Following a friendship born at last year’s Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, a trip to the Texas Hill Country resulted in a Michael Mueller documentary that will debut Monday in Hot Springs.
Benini: The Artist’s Journey was filmed in December at Benini’s finearts compound just south of Marble Falls Texas, edited in 2017, and will premier October 9th at this year’s documentary film festival.
“I first met Benini in when he and Lorraine attended the 25th Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival last year,” Mueller said. “I was hired to create a short film documenting a private reception where they were honored by the City of Hot Springs.”
“I have been involved with the film festival in various capacities since 2002, and I was well aware of the Beninis' importance in getting this world-renown festival started back in 1992. Lorraine and I had long talks about the history and preservation of the festival. The three of us hit it off magically - maybe it has something to do with me being German and Benini being Italian. We ended up spending most of the remaining days of the film festival together at various dinners and events.”
“So, last December I decided to visit them,” he continued. “I had never been to the Hill Country of Texas and I was stunned by its beauty. I also had the privilege of being one of the first people to see the new MUSEOBENIINI displaying paintings and sculpture from all stages of Benini’s long career.”
“Four hours of footage resulted from several interviews, and after viewing it, I determined it held rich material for a documentary of Benini’s life story. I am primarily a commercial and event videographer, so this project was a refreshing challenge. And it started me filming other fine art subjects for documentaries – Johann Eyfells and Pat Musick, for example.”
What resulted is more than just a fascinating insight into Benini’s life and career. It is also a testimony to one man’s drive and dedication to follow the path he chose – and in his words, becomes revealing and inspirational to any soul in a creative life.
Benini and his wife Lorraine arrived in Hot Springs from Florida in 1988, bought an historic building at 520 Central Avenue, formerly a hotel built in 1886 that had holes in the roof and was boarded up for years. They restored this 10,000 sq.ft. building according to National Historic Preservation guidelines, and it became an exciting haven for the creativity that thrived in the city, including Hot Springs Documentary Filmmaker parties, Historic Architectural tours, and Gallery Walks for the next 12 years.
In late 1999, Benini, forever prone to change, grew restless and a move to Johnson City, Texas followed. They bought a 143-acre ranch once owned by President Johnson. The Benini Galleries and Sculpture Ranch, an educational and cultural project, was open free of charge to the public for 15 years.
In 2014, they moved 28 miles north of that ranch, and are developing a project for the fine arts, that includes 6500 sq.ft. galleries showcasing 60 years of Benini’s paintings and three-dimensional pieces, as well as an extensive fine arts library and outdoor sculptures on acres of natural landscape. Visits to MUSEOBENINI are available free of charge by appointment to curators, scholarsand art tours - providing the opportunity to personally interact aesthetically and intellectually with Benini’s evolution as an artist.
It was here, Mueller travelled to capture Benini on film. Benini: The Artist’s Journey, will be screened Monday, October 9 immediately following a film about the Malco Theater restoration at 4:00 p.m.
“One of the biggest thrills of my professional career was getting word my film was officially selected to premiere at the HSDFF”, Mueller said. “It feels like we have come full circle to be united at the festival again, this time presenting to the world the fruit of our friendship - that began a year earlier at the same place.”
For tickets and further information, contact the HSDFF office at 501-538-0452.