Inaugural Bentonville Film Festival set for May 5-9

Gina Davis / Courtesy

A new film festival intended to champion women and diversity in film is coming to Northwest Arkansas this spring.

The Bentonville Film Festival, chaired by Oscar winner Geena Davis, will make its debut on May 5-9 at various locations around Bentonville.

About 75 films will be screened as part of the inaugural event, ranging from studio premiers to independent features and documentaries. The goal of the festival and the newly created Bentonville Film Foundation is to be a positive influence in filmmaking to ensure films represent the national audience and the growing diversity of the U.S. population.

Films submitted to the festival will be qualified based on whether or not the films portray women and minorities in a positive manner, whether the director or writer is a woman or minority, and whether the film has a diverse cast and crew, among other criteria.

“I have been an advocate for women for most of my adult life,” said Davis, who also operates the non-profit Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. “The Bentonville Film Festival is a critical component of how we can directly impact the quantity and quality of females and minorities on screen and behind-the scenes.”

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The new festival boasts an impressive advisory board, made up of industry leaders and well-known actors such as Angela Bassett, Bruce Dern, Samuel L. Jackson, Randy Jackson, Eva Longoria, Julianne Moore, Paula Patton, Natalie Portman, Nina Tassler and Shailene Woodley.

The festival will likely be attractive to filmmakers, due to a the guarantee of theatrical, television, digital, and retail home distribution for the winners of the Audience, Jury Selection, and Best Family Film awards. AMC Theatres, Walmart, and Vudu will guarantee the distribution.

In addition to the film screenings, the Bentonville Film Festival will include an award show hosted by Geena Davis, multiple panel discussions with celebrities and industry leaders, and family film night events that will be free to the public.

Following the event, the foundation will launch a year-round event calendar to promote women and minority filmmakers, artists, directors, and producers at colleges and universities around the country in partnership with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.

The film submission deadline was March 15, and the lineup for this year’s event is due out sometime later this month.

The festival will kick off with an opening ceremony at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art on May 5. A full schedule of events associated with the festival will be released in the coming weeks.

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