The 2017 Bentonville Film Festival kicks off today May 2nd, and will feature a panels lineup that builds upon the mission-oriented foundation set in the previous years, while boldly expanding into progressive conversations surrounding comedy, music, toys, tech, and STEAM.
The festival is brining back favorites like the Samsung Create Student Short Film Competition and the star-studded “Geena and Friends” panel featuring Meg Ryan and Brooklyn 99’s Melissa Fumero and Stephanie Beatriz, which invites some of Hollywood’s most recognizable faces to participate in a live script-reading of iconic scenes from popular films with one catch: all major roles are gender-swapped to prove to the audience, in a fun way, that women characters can do anything male characters can do. The panel “In Control of Her Own Destiny” asks what would happen if we gave all young girls the ability to forge their own path, free from the weight of implicit bias? It will feature actress Judy Greer. Filmmaker and actor William H. Macy will be joining us on our “Stories Matter” panel.
We’re excited to announce our partnership with Snapchatter CyreneQ, who will be presenting “Through Our Lenses,” a visual compilation of diverse perspectives created by Snapchatters around the world. We are also collaborating with the IW Group to screen the documentary “Relocation: Arkansas,” and host a panel to discuss the history of Japanese-American internment camps in Northwest Arkansas and the power of healing through art and acceptance. Director Stanley Nelson will share with attendees his film, “Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities.”
Outside of the Narrative, Documentary, Spotlight, Episodic, and Short Film Competitions, the festival has hand-selected this year’s Showcase films to provide a series of screenings that celebrate recent works from major studios that embody that changes we hope to see in the entertainment industry. These films include the heartwarming 2017 Sundance favorite, “Step” from Fox Searchlight (director and cast in attendance) and the intimate Latino family drama, “Lowriders” starring Gabriel Chavarria, Demian Bichir, Theo Rossi, and Eva Longoria from Universal. Lionsgate will be presenting Saban’s “Power Rangers;” panel with director Dean Israelite and actress Becky G to follow. The festival will also showcase short films, “The Forever Tree,” co-written and produced by Chrishaunda Lee Perez and starring Olivia Washington and “Writer’s Block,” starring Jane Lynch.
SPECIAL SCREENING EVENTS
Directed by Stella Meghie and written by J. Mills Goodloe. (USA). A teenager, who’s lived a sheltered life because she’s allergic to everything, falls for the boy who moves in next door. Immediately after the screening, Warner Bros. and MGM invites you to a moderated discussion with director Stella Meghie and novelist Nicola Yoon.
Directed by Amanda Lipitz. (USA) The senior year of a girls’ high school step team in inner-city Baltimore is documented, as they try to become the first in their families to attend college. The girls strive to make their dancing a success against the backdrop of social unrest. Q&A with director and cast will follow.
DC Super Hero Girls: Intergalactic Games
Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Batgirl, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, Bumblebee and Katana square off against Korugar Academy in the Intergalactic Games, but trouble is in the air as Lena Luthor takes advantage of the gathering of the Supers to enact her villainous plan! In addition to product giveaways and toy samples on displays from toylines inspired by Warner Bros. Pictures’ upcoming action adventure feature film ‘Wonder Woman,’ Warner Bros. Consumer Products is also excited to bring out the real DC Super Hero Girls costume characters who will be available for photo opportunities Friday and Saturday!
Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Historically Black Colleges and Universities
Dir: Stanley Nelson (USA)
A haven for Black intellectuals, artists and revolutionaries-and path of promise toward the American dream-Black colleges and universities have educated the architects of freedom movements and cultivated leaders in every field. They have been unapologetically Black for 150 years. For the first time ever, their story is told. Following the screening, a moderated discussion with film representatives will follow.
Directed by James Cotton (USA). A young woman with a dark past finds wisdom in her identity in the romance of the old west.
Following the screening, the filmmakers will be joined by panelists from Starz, the Screen Actors Guild, and Walmart to share solutions they’ve discovered in the quest to defend diversity and improve gender representations in film.
Relocation, Arkansas: Aftermath of Incarceration
Directed by Vivienne Schiffer and Johanna Demetrakas (USA). This film explores the effect of the Japanese American incarceration experience in Arkansas during WWII on the generation that was born after the camps closed, the unlikely tale of those Japanese Americans who remained behind, and the even more unlikely tale of how a small town Arkansas mayor became a legend in the Japanese American community. Themes surrounding the complexity and hypocrisy of race relations in America and the journey toward forgiveness and understanding across cultural boundaries are just two of the many reasons this compelling story must be told.
Saban’s Power Rangers
Directed by James Cotton (USA) 2017. The film follows five ordinary teens who must become something extraordinary when they learn that their small town of Angel Grove – and the world – is on the verge of being obliterated by an alien threat. Chosen by destiny, our heroes quickly discover they are the only ones who can save the planet. But to do so, they will have to overcome their real-life issues and before it’s too late, band together as the Power Rangers. Moderated panel discussion with director Dean Israelite and actress Becky G (Trini/yellow ranger) will follow.
“Through Our Lenses” with Snapchatter CyreneQ Location/Time TBA
Through Our Lenses is a Snapchat-made documentary told by 30 individuals inviting us to get a glimpse of their daily life. Each storyteller captured and edited their own documentary with only a smartphone and the app Snapchat. By allowing the storytellers to document themselves, it gives the most authentic representation of their lives, through their very own lenses. Come see the story of artists, musicians, nomads, thrill seekers and so much more, told and created by the amazing individuals themselves.
BFF LEGACY SERIES
Each year, the Bentonville Film Festival pays homage to early pioneers and icons of film. In 2017, this tradition will be continued through two efforts: first, with a video-based exhibition at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art focused on pioneers of African-American cinema and second, with the following ground-breaking screenings at BFF, of early films that broke barriers for women and diverse voices:
“The White Raven”
Directed by George D. Baker. (USA) A young woman swears revenge on the man who left her father destitute in the Yukon gold fields. She tracks him to the opera houses of New York, where he is a director, but the man’s daughter and a mysterious stranger combine to disrupt her plans. In an effort to recreate the authentic audience experience of its time, this 1917 silent film will be accompanied by a live pianist.
Directed by Svend Gade, Heinz Schall. (Denmark) This revolutionary 1921 silent film sees Hamlet made into a female character – a princess forced to masquerade as a man by her scheming mother. This film will also be accompanied by a live pianist.
“The Flute of Krishna”
Early Color Film made in 1925 by Eastman Kodak. Martha Graham’s dance “The Flute of Krishna” is performed in front of the camera by students from the Eastman School of Music.
From Script to Screen – with American Cinema Inspires and UP TV
American Cinema Inspires will offer insight into the upcoming UP TV movie Runaway Romance as well as other upcoming and recent projects including the use of VR. The panel will include the CEO/President and Founder of UP TV, Charley Humbard, Veteran Producers George Shamieh and Chevonne O’Shaughnessy of American Cinema Inspires, Runaway Romance novel writer Miralee Ferrell and CEO of Observe Media, Travis Cloyd.
Inclusion: Does That Include Me?
What does it mean to be underrepresented? How do we champion inclusion without excluding anyone? Geena Davis leads a panel discussion dedicated to diversity, exposing our own implicit bias, encouraging connection, empathy, and more. A lively round of Inclusion-inspired 5-Second Rule by PlayMonster will serve as a conversation catalyst for panelists from Wonder Crew, Coca-Cola, Mars and Walmart, who will share their gamified insights.
Lights! Camera! Inclusion!
Actor Joey Travolta founded ‘Inclusion Films’ to support and empower individuals with developmental disabilities by creating custom-designed filmmaking workshops and camps. Actress and advocate Jane Seymour and his fellow panelists help us identify resources in our own lives to empower us to become agents for good, right where we are.
Storytelling is the oldest form of entertainment and a good tale is timeless. But if great responsibility comes with great power, what did the power of narrative ask of us 100 years ago? What does it ask of us today? And what will it implore us to do tomorrow? To answer these questions, a handful of the industry’s best and brightest examine story as one of the most effective tools for social change.
Storytelling through Music
In a week dedicated to the visual mediums of film and television, we take a moment to recognize recording artists who use sound and the power of mission-driven music to advocate for the causes that matter most.
Hollywood is Not Your Prince Charming
Women filmmakers, producers, directors, actors are not freelancers but are becoming self-made. To become self-made is the new ticking clock for women, it’s not if but when. The times we live in demand that women become financially self-reliant. There is no Prince Charming that will come and save us, no mate, no boss, no studio so we must all learn the trick to find the hidden money in America and go get our own chips! We must create a life equally grounded in Mission and in Money.
The State of Womanhood
In this session A+E Networks’ Ad Sales executives, Marcela Tabares, SVP Strategic Insights, Joetta Gobell, VP, Primary Research Strategic Insights and Amy Baker, EVP, deconstruct what defines who “she” is and how “she” responds to advertising as well as diving deeper on how marketers can be thinking about catering to the female audiences that feel underrepresented in media.
What do some of TV’s most strong, inspiring and provocative female characters have in common? A team of strong, inspiring and provocative women who are responsible for bringing them to the screen, and to life. Karen Bailey, Maril Davis, Emma Frost and Tanya Saracho, showrunners and executives behind television hits including “Outlander,” “The White Queen,” “The White Princess” and more, share their stories and advice on creating premium dramas and empowering female voices in all stages of development and production.
In Control Of Her Own Destiny
What would happen if we gave all young girls the ability to forge their own path, free from the weight of implicit bias? Is it even possible? Well, it is possible, especially when we work together. These women share the tools they use in their personal and professional lives to make that possibility a reality.
Progress vs. Perfection
Presented by Mattel
Whether you’re an individual or a business, when striving for gender equality and cultural diversity, fear of failure and the paralyzing desire to “do it right” can keep you from ever reaching the finish line. If we wish to leave behind a legacy of lasting change, these panelists explain why the future is counting on us to seek progress, and not unattainable perfection, to measure our success.
Gender Norms in Entertainment
Presented by Common Sense Media
In today’s media world, kids are flooded with messages about how they should look and act. As parents navigate entertainment for their children, how women, girls, men, and boys are portrayed on screen is critical — something that 80% of surveyed Common Sense members agree on and want more information about. In this panel, we’ll discuss why this topic is so important for kids, families, content creators, and more.
Geena and Friends
Presented by L’Oreal
Each year, Geena Davis and a handful of celebrity friends come together to swap gender roles while reading scenes from some of Hollywood’s favorite scripts to expose implicit bias and have some fun! This year’s guests include Brooklyn 99’s Melissa Fumero and Stephanie Beatriz, Meg Ryan, and other special guests!
If You Can Read it, See It, Play It, Be It…
All forms of media have the power to inspire and change lives. That’s why our founder Geena likes to say, “If they can see it, they can be it.” Looking beyond film and television, this event showcases forward-looking companies, innovative artists, and cutting-edge creators on their mission to create BOOKS, GAMES, TOYS, and TECH that inspire everyone.
STEM to STEAM
Adding the “A” for Arts to STEM creates STEAM. Creativity is important to fueling the innovation that companies seek in order to stay competitive. The solution to narrowing the STEM pipeline gap and innovation may lay in the arts for engaging the underrepresented demographic of girls and kids of color. This panel is dedicated to demonstrating why the Arts are just as essential as the disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.
Kids: Shaping Tomorrow’s Influencers Today
Presented by Mattel
If our destiny is diversity, then it’s never too early to begin these important conversations with our kids. Meet the children’s television programmers and product developers who have dedicated their life’s work to making those conversations a little bit easier.
Success in Sports hinges on teamwork and collaboration. We rise together or fall together… Winning does not discriminate. These game changers discuss what inspired them to accomplish the incredible!
Sustainability: Going Further
Recycle, reduce, reuse, right? Sustainability actually goes way beyond all that. From managing our natural resources to maintaining health, safety, and labor rights for workers, learn why this issue is becoming increasingly vital to all industries and discover what inspired our panelists to commit significant portions of their lives to fighting for this cause. #OurPurposeIsProgress
Samsung Create Student Short Film Competition
Student filmmakers were challenged to make a short film based on the mission of BFF by utilizing the incredibly powerful Samsung Galaxy phone and tablet. The top films will premier at BFF followed by a Q&A with the student filmmakers.
A League Of Their Own 25h Anniversary Game
Yes it has been 25 years! Join our BFF’s Geena Davis, select cast members from the film, and the Rockford Peaches for an afternoon at the ballpark with the family. The game will feature Celebrity and Professional athletes competing against our BFF partners. And remember, “THERE IS NO CRYING IN BASEBALL!”
3 Generations, directed by Gaby Dellal, written by Nikole Beckwith and Gaby Dellal. (USA) After Ray decides to transition from female to male, Ray’s mother, Maggie, must come to terms with the decision while tracking down Ray’s biological father to get his legal consent.
6 Below, directed by Scott Waugh, written by Madison Turner. (USA) An adrenaline seeking snowboarder gets lost in a massive winter storm in the back-country of the High Sierras where he is pushed to the limits of human endurance and forced to battle his own personal demons as he fights for survival.
Animal Crackers, directed by Tony Bancroft, Scott Christian Sava and Jaime Maestro (USA) A family must use a magical box of Animal Crackers to save a run-down circus from being taken over by their evil uncle Horatio P. Huntington.
Cries From Syria, directed by Evgeny Afineevsky. (USA). We follow child protesters, revolution icons, activists and their relatives, and high-ranking Army generals who defected to join the fight of the people. It tells the story of the Syrian people who have never lost hope.
Despite the Falling Snow, directed and written by Shamim Sarif. (UK). In 1950s Moscow, communist Katya secretly spies for the Americans in the Cold War arms race. When she lands her biggest assignment, stealing secrets from rising government star Alexander, the last thing she expects is to fall in love with him.
Guardians of the Galaxy 2, directed and written by James Gunn. (USA) In Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” the Guardians must fight to keep their newfound family together as they unravel the mystery of Peter Quill’s true parentage.
Leap!, directed by Eric Summer and Eric Warin, written by Carol Noble, Laurent Zeitoun & Eric Summer. (USA) An orphan girl dreams of becoming a ballerina and flees her rural Brittany for Paris, where she passes for someone else and accedes to the position of pupil at the Grand Opera house.
Lowriders, directed by Ricardo de Montreuil, written by Cheo Hodari Coker, Elgin James. (USA) A young street artist in East Los Angeles is caught between his father’s obsession with lowrider car culture, his ex-felon brother and his need for self-expression.
Painted Woman, directed by James Cotton (USA) A young woman with a dark past finds wisdom in her identity in the romance of the old west.
Paris Can Wait, directed and written by Eleanor Coppola. (USA) Long married to a successful, driven but inattentive movie producer, Anne unexpectedly finds herself taking a car trip from Cannes to Paris with a business associate of her husband. What should be a seven-hour drive turns into a carefree two-day adventure replete with diversions involving picturesque sights, fine food and wine, humor, wisdom and romance, reawakening Anne’s senses and giving her a new lust for life.
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, directed by Paul W. S. Anderson (USA) Alice returns to where the nightmare began: The Hive in Raccoon City, where the Umbrella Corporation is gathering its forces for a final strike against the only remaining survivors of the apocalypse.
Sonic The Hedgehog: Just A Guy, a CGI showcase episodic starring Sega’s iconic Sonic the Hedgehog, directed by Natalys Raut Sieuzac (USA/Japan/France). When Sonic insults his friend Mike the Ox by calling him “just a guy,” the village teaches Sonic the important lesson that it’s better not to judge or label anyone. We all are special.
The Eagle Huntress, directed by Otto Bell (UK) Thirteen-year-old Aisholpan trains to become the first female in twelve generations of her Kazakh family to become an eagle huntress.
The Red Turtle, directed by Michael Dudok de Wit (France/Belgium/Japan) The dialogue-less film follows the major life stages of a castaway on a deserted tropical island populated by turtles, crabs and birds.
The Forever Tree, a showcase short film directed by Alrick Brown. (USA) Tawny Bennett, an antiquarian’s apprentice, receives a visitor in the middle of the night with a mysterious clue to a legend which threatens to disrupt her quiet life. (paired with opening film, “3 Generations”)
Underworld: Blood Wars, directed by Anna Foerster (USA) Vampire death dealer, Selene (Kate Beckinsale) fights to end the eternal war between the Lycan clan and the Vampire faction that betrayed her.
Writer’s Block, a showcase short film directed by Troy Miller. (USA) Past her prime and afflicted with a severe case of writer’s block, a veteran songwriter finds new inspiration in a bird that takes up residence outside her home, starring Jane Lynch. (paired with showcase feature, “Paris Can Wait”)
ADDITIONAL SPOTLIGHT FILMS
Like Cotton Twines, directed and written by Leila Djansi. (USA) Micah Brown, an American volunteer takes a teaching job in a remote African village where he meets Tuigi, a 13-year old girl who is to become Trokosi, wife to the gods. A practice of religious sexual slavery. Accepting of her fate, Tuigi’s only desire it to be able to write her GED.