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The Bentonville Film Festival presented its prizes to the 2018 Award Winning Films, and honors at an Awards Ceremony hosted by The Real’s Loni Love, and presenters included festival Co-Founders Geena Davis and Trevor Drinkwater, and actor Stephanie Beatriz, with performances by Martina McBride and the Latin X Theater Project. Actor and filmmaker Natalie Morales was presented with BFF’s first SEE IT, BE IT award, recognizing her rising and influential voice in the landscape of diversity and inclusion in media.

Jury Awards:

Best Narrative Film: LEZ BOMB, (World Premiere), Director: Jenna Laurenzo, includes guaranteed distribution offer from a BFF distribution partner

As a follow-up to her smash hit, Girl Night Stand, Jenna Laurenzo is back with her first feature, Lez Bomb – starring Academy Award Winner Cloris Leachman, Academy Nominated Bruce Dern, Emmy Award Winner Kevin Kane, and an ensemble cast that includes Steve Guttenberg, Kevin Pollak, Elaine Hendrix, Deirdre O’Connell, Brandon Michael Hall, and Caitlin Mehner, brought to you by the producer of There’s Something about Mary and Dumb and Dumber, Bobby Farelly.

Lez Bomb is a multigenerational comedy of errors featuring a young woman (Lauren) who comes home for the holidays with some life changing news. Little does Lauren know, the eccentric cast of characters have their own stirring surprises as well.The result is a hilarious turn of events forcing the family to come together in a ceremonious series of coincidences. As it turns out, there is no good time to drop the Lez Bomb.

Best Documentary Film: EMANUEL (World Premiere), Director Brian Ivie, includes a mentorship prize package from ITVS

On June 17th, 2015, 21-year-old white supremacist Dylann Roof walked into a bible study and murdered nine African Americans during their closing prayer. Featuring never before seen interviews with survivors and family members of the victims, “Emanuel” tells the painful but hopeful story of a murder that shocked the nation, and an act of forgiveness that helped it heal.

Best Short Film: THE BROWNLIST, Directors: Kelly Walker and Ryan Garcia, includes a feature film directing job from MarVista Entertainment
Best Episodic: BEAST, Director Ben Strang, includes a mentorship prize package from SeriesFest

Audience Awards:

Miss Arizona
Miss Arizona

Best Narrative Film: MISS ARIZONA (World Premiere), Director Autumn McAlpin

Rose Raynes was crowned Miss Arizona – 15 years ago. Now a bored housewife trapped in a less-than-ideal marriage, and mourning the independence of her 10-year-old son, Rose accepts an invitation to teach a life skills class at a women’s shelter.

Digging out the relics of her pageant queen past, Rose attempts to share her “Making Your Presence a Present” platform speech with a room of four disinterested women dodging abusive exes. But when trouble shows up at the shelter, what the women really need is for Rose’s shiny SUV to get them out of dodge. 

The five embark on an all-night adventure through L.A.’s darkest streets and wildest drag club as the women fight to survive, and in so doing, discover what they need most.

Best Documentary Film: LOVE ALWAYS MOM (World Premiere), Directors Tricia Russo, Craig E. Shapiro

After 3 plus years battling stage 4 breast cancer, Trish Russo and her husband Greg, make the controversial decision to embark on a journey to have a child using an egg donor and a surrogate. The couple pick up the camera and turn it on themselves, initially to provide a resource for others who need to use alternative technology to build a family but it becomes much more than that. With both tears and laughter, we follow Trish and Greg as they get unique offers from friends and family to be surrogates and egg donors, follow them in the OR as they retrieve eggs and transfer embryos, and finally experience all the nerves and joys of pregnancy and birth. This is a never before seen look into the battle against metastatic breast cancer, as well as infertility, IVF, egg donation, and surrogacy. Moreover, it is about undying motherly love and a love letter to an unborn child.


Best Short Film: LABORATORY CONDITIONS, Director Jocelyn Stamat
Best Episodic: BROOKLYNIFCATION, Director Keith Miller
Best of the Fest: F.R.E.D.I. (World Premiere) Director Sean Olson


Additional awards

Big Vision Empty Wallet Fellowship Award: Molly McGlynn, Writer/Director, MARY GOES ROUND.

Mary Goes Round is a redemptive drama with dark comedic undertones. Mary is a substance abuse counsellor with a drinking problem.  After a drunk driving accident, she loses her license, her job and boyfriend. At the request of her estranged father Walt, Mary begrudgingly retreats to her hometown of Niagara Falls. With few other options, Mary is forced to come to terms with her estranged father who wants her to connect her with teen-aged half-sister, Robyn, whose mother walked out on the family. Robyn has no idea who Mary is. Or at least, she pretends not to.

As her sympathy for Robyn deepens, her outrage at Walt’s request diminishes. At an AA meeting, Mary meets Lou, a personal care worker who offers support and friendship. Walt is hospitalized. Robyn starts to self-destruct and Lou falls from her heroic pedestal. To keep this fractured unit together, Mary must confront her emotions, her demons and her addiction. She, Robyn, Walt and Lou must all learn what ‘family’ means.

Big Vision’s focus is on fostering inclusion and developing unexpected content with women, people of color and LGBTQ creators.

Samsung Create Award: Olivia Stumbaugh, Chris Perea & Melanie Teoh, Harbor High School, Springdale, Arkansas

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