After a successful inaugural festival in May, 2015 BFF is proud to announce even greater distribution opportunities for winning films of the 2016 Film Competition with expanded partnership support from Starz and Lifetime. BFF is a research based and commercially focused platform offering an avenue to identify compelling films from women and diverse voices. BFF remains the only film festival in the world that guarantees distribution for three of its winning films through founding sponsor Walmart, and existing partners VUDU and AMC Theaters. Now in its second year, BFF winning filmmakers will benefit even further from additional partnerships and the opportunities expanded distribution brings.
Carmi Zlotnik, managing director at Starz said, “Starz is pleased to partner with the BFF. The festival has already made an impact, and we are proud to participate in a bigger way this year. We are dedicated to supporting new voices and emerging storytellers.”
In addition to its linear distribution commitment, Lifetime has added a script writing competition to this year’s events. The network is looking for full-length movie scripts and will option a winning script for development. Applications will be accepted beginning April 8, 2016 and will close on May 13, 2016, with A+E executives participating on the script-contest jury. In addition, the winner will receive a week-long residency at the Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow in Eureka Springs, Ark., a program for writers of all genres, visual and textile artists (http://www.writerscolony.org). Details of the competition can be found at http://www.bentonvillefilmfestival.com.
Liz Gateley, EVP and head of programming for Lifetime stated, “Finding powerful, diverse voices and bringing their stories to life is at the heart of our network’s programing mission. We are thrilled to have been an inaugural BFF partner and because our values are so aligned, we are even more thrilled to be able to expand our partnership this year.”
The amazing films coming out of the 2015 festival support Walmart and BFF’s shared mission to champion diversity and inclusion. Harnessing the value of the platform, distribution opportunities, marketing support and guidance from BFF and partners, the 2015 BFF winners are seeing success in the industry and are encouraged by the opportunity to see work become widely available to audiences. They are also using this visibility as a springboard into new projects.
Janet Grillo, director of Jack of the Red Hearts, 2015 BFF Jury Award Winner, shared, “What Bentonville is doing that no other festival in the country is doing is recognizing that it is harder to get meaningful distribution for an independent film than it is to make one. So they offer prize winners national distribution and this is a stunning opportunity.” 2015 BFF winners continue to show successful market distribution. Jack of the Red Hearts was featured at 25 AMC Theatres across the country as part of the AMC Indy Program and is airing in April for Autism Awareness Month on Lifetime, streaming on VUDU and has distribution at Walmart.
The incredibly moving documentary, In My Father’s House, about Grammy-winning hip-hop singer/songwriter Che “Rhymefest” Smith came to the 2015 festival from Emmy-nominated filmmakers Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg. The Best Documentary award-winning film tells the story of Smith who reconnects with his father after 25 years of being out of his life due to homelessness and addiction. This award came with the incredible prize of theatrical distribution in 20 markets nationwide and premiered on Showtime in February which allowed it to reach into communities throughout the country, inspire audiences and impact lives.
Thao’s Library, the BFF 2015 Audience Award winner about a woman who despite her disabilities set up a makeshift library for children in her village, has also seen success with distribution and is currently streaming on Netflix. Team Thao’s Library just returned from a trip back to Vietnam to screen the Vietnamese version of Thao’s Library for Thao, her family and friends in the library. “Being there with Thao, surrounded by family and friends and finally sharing the film with her – we came full circle and it was truly the greatest moment of my life,” said filmmaker Elizabeth Van Meter. The film won the Interfaith Best Documentary Award at the St. Louis International Film Festival in November and recently screened at the Viet Film Fest at the AMC Orange in Orange, Calif. Thao’s Library, the solo multimedia theater piece, written and performed Van Meter is now on stage Off Broadway April 20 – May 7 at Theatre Row in NYC. The play is produced by All For One Theater whose mission is to offer extraordinary solo theater that has the ability to inspire, move and matter.
“The 2015 award-winning films were amazing and we are so proud of the recognition and success they are getting,” commented Trevor Drinkwater, co-founder of BFF. “These filmmakers continue to inspire others with their work and support the purpose of BFF –featuring diverse voices in media.”
Other examples of 2015 BFF winner activity include:
A Brilliant Young Mind, Morgan Matthews director, won the Family Feature at the 2015 festival. Most recently, Matthews has been working with Ridley Scott and Kevin Macdonald, directing the Britain in a Day project for the BBC Two, a crowd-sourced documentary film that consists of a series of clips of footage shot by members of the public in Britain on Nov. 12, 2011. He is now moving onto his next documentary, a proposed theatrical co-production between BBC Storyville and the BFI. The BFI and BBC Films are also working with Matthews on a feature film X+Y inspired by the winning BFF documentary.
Meet the Patels, High Diversity award winner, enjoyed a popular theatrical run and is now finding a broader audience with release on Netflix. It has since been picked up by Fox-Searchlight for a remake as a feature film. One of the directors, Ravi Patel, has translated the success of his naturally diverse character into roles on the ABC comedy Grandfathered and highly popular new comedy, Master of None.
A Brave Heart, the 2015 Spirit Award, continues to make a difference with its anti-bullying messaging while winning numerous awards including 2016 Webby Awards Honoree in Social Entertainment and Public Service & Activism Categories and the Cinema Eye Honors for Unforgettable Directors and was recently screened at SXSW in March 2016.
This first class of BFF winners, their efforts and subsequent success are a testament to the BFF platform and its ability to facilitate real change in the industry. “BFF is a radical experiment; creating direct access for diverse films and filmmakers to wider audiences, in the belief that wider audiences are hungry for the stories we have to tell,” shared Jack of the Red Hearts filmmaker Grillo. “This is a chance to prove it, and if we succeed we pave the way for other women and diverse filmmakers.”
BFF will take place May 3 – 8 2016 in Bentonville, Ark., with multi-event ticket pass packages and single event tickets now on sale. Stay up to date on all things BFF at www.bentonvillefilmfestival.com and learn more about the 2016 films and panels, the schedule of events, catch up on industry news and the great work going on with the BFF Foundation. In addition, use BFF;s new phone app for festival goers to organize their festival experience. Festival goers will be able to buy tickets to events, track current news and learn more about the films and filmmakers.
About Bentonville Film Festival (BFF): Co-founded by Academy Award Winner® Geena Davis and entrepreneur Trevor Drinkwater in 2015, BFF’s mission is to encourage content creation in film and other forms of media that reflects the diverse — and half female — world we live in. BFF proactively supports content creation by minorities and women with a platform to showcase their work and, with the help of our partners, is the only film competition in the world to guarantee theatrical, television, digital and retail home entertainment distribution for its winners. The Festival takes place in early May in Bentonville, Arkansas and is research based and commercially driven. BFF launched its inaugural event in Bentonville, AR in May 2015 with over 37,000 attendees present, 45 films in competition and has since provided distribution to over 84% of those films.
About BFF Foundation: Bentonville Film Festival Foundation Inc. is a 501c3 non-profit organization focused on promoting women and diversity in the entertainment industry through research, education, mentoring and industry partnerships. The primary partner of the Foundation is the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. Funds raised will be used to field research studies and fund content development, distribution and marketing.
About Geena Davis and the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media: Academy Award and Golden Globe-winning actor Geena Davis is one of Hollywood’s most respected actors, and is well-known for her seminal roles in several feature films that became cultural landmarks. A long-time advocate for women and girls’ empowerment, Davis is now recognized for her pioneering work to change the media landscape nearly as much as for her acting accomplishments. She is the visionary and founder of the non-profit Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which uniquely combines groundbreaking research and behind-the-scenes advocacy. The Institute is successfully influencing film and television creators to dramatically increase the percentages of female characters — and reduce gender stereotyping — in entertainment made for children 11 and under.
While watching children’s entertainment with her young daughter, Geena was astounded by the dearth of female characters. She felt that surely — in the 21st century — kids should be seeing boys and girls sharing the sandbox equally. It turned out that virtually no research had been done on gender representations in children’s media. Fueled to take action, her Institute has now commissioned the largest body of research on gender representation in film and television ever undertaken, spanning over 20 years. The results confirmed the disparity she observed: in family films and kids’ TV shows, there is only one female character for every three male characters. In group and crowd scenes, only 17& of the characters are female. The few female characters depicted are often hyper-sexualized, even in G-rated films.
Geena’s thoughtful leadership is recognized globally. The Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, has quoted Geena for her motto: “If they can see it, they can be it.” She was appointed Special Envoy for Women and Girls in ICT for the UN’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Geena is also an official partner of UN Women, working toward their goal of promoting gender equality and empowering women worldwide.
To learn more about Geena’s research, go to www.seejane.org.
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