BFF: Braced For The Future

BFF: Braced For The Future

Bentonville Film Festival imagines better world


Special to The Free Weekly

The Bentonville Film Festival, which debuted in May 2015, was pulled together in just four months, surprising many people, especially given that the city didn’t even have a movie theater at the time.

That first year, it attracted about 37,000 people, according to the festival’s website.

In the four years since, it and the city have evolved. This year, more than 80,000 people are expected to take in the festival, which begins Tuesday and runs through Saturday.

Trevor Drinkwater, founder and CEO of marketing and sales firm Inclusion Cos., is the festival’s co-founder and president. He and Academy Award-winning actress Geena Davis created the festival to champion women and diverse voices in media.

Organizers quickly discovered that women weren’t the only group not adequately represented in the entertainment industry. Members of minority groups face many of the same challenges that women do, Drinkwater said.

Over the past four years, the event’s messaging has been been refined to highlight equality and inclusion, he said.

A conversation between Drinkwater and Walmart’s senior director of films created the spark that spawned the festival. The Walmart official wanted more films that championed women’s roles and diversity on store shelves and pitched the film festival idea to Drinkwater. Drinkwater and his colleagues then reached out to some people in the movie industry, including Davis.

The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media reported that 4% of directors for films released in 2014 were women, and male voices in children’s programming outnumbered female voices 3-to-1.

The institute also indicated that women make up 52% of all moviegoers and 51% of the country’s population, yet male leading characters have outnumbered female main characters 2-to-1 over the past 10 years. Research from the institute also noted that male characters spoke twice as often as female characters in the top grossing family films of 2017.

Festival panel discussions, films and special events with more diverse voices have gained momentum with each year.

The festival’s jury has selected a feature film written, directed and stared in by Jenna Lorenzo as the best narrative film for 2018. Lez Bomb is a comedic story that follows a young lesbian’s attempts to come out to her family over the Thanksgiving holiday.

The festival’s mission is to include everybody and work to help diverse voices be heard and be better represented in the media industry, Davis said.

“We always say that our mission is not to change the world,” she said. “It’s to show it as it is in real life, which is half female and incredibly diverse. [It’s to] reflect the population.”

In the festival’s first year, events were spread out across Bentonville and into Rogers, Springdale and Fayetteville, which “created less of a feel that you were at a festival,” Drinkwater said.

The event this year is centralized in downtown Bentonville. The majority of the movies will be offered at Skylight Cinema, with featured events taking place at Record, 21c Museum Hotel, Compton Gardens and Lawrence Plaza — all downtown.

Kalene Griffith, Visit Bentonville president, wrote via email of the economic impact that the festival has on the city. Visit Bentonville, she said, sees the festival “as a friend to all of Northwest Arkansas.”

The festival continues to evolve and offers regional events, such as the pre-festival’s Filmmakers Retreat in Eureka Springs, a program that “takes a deep dive into topics for filmmakers to gain more knowledge and insight, while getting to know each other better before the bustle of the festival,” she said.

Record, an event center on Southwest A Street, opened in the fall of 2016 and provides space for film screenings, panels and other special events.

The Skylight Cinema, the city’s only movie theater, opened at the end of 2017. It has six screens to show films in one location, just a few blocks from the square. Before the Skylight opened, festival organizers hauled in mobile theaters, called cinetransformers, to screen movies.

The Momentary, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art’s contemporary art venue in Bentonville’s Market District, is scheduled to open in 2020, which could provide another venue for the festival to use.

The future looks bright for the festival.

“There’s going to be a lot of opportunities made available to us to do things that we just weren’t able to do because the infrastructure wasn’t built for it,” Drinkwater said.



Bentonville Film Festival

WHEN — May 7-11

WHERE — Skylight Cinema, Meteor Guitar Gallery, Record North, Walmart Museum, 21c Museum Hotel, Sony and Orville Redenbacher Outdoor Theater, Compton Gardens in Bentonville

COST — Some events are free; most individual films are $15; festival passes range from to $120 to $1,575




BFF Free Films

May 8

“Ghostbusters” — Ghosts invade New York and force a trio of spirit exterminators to save the city in one of the biggest comedies of all time, with Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Sigourney Weaver, 3 p.m.

“Ghostbusters” — The 2016 version starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon & Leslie Jones, 5:30 p.m.

May 9

“Peter Rabbit” — Peter Rabbit and family wreak havoc in hopes they can win back the Manor House of Old McGregor, 12:45 p.m.

“Angry Birds” — Meet Red, Chuck and Bomb, a team of unlikely heroes, and finally learn why the birds are so angry, 3 p.m.

“Charlie’s Angels” — They’re beautiful, they’re brilliant and they work for Charlie, with Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu, 5 p.m.

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” — Young Peter Parker must put his powers to the test when the evil Vulture emerges to threaten everything that he holds dear, 7 p.m.

May 10

“The Amazing Spider-Man” — A teenage Peter Parker grapples with both high school and amazing super-human crises as his alter-ego Spider-Man, 1 p.m.

“The Shallows” — While surfing, Nancy finds herself on the feeding ground of a great white shark, and survival becomes the ultimate test of wills, 3:45 p.m.

“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” — Four teens get sucked into the video game world of Jumanji and have to finish the dangerous game to escape, 7 p.m.

May 11

“A Dog’s Way Home” — The heartwarming adventure of Bella, a dog who embarks on an epic 400-mile journey home after she is separated from her beloved human, 11 a.m.

“The Emoji Movie” — Discover the secret world inside your phone where all the emojis live, 1 p.m.

“Hotel Transylvania 3” — Join Drac, Mavis and all of your favorite monsters as they embark on a monster cruise vacation, 3 p.m.

“Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse” — Introducing Brooklyn teen Miles Morales and the limitless possibilities of the Spider-Verse, where more than one can wear the mask, 5 p.m.

WHERE — Sony and Orville Redenbacher Outdoor Theater at Lawrence Park, 128 W. Central Ave. in Bentonville




BFF Free Fan Zones

Inclusion Town — With glam products, food samples, puppy adoptions & more, 1-7 p.m. May 9-10; 11 a.m.-8 p.m. May 11, Compton Gardens parking lot.

Unilever Social Media Lounge — Take a photo around the fest, tag it and stop by the hashtag printers to put your photo on the mosaic, noon-8 p.m. May 8-10, The Record.

Puppy Village — Need a new friend? MARS Petcare will be sponsoring dog adoptions at their Better Cities for Pets booth, 1-7 p.m. May 9-10, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. May 11, Inclusion Town.

Check Your Blind Spots — Hop on the bus and walk through a series of experiences designed to raise awareness around unconscious bias and how everyone can change behaviors in their everyday lives, 1-7 p.m. May 9-10, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. May 11, Inclusion Town.




BFF Spotlight Films

May 8

“Ophelia” — The classic Shakespearean tragedy is reimagined with Daisy Ridley (Star Wars) as the title character, 11 a.m., Skylight Cinema. $15.

“Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché” — A 20-year career in France and in the United States as the founder of her own studio and as writer, director and/or producer of 1,000 films, Alice Guy-Blaché was virtually erased from history — until now, 11 a.m., Record North. $15.

“This Changes Everything” — A look into the history, empirical evidence and systemic forces that foster gender discrimination in our culture, 4:30 p.m., Record North. $15.

“Wild Rose” — Fresh out of prison, Rose-Lynn juggles her menial job, two children and her committed mother as she pursues her dream of musical stardom, 7 p.m., Record North. $15.

May 9

“We Have Always Lived in the Castle” — Based on the Shirley Jackson novel, two sisters live in isolation with their deranged uncle following the deaths of the rest of their family, 11 a.m., Record North. $15.

“To The Stars” — In a god-fearing small town in 1960s Oklahoma, a reclusive teen finds solace in Maggie, the charismatic and enigmatic new girl at school, 4 p.m., Record North. $15.

“Brian Banks” — The inspirational true story of Brian Banks, an All-American high school football star who finds his life upended when he is wrongly convicted of a crime he didn’t commit, 4 p.m., Skylight Cinema. $15.

“Blinded By the Light” — A British drama inspired by the life of journalist Sarfraz Manzoor and his obsession with Bruce Springsteen, 7 p.m., Record North. $15.

May 10

“Sin Miedo a la Verdad” — “No Fear of Truth,” the story of Manu, an introverted boy with impressive computer skills, 12:30 p.m., Skylight Cinema. $15.

“Carol of the Bells” — A young father battles his past to find peace with his wife and son at Christmas, 4 p.m., Record North. $15.

“Good Sam” — A world premiere, 5:45 p.m., Skylight Cinema. $15.

“Ugly Dolls” — An animated adventure in which the free-spirited UglyDolls journey beyond Uglyville to discover the town of Perfection, 7 p.m., Record North. $15.

May 11

“Freak Show” — The fabulous Billy Bloom challenges the school’s reigning mean girl for the title of homecoming queen, 12:30 p.m., Skylight Cinema. $15.


Mary Jordan contributed to this report.

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