United Nations Arts Ambassador inaugurates Fort Smith International Film Festival


Fort Smith – The Fort Smith International Film Festival has received recognition from a UN ambassador, who praised the event as an opportunity for community support and storytelling.

UN Arts Ambassador Ibianca Alao’s remarks come on the heels of Executive Director Brandon Goldsmith’s announcement that the opening ceremony had 396 submissions from 43 countries by the June 4 deadline.

“One thing I know is that whatever you start with always starts small, and it gets bigger. It’s not that it’s already so small — it’s your opening, and you have so many.” There are entries from people, from so many countries,” Aalo said.

The festival, which will take place on August 13–14 at four locations in the downtown area, was conceptualized by Goldsmith about two years ago. It aims to celebrate the “artistic expression and diverse experiences” of Native Americans and people of color through mediums including film, panel discussions and music, according to the festival’s website.

The opening ceremony is sponsored in large part by Arwest Bank and 906 Cocktail & Cigar Lounge, both contributing $10,000. Goldsmith said the festival is halving its $30,000 budget toward scholarships and cash awards.

Goldsmith met with Alao at Rogers in an Ozark Talent Bank roundtable discussion on the film.

“I couldn’t even believe that a new film festival was going to be set up after Kovid, which really impressed me,” Alao said.

Goldsmith said that Fort Smith “has always been an international city” when it comes to industry, culture and the arts. He said this coincides with the festival’s recognition of Alao.

Goldsmith said that Alao also “gives some credence” to the festival.

The news conference unveiled the film festival poster, which shows a graphic by artist JK Burchett, the Cherokee Nation’s history and conservation officer, Catherine Foreman Gray. The poster shows a rose emerging from Grey’s eye and a speech bubble with the theme of the festival, “Through His Eyes,” inside.

Artistic director Jennifer Burchett said that film festival officials partnered with the Cherokee Nation because, geographically, it is Fort Smith’s closest international neighbor.

Jennifer Laurent, director of the Cherokee Nation Film Office, said, “You all look forward to the successful run of the film festival, and we’re excited to be a part of it.”

Goldsmith and others will now have to reduce the 123 hours of film submitted for Showtime to 23 hours.

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about the festival

When: August 13-14

Where: 5 Star Productions, Bakery District, 906 Cocktail & Cigar Lounge, The Majestic



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