In May, Academy Award® winning actor Geena Davis will be heading to Arkansas for the first annual Bentonville Film Festival (The BFF). You may know Davis from her recent role on Grey’s Anatomy as Dr. Nicole Herman, or remember her from films such as Thelma & Louise, Bettlejuice, A League of Their Own, and The Accidental Tourist. She was nominated for an Academy Award® for Thelma & Louise and won the award for her role in The Accidental Tourist.
The BFF, which starts May 5 and runs through May 9, is hosted by Walmart, ARC Entertainment, AMC Theatres, and Coca-Cola, and was organized to promote women and minorities in the film industry. The reason Davis is such a good fit is her work in this field. In 2007, she started The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which is a non-profit designed to change media to empower girls. When the festival was announced, she said, “The Bentonville Film Festival is a critical component of how we can directly impact the quantity and quality of females and minorities on-screen and behind the scenes.”
Organizers are especially proud of this festival. It is the only film competition in the world to promise distribution to winners. The Audience, Jury Selection, and Best Family Film category winners will have their work shown on a minimum of twenty-five screens at AMC Theatres.
While this is exciting news for filmmakers (more than 100 films have been submitted, many from L.A. and New York), it is also great news for anyone who wants to experience Hollywood without leaving the state. There will be tickets available for everything from seeing one of the films entered in the competition, to panel discussions with leaders from the industry, including directors, writers, and producers.
The BFF has been the talk of the town, and Bentonville is getting ready for an influx of people. Trevor Drinkwater, CEO of ARC Entertainment, expects 25,000 visitors to flock to the city from across the globe, some of them big names in the entertainment world. Although he is not at liberty to name names, he did say that some of the festival’s board members would likely be in attendance. Board members include Shonda Rhimes (creator of Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy), Julianne Moore, Eva Longoria, Angela Bassett, Natalie Portman, Bruce Dern, Samuel L. Jackson, Randy Jackson, and Paula Patton. Bruce Dern even created his own award called the Dernsy, for scriptwriting.
During the week, there will be panel discussions held at Northwest Arkansas Community College. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is hosting afternoon events, and several venues across town, including Grace Point Church and Old High Middle School, will be showing films. “These are very commercial films, with big casts and great genres. People will be impressed and excited to see these films,” Drinkwater says. Documentary filmmakers are also entered in the competition, and he is pleased with the quality of work he’s seen.
Drinkwater estimates there will be an opportunity to screen approximately thirty-five films during the week. It should cost around ten dollars to see one of the films. There will also be package deals, like the unlimited pass for films, and an all-access pass, which includes extras like the panel discussions. The only events the public will not have access to are the opening ceremony and the awards ceremony, which will be hosted by Geena Davis, and takes place at the end of the week.
It’s important to keep checking The BFF website, since additional information about the festival will be added regularly. There will be details about the panel discussions, a list of movies, including when and where they’ll be shown, and information about nightly events. You can even volunteer to work at the festival.
The BFF is an exciting new addition to the arts scene in Arkansas, and a great way for you to see the inner workings of the movie industry, perhaps spot a few celebrities, and watch films you would never
otherwise have the chance to see. Mark your calendars and get ready for a great time in Bentonville.
For updates on The BFF, visit bentonvillefilmfestival.com