By Georganne Beck

After months of watching documentary films (over 400), the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival Screening Committee can put up their remote control and microwave popcorn and breath a sigh of relief. 55-60 of the best of the best has been chosen for this year's event, which takes place October 8-17. The Committee members are as diverse as the films they selected for the Festival. From a retired homemaker to a butterfly gardener; a creative writing teacher and a nationally-known published artist, the 11 members make up an eclectic group of people who are dedicated to bringing the finest films to Hot Springs.

Screening Committee Chair Patricia Sharp was born in Japan and received her early education in France. Although her career in radiological technology keeps her busy, she has been a volunteer with the Film Festival since its second year, having completed three years on the screening committee, the last two as chairperson. Sharp is on the Advisory Board of the Arts Cooperative Team (ACT) and Board vice-president and Volunteer Coordinator for the Hot Springs Music Festival.

A retired homemaker, Dorothy Kraebber loves to travel and visits North Carolina, Indiana and Paris, France often to visit her three sons. After working at the Dundee Township Library in Dundee, IL creating art for the Children's Department there, Dorothy moved to Hot Springs Village 14 years ago. Her daughter Sue Kraebber, another Screening Committee member, followed her to HSV in 1995. Raised in Elgin, IL, Sue received her Masters in Administration from Ball State University. She now teaches a first grade reading intervention program at Jessieville Elementary. Besides a mother-daughter duo, the committee also boasts two husband-wife teams. Norman and Cheryl Lavers, Jonesboro residents since 1976, have an extensive knowledge of films, having helped organize and run the Jonesboro International Film Series for the past 12 years. A native of South Wales, Great Britain, Cheryl was once a student of the Bath Academy of Art. She now specializes in butterfly gardening. Norman hails from California; he is a novelist, essayist and short story writer who teaches creative writing at Arkansas State University.

After living in Dallas for 23 years, Hot Springs native Mike McRae returned to the Spa City in 1995. With an extensive knowledge of cinema, his love for films began when he discovered an Art Film House in Dallas in the early '70s. McCrae has been involved in the Screening Committee for the past three years, and was chair in 1997. Gary Simmons is a nationally recognized pen-and-ink artist. He and his family live in Hot Springs where he has Gary Simmons Studio. He began his freelance artist career in 1976 and also teaches graphic design and drawing at Henderson State University in Arkadaelphia. In 1992 he wrote (name of the title in talics)(The Technical Pen: Techniques for Artists,) published by New York's Watson-Guptill Publishers. This effort grew out of a two-year stint teaching national pen-and-ink seminars for Rapidograph, the manufacturer of Simmons' pens. Gary has worked with the Film Institute from its inception, helping create publicity literature and serving on its screening committee.

Married and the mother of four, Peggy Stevenson moved to Hot Springs after retiring from the Community Economic Development of Cook County (IL), as a Management Information System Specialist. A member of Roanoke Baptist Church, Stevenson serves on the Board of Directors for the Hot Springs Documentary Film Institute, Hot Springs AID Resource Center, and is General Chairperson of the Hot Springs Ebony Fashion Fair.

A resident of Hot Springs for the past 21 years, Fred Towse is a Documentation Coordinator for USNR Hemco Division. With an M.S. in Education from Southern Illinois University, Towse felt like his background in academics and vocational arts could be useful to the betterment of the Festival, and joined the Committee this year. "I consider it an honor and responsibility to serve on the committee," said Towse. "Besides, the company and the food is always good at the meetings, so how can I miss?"

Rebecca and John Whelan make up the other husband-wife combo. A native Arkansan, Rebecca attended the U of A and taught school for several years. She is co-owner of Laurel's. Born and reared in New Jersey, John attended Rutgers and at one time, was a professional golfer. Since moving to Hot Springs in 1970, the two have been active in both Hot Springs Village and Hot Springs organizations.

The fruits of the Screening Committee's labor are listed in the following schedule.