The second annual Bentonville Film Festival which champions women and diverse voices in media, announced the winners of its film competition Saturday, May 7 at an Awards Show hosted by Luvvie Ajayi, award-winning writer, speaker and digital strategist who thrives at the intersection of comedy, technology and activism. BFF is the only festival to offer guaranteed distribution to the winning festival films in three categories: Best Narrative, Best Family Film and Audience Award winners.
An addition to this year’s Festival is a script writing competition sponsored by Lifetime. The network is looking for full-length movie scripts and will option a winning script for development. Applications will be accepted beginning May 30, 2016 and will close on July 8 2016, with A+E executives participating on the script-contest jury. Details of the competition can be found at https://www.bentonvillefilmfestival.com.
Hosted in the culturally rich yet quaint town of Bentonville, Ark, BFF 2016 attracted a record-breaking number of attendees committed to ensuring developing and promoting media that represents the world we live in – 51% women and highly diverse. Festival attendees interacted with filmmakers and actors including Meg Ryan, Nia Vardalos, Robert Townsend, Bruce Dern, Jon Voight, Mo McRae, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Kathy Najimy, Andrea Navedo, Jennifer Yuh Nelson, Teyonah Parris, Constance Wu, Sarah Megan Thomas, Tisha Campbell-Martin and Joey Lawrence. Panel Discussions with key industry leaders and decision makers including Stephen Quinn, Chairman, AFE; Vanessa DeLuca, Editor-in-Chief, Essence; Jeremy Verba, VP, VUDU; Nick Hall, SVP, Original Programming, HBO; Syrinthia Studer, SVP Marketing & Acquisitions, Paramount; Wendy Calhoun, Creator, Empire; Julie Ann Crommett, Entertainment Industry Educator-in-Chief, Google; Alex Cohen, Co-Host of “Take Two” on NPR; Elizabeth Frank, Chief Content & Programming Officer, AMC Theatres; Gil Robertson, AAFCA; Chevonne O’Shaughnessy, ACI; Karen Bailey, SVP Original Programming, Starz; and representatives from Walmart, Coca- Cola, AMC Theaters, Starz and Lifetime delivered insights to develop actionable plans to accelerate the depiction of diversity in all forms of media. Featuring an A-list advisory board that includes Soledad O’Brien, Shonda Rhimes, Viola Davis, Samuel L. Jackson, Emilio Estevez and Natalie Portman, the Festival was able to help 87 percent of its competition films obtain distribution in its inaugural 2015 event.
“We are honored to celebrate filmmakers who are forging a path for women and diverse voices on a national stage,” said Geena Davis, Academy Award Winning Actor and Co-Founder of the Bentonville Film Festival. “Their films incite us to recognize the value and complexity of diverse narratives. We thank them for sharing their work with BFF and our audiences”
The Festival, presented by founding sponsor Walmart, presenting sponsor Coca-Cola and distribution partners AMC Theatres, Lifetime and Starz, featured 34 films: including 12 world premieres, 16 documentaries and 18 narratives. Qualifying films for BFF meet two or more diversity requirements in the areas of Director, Producer, Writer, Lead Character or Cast/Crew/Extras.
The award winners selected from the jury, Festival audience and BFF Foundation are as follows:
Best of the Fest – No Greater Love
Audience favorite Showcase Film. Determined by Audience ballot.
No Greater Love – Director/Writer: Justin Roberts. (2015, USA)
No Greater Love explores a combat deployment through the eyes of an Army chaplain, as he and his men fight their way through a hellish tour in one of the most dangerous places in Afghanistan and then as they struggle to reintegrate home.
Best Narrative – It Had to Be You
Jury award for Best Competition Narrative. Determined by Jury.
It Had to Be You – Director/Screenwriter: Sasha Gordon (USA/Italy)
Sonia is a neurotic jingle writer who’s always dreamt of a big and exciting life. Surprised by a sudden proposal and subsequent ultimatum from her easy-going boyfriend, Chris, Sonia has to decide whether she’ll join the ranks of her married friends or take a leap and pursue her fantasies.
Cast: Cristin Milioti, Dan Soder, Halley Pfeiffer, Mark Gessner, Kyle Mooney
BFF Audience Award – Floyd Norman: An Animated Life
Audience favorite Competition Film. Determined by Audience ballot.
Floyd Norman: An Animated Life – Directors: Erik Sharkey, Michael Fiore. (USA)
Animator. Storyman. Troublemaker. At 80 years old, see how this Disney Legend, the first African-American animator at Disney, continues to impact animation and stir up his own brand of “trouble.”
Best Family Film – Lost & Found
Best Family Film in a Competition Narrative Film. Determined by Jury.
Lost & Found – Director: Joseph Itaya, Screenwriters: Joseph Itaya, Erik Cardona (USA)
Andy and his younger brother Mark are sent to visit their estranged uncle on a mysterious island. They soon discover clues to a complex treasure hunt, a hunt that could lead to unimaginable wealth and heal their broken family – if they can find it in time.
Cast: Justin Kelly, Benjamin Stockham, Céleste Desjardins, with Cary Elwes, and Jason Patric
Best Documentary – A Journey of a Thousand Miles: Peacekeepers
Jury award for Best Competition Documentary – Determined by Jury.
A Journey of a Thousand Miles: Peacekeepers – Directors: Geeta Gandbhir, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy. (USA/Pakistan)
One hundred and sixty women leave their families in Bangladesh for one year to join the United Nations Stabilising Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). They form one of the world’s first all female, predominantly Muslim peacekeeping units, shattering every stereotype the world holds about the capabilities of Muslim women.
The Dernsie – Alice Coulthard – Josephine
Best Acting in a Competition Narrative Film. Determined by Jury (named for Bruce Dern, BFF BOA Member)
Josephine – Director: Rory Feek, Screenwriter: Rory Feek and Aaron Carnahan (USA)
In the spring of 1864, a desperate young farmer’s wife enlists in the army, posing as a man. She battles the enemy, the men of her unit and her own identity in a quest that takes her on a journey from Tennessee to Virginia in search of her missing husband.
Cast: Boris McGiver, Alice Coulthard, Jessejames Locorriere
Best Ensemble – Fair Market Value
Best Ensemble in a Competition Narrative Film. Determined by Jury
Fair Market Value – Director: Kevin Arbouet, Story: Judy San Roman, Screenwriter: Kevin Arbouet. (USA) World Premiere
Kendall, a real estate agent from Miami, moves to the suburbs of New York and immediately finds she has to join forces with Brooke, a competitive rival agent, to sell one of the most expensive mansions in Long Island.
Cast: Luisana Lopilato, Craig Bierko, Royce Johnson, Julia Duffy, Drew Meorlein, Jerry Adler, Wendy Makkena, Debra Jo Rupp, Tina Benko, Gene Gabriel, Olga Merediz
Highest Diversity Score – Tested
Determined by analysis through the Bentonville Film Festival Foundation
Tested – Director: Curtis Chin. (USA)
A diverse group of 8th graders in New York City vie for a coveted spot in one of the city’s elite public schools by taking a single standardized test.
BFF Spirit Award – Monica Gonzalez, ESPN
Selected by BFF recognizing an individual in media advancing the cause of diversity and inclusion.
Monica Gonzalez, former Mexican-American professional soccer player, now soccer analyst and announcer for ESPN, has taken her Gonzo Soccer Academy global, teaching soccer, life and leadership skills to over 900 girls worldwide.
Impact Award – Walmart, AMC Theatres, Lifetime & STARZ
Selected by BFF based on contribution to Festival & Mission
In addition to the support of Walmart, AMC Theatres and Lifetime, the expanded partnership support from Starz offered filmmakers in the 2016 BFF Film Competition even greater distribution opportunities. 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.”
BFF Jurors ranged from industry professionals to corporate executives and were led by Alex Cohen in the Documentary competition and Emilio Estevez in the Narrative competition.
Narrative Jurors: Emilio Estevez (Head Juror), Cody Allison, Bailey Gibson, Chris Nagelson, Al Dominguez, Jody Pinson, Darin Dickson, Mike Roberts, Tangellia Moore, Gretchen Bellamy, Julian Franco, Ashley Price, Laura Philips, Tom Hoehn and Scott Landes.
Documentary Jurors: Alex Cohen (Head Juror), Kenneth Bradley, Brenda Kellenbarger, Cindy Bradley, Jill Wesbecher, Rebecca Powers, Rock Skeans, Sherrie Langehennig, Connie Kelley, Sree Vaddi, Kortnee Bradley, Jennifer Readio and David K Saito.
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About Bentonville Film Festival (BFF): Co-founded by Academy Award Winner® Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and President and CEO of ARC Entertainment Trevor Drinkwater in 2015, The Bentonville Film Festival (BFF) is a commercial platform with a mission to champion women and diverse voices in media. BFF proactively supports content creation that inspires young minds to do great things. BFF is commercially focused and research based and is the only film competition in the world to guarantee theatrical, television, digital and retail home entertainment distribution for its winners in partnership with AMC Theaters, Walmart, Lifetime, Starz and VUDU. The Festival takes place during the first week of May in Bentonville, Arkansas.
About BFF Foundation: Bentonville Film Festival Foundation Inc. is a 501c3 non-profit organization focused on promoting women and diverse voice 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.
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.
About Film Distribution Partnerships:
With the help of founding sponsor Walmart, presenting sponsor Coca-Cola and distribution partners AMC Theatres, Lifetime and Starz, the Bentonville Film Festival remains the only festival to offer guaranteed distribution to the winning festival films for Audience, Best Family Film and Jury Awards. Walmart and BFF have a shared mission to champion diversity and inclusion. As the largest seller of physical movies, Walmart is always seeking great content to offer its customers and BFF provides an avenue to identify compelling films from women and diverse filmmakers. In its inaugural year, the festival was able to grant distribution to 87% of its competition films through Walmart and other BFF distribution partners.
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