The 2020 Bentonville Film Festival co-founded by Academy Award®-winning actor Geena Davis, set to run August 10-16, announced their spotlight and competition program of independent feature films, shorts, and episodic titles. The 6th annual film festival will be presented as a hybrid structure, pairing digital screenings, panels and events alongside select on-the-ground premieres and conversations.
The program includes 68 films representing female, BIPOC (65%) and LGBTQIA+ (45%) filmmakers. More than 80% of films at the 2020 Bentonville Film Festival were directed by women, including 4 Spotlight features: Opening night film, Oge Egbounu’s acclaimed directorial debut, (In)visible Portraits, which shatters the too-often invisible otherizing of Black women in America; Philippa Lowthorpe’s Misbehavior, starring Keira Knightley and Jessie Buckley, which tells the bizarre true story of protest and controversy at 1970 Miss World contest; Parkland Rising, an inspiring look at the students of Parkland, Florida, who started an international movement to call attention to the need for better gun safety laws, by two time EMMY award-winning filmmaker Cheryl Horner McDonough; and Elegance Bratton’s Pier Kids, an intimate look at homeless queer and trans youth of color in New York City that must contend with overwhelming amounts of homophobia and abuse.
Bentonville Film Foundation Co-Founder and Chair, Geena Davis, said: “BFF’s mission to foster diversity and inclusion across the media landscape stands more important now than ever before as we continue to support filmmakers in a new and creative way. Within the context of a pandemic, and the continued fight for social justice, we renew our deep commitment to underrepresented storytellers around the world. This year’s virtual structure presents a unique opportunity that is not lost on us as we use the power of the digital world to share BFF’s messaging to far-reaching global audiences, arguably more than we ever have.”
(IN)VISIBLE PORTRAITS, U.S.A. (Director: Oge Egbuonu) Oge Egbuonu’s feature documentary directorial debut, shatters the too-often invisible otherizing of Black women in America and reclaims the true narrative as told in their own words. The film illuminates the history of how we got here, dismantles the false framework of the present-day reality, celebrates the extraordinary heritage of exceptional Black women, and ignites hope for the next generation. This is a festival premiere.
MISBEHAVIOUR, U.K. (Director: Philippa Lowthorpe, Writer: Rebecca Frayn) In 1970, the Miss World competition took place in London, hosted by US comedy legend, Bob Hope. At the time, Miss World was the most-watched TV show on the planet with over 100 million viewers. Claiming that beauty competitions demeaned women, the newly formed Women’s Liberation Movement achieved overnight fame by invading the stage and disrupting the live broadcast of the competition. Not only that, when the show resumed, the result caused uproar: the winner was not the Swedish favorite but Miss Grenada, the first Black woman to be crowned Miss World. In a matter of hours, a global audience had witnessed the patriarchy driven from the stage and the Western ideal of beauty turned on its head. This is a US premiere.
Cast: Greg Kinnear, Keira Knightley, Kajsa Mohammar, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Daniel Tiplady
PARKLAND RISING, U.S.A. (Director: Cheryl Horner McDonough) An inspiring look at the students of Parkland who started an international movement to call attention to the need for better gun safety laws. The film encourages everyone to stand up and get involved. From Executive Producers Katie Couric and will.i.am, with music provided by Bob Dylan, Black Eyed Peas, AJR, Sammy Brue, Michael Franti, and Pearl Jam.
Cast: Jaclyn Corin, Matt & Ryan Deitsch, Emma Gonzalez, Fred Guttenberg, Lauren and David Hogg, Cameron Kasky, Jammal Lemy, P atricia and Manuel Oliver, Ronit Reoven, Aly Sheehy, Sam Zeif
PIER KIDS, U.S.A. (Director/Writer: Elegance Bratton) A verité documentary that’s inspired by Marlon Riggs’s Black is Black Ain’t a nd the Maysles brothers’ Grey Gardens, and Field Niggas by Khalik Allah, highlighting the value of public space for brown and black queer bodies to become their most realized versions of themselves.
A SHOT THROUGH THE WALL, U.S.A. (Director/Writer: Aimee Long) After shooting an innocent African-American man in Brooklyn, Mike Tan, a Chinese-American cop, wades through his guilt as he attempts to navigate the intricate and complicated worlds of media, justice, and racial politics in modern day New York.
Cast: Lynn Chen, Clifton Davis, Fiona Fu, Derek Go, Kenny Leu, Tzi Ma, Ciara Renee
BREAKING FAST, U.S.A. (Director/Writer: Mike Mosallam) Mo, a practicing Muslim living in West Hollywood, is learning to navigate life post heartbreak. Enter Kal, an All-American guy who surprises Mo by offering to break fast with him during the holy month of Ramadan.
Cast: Veronica Cartwright, Michael Cassidy, Aline Elasmar, Amin El Gamal, Christopher J. Hanke, Rula Gardenier, Haaz Sleiman
DEFINITION PLEASE, U.S.A. (Director/Writer: Sujata Day) A former Scripps Spelling Bee champion, who lives at home with her ailing mother, must reconcile with her estranged brother in order to take the first steps in realizing her dreams and moving on with her life. This is a World Premiere.
Cast: Katrina Bowden, LeVar Burton, Eugene Byrd, Lalaine
FAREWELL, U.S.A. (Director/Writer: Chris Chalk) Grace Charles has a new job opportunity out of the country. Her closest group of friends throw a celebration send-off for her and her husband, Chance, on the weekend of their one-year anniversary. Chance is wary of the gathering and how it may weigh on his wife but he agrees to go into the experience with an open mind. Once the group is settled, a story of humor, infidelities and danger unfolds. What happens when the fight for friendship becomes a fight for your life?
Cast: Chris Chalk, K.D. Chalk, Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut, Marryshow Eden
FREELAND, U.S.A. (Directors/Writers: Kate McLean, Mario Furloni) Fighting against the threat of eviction, as the impact of the legalization of the cannabis industry rapidly destroys her idyllic way of life, an aging pot farmer suddenly finds her world shattered as she races to bring in what could be her final harvest.
Cast: Krisha Fairchild, Lily Gladstone, Frank Mosley
GOSSAMER FOLDS, U.S.A. (Director: Lisa Donato, Writer: Bridget Flanery) In 1986, nine-year-old Tate Millikin, was uprooted and unwillingly moved to the suburbs of Kansas City. As his parent’s marriage unravels, Tate finds solace in the unlikely friendships of his new next door neighbors: a retired college professor and his transgender daughter, Gossamer.
Cast: Sprague Grayde, Alexandra Grey, Jen Richards, Shane West
I’LL MEET YOU THERE, U.S.A. (Director/Writer: Iram Parveen Bilal, Co-Writer: Rajeev Dassani) A teenage Muslim ballerina hides her passion for a forbidden dance uncovering a shocking family secret, while her cop father goes undercover at his estranged mosque.
Cast: Samrat Chakrabarti, Shawn Parsons, Sheetal Sheth, Faran Tahir
LINGUA FRANCA, U.S.A./Philippines (Director/Writer: Isabel Sandoval) A trans Filipina looking for love (and a green card) while working as a domestic in Brooklyn.
Cast: PJ Boudousque, Lynn Cohen, Eamon Farren, Lev Gorn, Isabel Sandoval
SENECA, U.S.A./Puerto Rico (Director: Jason Chaet, Writer: Armando Riesco) David Seneca is a struggling Puerto Rican actor in New York City. As his millennial protégé takes the acting world by storm, David teaches accent reduction classes to foreign business executives. His rage finally gets the best of him in a less than impressive street fight that unwittingly becomes a viral internet sensation.
Cast: Armando Riesco, Claudia Morcate-Martin, Moises Acevedo
TAKE OUT GIRL, U.S.A. (Director/Writer: Hisonni Johnson, Writer: Hedy Wong) To give her family a chance at a better life and save their failing restaurant, Tera Wong, a desperate 20-year-old Asian girl, parlays her Chinese food delivery expertise into a profitable drug hustle.
Cast: Ski Carr, J. Teddy Garces, Hedy Wong, Lynna Yee
THE PLANTERS, U.S.A. (Directors/Writers: Alexandra Kotcheff, Hannah Leder) Martha Plant, a reclusive telemarketer grieving the loss of her parents, finds an unlikely friendship in Sadie Mayflower, a Jesus-loving vagrant with multiple personalities.
Cast: Alexandra Kotcheff, Hannah Leder, Phil Parolisi, Pepe Serna
THE SUBJECT, U.S.A. (Director: Lanie Zipoy, Writer: Chisa Hutchinson) A successful documentarian deals with the moral fallout from his last film which caught the murder of an African American teenager on tape. Now, someone else is videotaping his every move, threatening his idyllic life.
Cast: Anabelle Acosta, Nile Bullock, Jason Biggs, Aunjanue Ellis, Carra Patterson
AHEAD OF THE CURVE, U.S.A. (Director: Jen Rainin) Told through a series of intimate interviews with magazine staff, celebrities and cultural critics, Ahead of The Curve tells the unknown story of Franco Stevens, one of the most influential women in lesbian history, whose work continues to have an impact to this day.
AMAZING GRACE, U.S.A. (Director: Lynn Montgomery) Grace Fisher was an active musician and dancer until a rare spine disease almost derailed her budding career. In this documentary we see grief transformed into gratitude and tragedy turned into opportunity.
BLACK BOYS, U.S.A. (D irector: Sonia Lowman) A film for this historic moment—in a nation still struggling to rectify its past—Black Boys Illuminates the full humanity of Black boys and men in America.
COMING CLEAN, U.S.A. (Director: Ondi Timoner) America’s opioid crisis is examined through the eyes of recovering addicts and political leaders on the frontlines. These unlikely allies emerge from the darkness to face their pain, bring the profiteers to justice and rebuild in the wake of the deadliest drug epidemic in our history.
THE DONUT KING, U.S.A. (Director/ Writer: Alice Gu, Co-Writer: Carol Martori) This documentary tells Ted Ngoy’s story that is one of fate, love, survival, hard knocks, and redemption.
HUNGRY TO LEARN, U .S.A. (D irector: Geeta Gandbhir) A look at the faces behind an American crisis: college students so strapped to pay tuition that they don’t have enough money to eat or a place to live.
JULIA SCOTTI: FUNNY THAT WAY, U.S.A. (D irector: Susan Sandler) The journey of a 65-year-old transgender comedian and the children she lost and found with comedy as the path to identity and healing.
MAVERICKS, U.S.A. (Director: Michael Michele) A focus on U.S. Air Force rescue pilot, call sign “Clock”, who has been deployed to some of the globe’s most fractured war zones and participated in multiple highly dangerous missions, saving servicemen and allies who had come into harm’s way.
MY DARLING VIVIAN, U .S.A. (D irector: Matt Riddlehoover) The story of Vivian Liberto, Johnny Cash’s first wife and the mother of his four daughters.
THE NEW BAUHAUS, U.S.A. (Director: Alysa Nahmias) An odyssey through the life and legacy of László Moholy-Nagy, the innovative artist and educator whose pioneering approach to integrating technology into design continues to influence and inspire.
PERSONHOOD, U.S.A. (Director: Jo Ardinger) A different reproductive rights story, one that ripples far beyond the right to choose and into the lives of every pregnant person in America.
TRANSHOOD, U .S.A. (D irector: Sharon Liese) A focus on four transgender kids, ages 4, 7, 12, and 15, as they redefine “coming of age.”
ADULLAM, U.S.A., (Director/Writer: Regina Hoyles) A Chicago woman with a well-kept secret enjoys a typical day in the south suburbs.
Cast: Regina Hoyles, Laura Schein, Evan J. Simpson
AN OCCURRENCE AT ARVERNE, U.S.A. (Director: Robert Broadhurst) A young man arrives at an unknown home with an unknown agenda.
Cast: Curtiss Cook, Jr.
AVA & BIANCA, U .S.A. (Director: Rachel Fleit) An exploration of the profound relationship between Ava Benjamin Schorr and Bianca Cline who are both transgender female cinematographers. The film explores who they are beyond their trans identity, what it means to be a female cinematographer and what it means to be a woman at this moment in time.
BECOMING EDDIE, U.S.A. (D irector: Lilan Bowden, Writer: Ed Lee) A Korean American boy in the 1980’s struggles to fit in with his classmates, so he makes the only logical wish he can think of—become America’s most famous foul-mouthed comedian.
Cast: Helen Hong, Charles Kim, Joziah Lagonoy
THE BLESSING, U .S.A. (Director/Writer: Liann Kaye) When a timid, midwestern boy decides to propose to his girlfriend, he has to go through her immigrant, Chinese mother first.
Cast: Yoko Hyun, Ryan D. Wright
BROKEN BIRD, U.S.A. (Director/Writer: Rachel Harrison Gordon) Birdie is a biracial girl raised by her mom in a NJ suburb. She spends a day with her father, and debates inviting him back into her life as she prepares for her Bat Mitzvah and adulthood.
Cast: Bill Aiken, Chad L. Coleman, Mel House, Jari Jones, Indigo Hubbard-Salk
CITY OF WIDOWS: U.S.A. (Director: Lacey Uhlemeyer, Writer: Carly Hebert) Through the lens of Hari Dasi, an elderly widow, we experience her tragic life and that of so many widows in India who were married off as children at the young age of 11 only to become widowers as young women.
DADDY’S GIRL, New Zealand (Director/Writer: Cian Elyse White) A story about the powerful love between a father and his daughter and the ability for that love to remain, even when all else seems lost.
Cast: Willie Davis, Ngapaki Moetara
DANCING ON MY OWN, U .S.A. (Director/Writer: Alexandra Cuerdo) A love letter to the queer Asian experience, inspired by New York’s radical dance party Bubble.
Cast: Princess Punzalan, Joy Regullano, Bowen Yang
GRACELAND, U .S.A. (Director: Bonnie Discepolo, Writer: Trevor Munson) A southern mom’s life is turned upside down by her child’s belief that he is the reincarnation of Elvis Presley.
Cast: Anna Camp, Monique Coleman, Daniel Eric Gold, Katie Beth West
HARANA, U.S.A. (D irector/Writer: Marie Jamora) In 1995 Las Vegas, a homesick cover band singer writes an original song to connect with her daughter who is growing up in the Philippines without her. Cast: Anthea Neri Best, Frencheska Farr, Michael Rosete
HUMAN TERRAIN, U.S.A./Iraq (D irector/Writer: Parisa Barani, Co-Writer: Jennifer Blackmer) The film follows an American anthropologist working in Iraq for The Human Terrain System, a real-life military initiative created to bridge the “cultural divide.” She befriends a Muslim-Iraqi woman but must choose between her friendship and loyalty to her country.
Cast: Sarita Choudhury, Scott MacDonald, Maggie Siff
IN HOLLYWOODLAND, U.S.A. (D irector: Jessica Sherif, Writer: Yetide Badaki) A dark fantasy that follows Zodwa, a struggling actress, as she heads to an exciting, once-in-a- lifetime audition and lands in a strange place reminiscent of Lewis Carroll’s most famous work.
Cast: Yetide Badaki, Dom Burgess, Karen David, Jen Richards, Luke Youngblood
LA GLORIA, U .S.A. (Director: Mary Evangelista, Writer: Stephanie Adams-Santos) A queer, lovelorn teen struggling with depression finds an unexpected connection to her abuela through the secret language of dreams.
Cast: Alma Adams, Nautica Avila, Michelle Badillo, Marisilda Garcia, Cris Gris, Juan Magana, Ricky Schultz
LONG RIDE HOME, U.S.A. (D irector: Dame Pierre, Writer: Charles Andrew Gardner) A man discovers how hard it can be to escape.
Cast: Byron Coolie, Charles Andrew Gardner, Ambria Sylvain
LONG TIME LISTENER, FIRST TIME CALLER, U .S.A. (D irector/Writer: Nora Kirkpatrick) After accidentally tuning in to a mysterious late-night radio show, a small-town, and sexually repressed woman, NAN, calls in to get some answers to her pressing questions about existence, marriage and her purpose on this earth.
Cast: Dominic Bogart, Demorge Brown, Sam Carson, Juliet Mills, Jen Tullock, Breeda Wool
MARIE CELESTE, U.S.A. (D irector/Writer: Tori Larsen) Renowned French artist Marie Celeste invites gallery assistant Lucy into her strange and elegant world only to discover they share a connection much deeper and darker than just art.
Cast: Madeline Brewer, Amanda Brugel
POSTMARKED, U .S.A. (D irector: Malakai Writer: Angela Carbone) Young Scooter, his God fearing father, Lionel, and his brother, Tyler, used to be a big happy family. However, when Tyler comes out as transgender and reveals she wants to be identified as Ty, she’s met with adversity from family and friends alike, forcing her to flee home at the tender age of 17.
Cast: Loretta Devine, Jaylin Fletcher, Rob Morgan, Quei Tann
RUTH MUSKRAT BRONSON, U .S.A. (Director: Jennifer Loren) Ruth Muskrat Bronson was perhaps the most important Indian rights and education activist in the first half of the twentieth century, but no one knows who she is. For decades Bronson worked tirelessly, advocating for better opportunities and for social justice for all Native American people. This short documentary brings her work into new light.
SINGLE, U .S.A. (D irector/Writer: Ashley Eakin) a relatable, anti-romantic comedy that delivers an entertaining and insightful examination of human connection that also challenges preconceived notions of life with a disability.
Cast: Malia A. Dawkins, Delaney Feener, Rosemary Stevens, Jordan Wiseley
SKY WEST & CROOKED, U.S.A. (D irector/Writer: Heather Edwards) A young girl is forced to grow up when she runs into her absent father at the local bowling alley.
Cast: Emma Fuhrmann, Ethan Jones, Matt Jones, Martha MacIsaac, Vivienne Rutherford
STUCCO, U.S.A. (D irectors/Writers: Janina Gavankar, Russo Schelling) An agoraphobic woman finds a suspicious hollow wall in her house.
Cast: Janina Gavankar, Michael Ealy, Colton Haynes, Bel Powley
THEY WON’T LAST, U.S.A. (Director/Writer: Portlynn Tagavi, Co-Writer: Brandon Gale) After attending a friend’s perfect wedding, marriage-averse Christine realizes that her boyfriend of five years, Alex, is hellbent on proposing when she finds an engagement ring in his jacket pocket. Once Christine confronts him about the ring and her distaste towards marriage she is faced with an ultimatum.
Cast: Jack De Sena, Brittany Renee Finamore
TO BE WITH YOU, U.S.A. (Director/Writer: Elliott Feliciano) Alex is only in L.A. for 24 hours to reclaim their father’s ashes but, along the way, they find an old love, a beauty in the city, and a final connection to the past.
Cast: Avi Roque, Sierra Santana
TREE #3, U.S.A. (Director/Writer: Omer Ben-Shacher, Co-Writer:Sydney Meadow) After he’s been cast as a background tree in his annual middle school play, an ambitious and imaginative immigrant boy leads a revolution on stage that his intolerant drama teacher will never forget.
Cast: Lior Malka, Eva Du, Alex Gonzalez, Kelly Ryan, Rita Zohar
VELVET, U .S.A. (D irector: Coz Greenop, Writer: Victoria DeBlauss) It is the summer of 1965 and Eve and Austin have just committed a heist. While hiding out in the desert, Austin is shocked to discover that Eve has an African-American mother.
Cast: Charlie Clapham, Victoria DeBlauss, Jackson Knox, Francesco Martino
THE DREAM, U.S.A. (Director/ Writer: Ron Najor, Co-Writer: Trevor Fernando) Daryl just graduated film school with an award-winning short and a mountain of student debt. He moves to L.A. in hopes of realizing his dreams of becoming a director, but first he must find work to survive and learn the ropes of the industry.
Cast: Micah Bijon, Nikohl Boosheri, Kandis Fay, Mark Christopher Lawrence, Kaleti Williams
I FRIGGIN LOVE YOU, U.S.A. (Director/Writer: Fanny Grande)
A short-form content series about love told through a diverse lens.
Cast: Stephanie Czajkowski, Fanny Grande, Nelson Grande, Elizabeth de Rasso, Alicia Sixtos, Oscar Torre
IMMIGRANT VOICES OF AMERICA, U.S.A. (D irector: Miguel Angel Duran) A ten episode documentary-series telling the riveting stories of immigrants who are in pursuit of the American Dream.
LADY LIBERTY, U.S.A. (Director/Writer: Taylor Lee Nagel) An honest look at the discomfort, anxiety, and humor of coming out in one’s mid-twenties.
Cast: Julia Lindon, Taylor Lee Nagel
MY FRIEND FRIDA, U.S.A. (D irector/Writer: Juan Rodriguez) A millennial Frida Kahlo tries to navigate life and all it’s modern social norms.
Cast: Michael Anthony Ibarra, Maya Malan-Gonzalez, Christina Igaraividez, Christian Prentice
PINEAPPLE, U.S.A. (Director: Jane Chow, Writer: Peter Rafe) At an international school in Hong Kong, a teenager attempts to prove herself a local, rejecting her so-called “westernized” friends and interests in the process.
Cast: Songnia Xiao, Ho Long Lee, J Lou, Hana Wu
SWIPED, U.S.A. (Director: Derek Evans, Writer: Sailor Larocque) Cat and Rita, have had enough of their soul-sucking jobs and their going-nowhere careers. When an opportunity arises, they take matters into their own hands by swiping wallets.
Cast: Sailor Larocque, Megan Rosen, Tatiana Zappardino
THESE THEMS, U.S.A. (Directorr: Jeff Garrison, Writer: Gretchen Wylder) A newly out lesbian making up for lost time; a nonbinary educator learning to “train the straights;” a transman navigating life in the corporate world; a gay guy looking for love and messing it up. Four queer friends navigate New York City.
Cast: Shaan Dasani, Victoria “Vico” Ortiz, Nick Park, Gretchen Wylder
UNLADYLIKE2020, U.S.A. (D irector: Charlotte Mangin) A timeless and resource-rich repository of U.S. women’s histories from the early years of feminism.
WERE YOU GAY IN HIGH SCHOOL?, U.S.A. (D irector/Writer: Niki Ang) Two queer women recall their awkward, closeted high school days of kissing boys and straight-girl crushes.
Cast: Alex Song, Sierra Puett
Spotlight: Short Regional Reels
ALL ON A MARDIS GRAS DAY, U.S.A. (Director/Writer: Michal Pietrzyk) In a gentrifying New Orleans, Demond sacrifices to be Big Chief in a secret 200-year culture known as Mardi Gras Indians. Here, African-American men from the city’s roughest neighborhoods spend all year sewing feathered suits they’ll wear only once, in a battle to decide who’s “the prettiest.”
DREAMING FROM THE SHADOWS, U.S.A. (Director/Writer: Kelly Kim Miller) The Hispanic Women’s Organization of Arkansas was founded to assist the Hispanic population. It’s been an uphill battle to help members of the Latino community achieve success. Executive Director Margarita Solorzano pushes Hispanic youth to achieve success and advocates for immigrant rights.
LOST KINGS, U .S.A. (Director/Writer: Brian Lawes) Searching for food, a boy breaks into a neighborhood home, but when the homeowners return, he becomes trapped inside with those he’s stealing from.
Cast: Dash Melrose, Jo Ashley Moore, Cassie Self, Max Michael, Jacob Wade, Brett Bower
WITH ONE STEP / THE ARKHAN LANGENBELIK STORY, U.S.A. (Directors: Dustin Mapes, Seth Blazo, Trent Jones) This is the story of a disabled boy of Marshallese heritage from a low-income family. Amputated as an infant, 13-year-old Arkhan Langenbelik seized an opportunity to help himself and his parents. Prosthetics became a financial burden as the boy grew, so utilizing 3D printer technology freely available at his school, Arkhan created his own prosthetic leg hoping to reduce the financial strain on his family.