In the world of film festivals, sometimes the medium outshines the message. And as the sheer number of festivals continues to expand it also seems that sometimes it’s hard to know what’s worthwhile and what is merely a marketer’s dream.
But the announcement of the dates for the 2017 edition of the Bentonville Film Festival (BFF) cuts through the squawk for two reasons: this festival genuinely has a purpose and it also has the platform to make sure that the films and the filmmakers represented at BFF get the attention they deserve.
The festival, which runs May 2-7, 2017, is already accepting submissions. Co-founded by Academy Award® winner Geena Davis & ARC Entertainment CEO Trevor Drinkwater, the Bentonville Film Festival champions women and diverse voices in all forms of media.
Along with founding sponsor Walmart and presenting sponsor Coca-Cola, and partners AMC Theatres, Lifetime and Starz — BFF is the only film competition in the world to guarantee theatrical, television, digital and retail home entertainment distribution for its winners in the following categories: Best Family Film, Audience Award and Best Narrative Selected by Jury.
“We are so very proud of the progress we’ve made and the response we are getting in support of the mission of BFF,” Davis said. “Now moving into our third year, I feel more confident than ever that — with the support of our partners — we will create change in the media our children view so that it will reflect the world they actually live in, which is half female and very diverse.”
BFF 2017 will expand its short film competitions and add a commercial competition as well. Attendees will continue to enjoy an inspiring lineup of narrative & documentary film screenings, industry-focused panel discussions, musical performances, celebrity spotlight events and much more. The annual family favorite/community event, “A League of Their Own” softball game will also return to celebrate that film’s 25th Anniversary.
Added BFF co-founder Trevor Drinkwater, “One of the goals of BFF is to create an opportunity for films to secure commercial distribution. This year’s festival marked the second year in a row in which that goal was accomplished for a majority of the films in competition. In addition, several films locked in distribution agreements with major studios such as Sony Pictures, Samuel Goldwyn, The Orchard, and Broad Green.”
In 2016, in only its second year, BFF saw significant increases in both attendance and participation, which bodes extremely well for 2017.
Last year’s winners (with distribution deals) include:
Best Documentary – “Journey of a Thousand Miles: Peacekeepers, ” Ryan Bruce Levy Film Distribution
Best Narrative – “It had to be You,” Samuel Goldwyn
Audience Award – “Floyd Norman – an Animated Life,” Filmbuff
Best Family Film – “Lost and Found,” Sure Crossing
And why would Geena Davis, you ask, help found a film festival which puts the spotlight on gender and diversity issues? Davis founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media to combat the representation (and under-representation) of females on screen. The institute’s research has found an alarming inequity in the ratio of male to female roles in TV and movies; and when women do get roles sexual objectification is a large reason why we see them. Even in children’s programming.
It seems that in this era of hyper-political partisanship, inclusivity, fair treatment, and free speech have been boiled down to talking points and have become a battle ground when it should merely be about respecting ourselves and those around us. And it’s also an era where only tent-pole movies (save for a very few indie flicks that slip through the cracks) see wide—or any distribution.
Even though there are more platforms than ever to see movies, that also means there are many more to wade through. Often times deserving filmmakers and their films aren’t given any sort of push. As BFF continues to grow, perhaps the playing field can be leveled a little bit.
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