film lovers, students, scholars, journalists and researchers from across the state of Arkansas and around the world.”

The Archives span a fascinating 25-year history and include thousands of documentary films, as well as an extensive collection of photographs, film memorabilia and artifacts. A number of the documentaries in the collection, especially those screened at Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival before the digital revolution, were never released.

The Walton Family Foundation provided early funding to help the institute maintain a storage facility for the long-term protection and care of the archives.

"Through its rich history, the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival has screened powerful and important non-fiction films, and I'm so glad these stories will be preserved and archived at the University of Arkansas," said Larry Foley, documentary filmmaker and Chair of the Lemke Department of Journalism. "When I first heard the festival's tapes and DVDS needed a safe and permanent home, I jumped at the chance to encourage our Libraries to accept this incredibly important collection."

Promotional still from Life with Big Cats. Copyright HSDFF, October 8-17, 1999. Image courtesy of Special Collections, University of Arkansas Libraries.

The Hot Springs Documentary Film Institute was founded in 1992 and remains one of the few organizations in the United States dedicated solely to the documentary genre. Each year, the institute presents a 10-day film festival held in October with the help of hundreds of dedicated volunteers, the institute’s board and staff members. Hosted in the historic downtown of Hot Springs, the film festival screens over 100 documentary films each year and is one of only 38 select festivals worldwide recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as Academy Award-qualifiers. This year the festival will be celebrating its 25th anniversary.

Recipients of the festival’s “Spa City Best Documentary Short Award” will qualify for consideration in the Documentary Short Subject category of the annual Academy Awards without the standard theatrical run, provided the film otherwise complies with the Academy rules. In addition to being an Oscar-qualifier, the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival is known for hosting, throughout the years, many of the most influential filmmakers in the documentary genre. MovieMaker magazine recently named the festival to its global list of top film festivals worth the entry fee.

“The University of Arkansas Libraries is honored to house and preserve the rich history and great diversity of films found in the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival Archives as well as ensure that the largest film archive in the state will be preserved and accessible for years to come,” said Angela Fritz, interim head of Special Collections.

Not only will the University of Arkansas Libraries serve as the official home of the Archives, but Special Collections and the Hot Springs Documentary Film Institute will continue to work in partnership by building this on-going collection with yearly additions of photographs and memorabilia that will ultimately offer the country an unparalleled view of the development of the first nonfiction festival as well as of the documentary genre itself.

"This is a unique collection of films, and will be a wonderful resource for anyone interested in documentary film production and history," said Dale Carpenter, professor in the Lemke Department of Journalism.

For more information on the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival Archives, or any of the resources in Special Collections, please contact 479-575-8444 or email

About the University of Arkansas Libraries: Located at the heart of campus, David W. Mullins Library is the university’s main research library. Branch libraries include the Robert A. and Vivian Young Law Library, the Fine Arts Library, the Physics Library, and the Chemistry and Biochemistry Library. The Libraries provide access to more than 2 million volumes and 53,000 journals, and offer individual and group research help, study spaces, computer labs with printing and scanning, interlibrary loan and delivery services, and cultural exhibits and events. The Libraries’ Special Collections Department acquires, preserves, and provides access to materials on Arkansas and the region, its customs and people, and its cultural, physical, and political climate. Visit the Libraries’ web page at to learn more about services and collections.

About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among only 2 percent of universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.


Angela Fritz, interim head, Special Collections
University Libraries

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