By Dana Getz
Updated April 06, 2016 at 12:00 PM EDT
Credit: Gabriel Olsen/FilmMagic

The Bentonville Film Festival has announced its 2016 lineup.

Launched last year by Academy Award-winning actress Geena Davis, the five-day run champions diverse voices in media with a keen focus on women and minorities. This year’s slate features 34 films, including 12 world premieres, which will screen in Bentonville, Arkansas from May 3-8.

Among the debuts are Running Wild, a Sharon Stone-led horse drama in which a young widow seeks to save her floundering business and heal her broken heart by launching a convict rehabiliation program, and The Good Breast, a poignant documentary about the grueling battle of breast cancer.

Also of note is Five Nights in Maine, a debut feature from Maris Curran that stars David Oyelowo as a grief-stricken man who, following his wife’s tragically sudden death, treks to rural Maine in search of answers.

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The opening night film will be Equity, starring Anna Gunn, Alysia Reiner, and Sarah Megan Thomas, directed by Meera Menon. Maggie’s Plan, directed by Rebecca Miller and starring Greta Gerwig, Julianne Moore and Ethan Hawke, has been set as the closing night selection.

Featuring an A-list advisory board that includes the likes of Shonda Rhimes, Viola Davis, Bruce Dern, and Natalie Portman, BFF is the only festival to guarantee distribution for its winning films. Its inaugural event last year granted distribution to 87 percent of its competition films.

For the complete listings of Bentonville’s narrative and documentary selections, scroll below:


Albion: The Enchanted Stallion, World Premiere (Director: Castille Landon, Screenwriters: Castille Landon, Ryan O’Nan, Sarah Scougal)–A twelve-year-old girl is transported by a magical black stallion to the mystical world of ALBION, where she discovers that she alone is the key to saving an entire race of people. Cast: John Cleese, Debra Messing, Jennifer Morrison, Stephen Dorff, Richard Kind, Liam McIntyre, Daniel Sharman, Ryan O’Nan, Castille Landon and Avery Rath

American Fable (Director/Screenwriter: Anne Hamilton)–When 11-year-old Gitty discovers that her beloved father is hiding a wealthy man in her family’s silo in order to save their struggling farm, she befriends the captive in secret and quickly becomes trapped between protecting her family and her soul. Cast: Richard Schiff, Peyton Kennedy, Kip Pardu, Marci Miller, Rusty Schwimmer, Gavin MacIntosh, Zuleikha Robinson

Comfort (Director/Screenwriter: William Lu)–A late-night courier agrees to pick up the feisty daughter of an important client, and a romance blossoms between them as they explore LA’s food scene. Cast: Christopher Dinh, Julie Zhan, Kelvin Han Yee, Billy Sly Williams

Embers (Director: Claire Carre’, Screenwriter: Charles Spano, Claire Carre)–After a global neurological epidemic, those who remain search for meaning and connection in a world without memory.Cast: Jason Ritter, Iva Gocheva, Greta Fernandez, Tucker Smallwood, Karl Glusman

Fair Market Value, World Premiere (Director: Kevin Arbouet, Story: Judy San Roman, Screenwriter: Kevin Arbouet)–Kendall, a real estate agent from Miami, moves to the suburbs of New York and immediately finds she has to join forces with Brooke, a competitive rival agent, to sell one of the most expensive mansions in Long Island. Cast: Luisana Lopilato, Craig Bierko, Royce Johnson, Julia Duffy, Drew Meorlein, Jerry Adler, Wendy Makkena, Debra Jo Rupp, Tina Benko, Gene Gabriel, Olga Merediz

Five Nights in Maine (Director/Screenwriter: Maris Curran)–A young African American man, reeling from the tragic loss of his wife, travels to rural Maine to seek answers from his estranged mother-in-law, who is herself confronting guilt and grief over her daughter’s death. Cast: David Oyelowo, Dianne Wiest, Rosie Perez, Teyonah Parris, Hani Furstenberg

Good Enough (Director/Screenwriter: AnnaRose King)–In the aftermath of her estranged father’s death, Lorna leaves her on-again-off-again boyfriend at home and sets off on a journey across the country in hopes of finding out more about her family and herself. Cast: AnnaRose King, Ted Tremper, James Caan, Delaney Williams, Ilana Becker, Todd Bartels, Becky Yamamoto, Max Loeb, Sofiya Akilova , Peter Moore

It Had to Be You (Director/Screenwriter: Sasha Gordon)–Sonia is a neurotic jingle writer who’s always dreamt of a big and exciting life. Surprised by a sudden proposal and subsequent ultimatum from her easy-going boyfriend, Chris, Sonia has to decide whether she’ll join the ranks of her married friends or take a leap and pursue her fantasies. Cast: Cristin Milioti, Dan Soder, Halley Pfeiffer, Mark Gessner, Kyle Mooney

Josephine (Director: Rory Feek, Screenwriter: Rory Feek and Aaron Carnahan)–In the spring of 1864, a desperate young farmer’s wife enlists in the army, posing as a man. She battles the enemy, the men of her unit and her own identity in a quest that takes her on a journey from Tennessee to Virginia in search of her missing husband. Cast: Boris McGiver, Alice Coulthard, Jessejames Locorriere

Kid Witness, World Premiere (Director/Screenwriter: Kevin Kaufman)–While her mother is away on business, a young girl home alone with her older brother witnesses her neighbor’s kidnapping. But no one believes her–not her brother, not the cops. In this family friendly romp, this precocious child takes matters into her own hands to save her neighbor. Cast: Susan Sarandon, Ripley Sobo, Lev Gorn

Lost & Found (Director: Joseph Itaya, Screenwriters: Joseph Itaya, Erik Cardona)–Andy and his younger brother Mark are sent to visit their estranged uncle on a mysterious island. They soon discover clues to a complex treasure hunt, a hunt that could lead to unimaginable wealth and heal their broken family – if they can find it in time. Cast: Justin Kelly, Benjamin Stockham, Céleste Desjardins, with Cary Elwes, and Jason Patric

Operator (Director: Logan Kibens, Screenwriters: Sharon Greene, Logan Kibens)–Joe, an obsessive computer programmer, and Emily, a budding comedy performer, are happily married until they decide to use one another in their work. Operator is a dark comedy about love, technology, and what can’t be programmed. Cast: Martin Starr, Mae Whitman, Nat Faxon, Cameron Esposito, Retta, Christine Lahti

Running Wild, World Premiere (Director: Alex Ranarivelo, Screenwriters: Christina Moore & Brian Rudnick)–A young widow forced to save her ranch after her husband’s fatal car crash, creates a convict rehabilitation program with a herd of wild horses that wandered on her ranch. She has to overcome greed and bureaucracy to ultimately heal the convicts, horses and herself. Cast: Sharon Stone, Tommy Flanagan, Jason Lewis, Dorian Brown & Tom Williamson

Saved By Grace, World Premiere (Director: Johnny Remo, Screenwriters: Ken Lemm, Lance Bachelder, Johnny Remo) A retired police officer, despondent over the loss of his family, contemplates a dramatic decision which will change his life forever. He then meets a mysterious woman who, through her personal stories, gives him a reason to re-examine what is most important to him. Cast: Joey Lawrence, Catalina Rodriguez, Muse Watson, Christopher Michael

Swing Away, World Premiere (Director: Michael Achilles Nickles, Screenwriters: Paul Robert Lingas, Julia Wall Nickles)–Following a meltdown on tour that results in her suspension, professional golfer Zoe Papadopoulos travels to her grandparents’ village in Greece for a much needed break. There Zoe rediscovers her Greek heritage, her love of the game, and her own hidden strength. Cast: Shannon Elizabeth, John O’Hurley, Manos Gavras, Renos Haralambidis, Karl Theobald, Alexandros Mylonas, Olga Damani, Christos Sougaris, Viktoria Miller

Te Ata, World Premiere (Director: Nathan Frankowski, Screenwriters: Esther Luttrell, Jeannie Barbour)–Based on a true story, Te Ata follows the life of Mary “Te Ata” Thompson Fisher, a young Chickasaw woman who is torn between the traditions of her family and her desire to become an actress in early 20th century America. Cast: Q’orianka Kilcher, Graham Greene, Gil Birmingham, Mackenzie Astin, Brigid Brannagh, Cindy Pickett

The Mad Ones, World Premiere (Director/Screenwriter: Aniruddh Pandit)–Three twenty-something professionals search for meaning in life and work in the digital age. In a world that won’t stop changing, Ricky, Claire and Nitin uncover the only constants of life: love and friendship. Cast: Anthony Gioe, Dana DeLorenzo, Lavrenti Lopes

Wild Prairie Rose, World Premiere (Director: Deborah LaVine, Screenwriter: Sharon Greene)–Rose returns to her small town to care for her ailing mother. Once there, she falls in love with a deaf man and must decide if she has the courage to follow her heart. Cast: Tara Samuel, Troy Kotsur, Suanne Spoke, Courtney Jones


A Journey of a Thousand Miles: Peacekeepers (Directors: Geeta Gandbhir, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy)–One hundred and sixty women leave their families in Bangladesh for one year to join the United Nations Stabilising Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). They form one of the world’s first all female, predominantly Muslim peacekeeping units, shattering every stereotype the world holds about the capabilities of Muslim women.

An Act of Love (Director: Scott Sheppard)–In 2013, Rev. Frank Schaefer gained national attention for officiating his son’s same-sex wedding. The Schaefer family was drawn into a movement for LGBTQ equality in the nation’s second largest protestant denomination.

Best and Most Beautiful Things (Director: Garrett Zevgetis)–In a celebration of outcasts everywhere, a precocious young blind woman disappears into quirky obsessions and isolation. With humor and bold curiosity, she chases love and freedom in the most unexpected of places: a provocative fringe community.

Citizen Soldier, World Premiere (Directors: Christian Tureaud, David Salzberg)–This is the story of the the Oklahoma 45th National Guard Brigade, better known as the “Thunderbirds.” …one day working a normal 9 to 5 job, the next day fighting America’s wars on the front lines, building global partnerships when asked, and protecting the homeland at all costs.

Driving with Selvi (Director: Elisa Paloschi)–Selvi is a former child bride who escaped to become South India’s first female taxi driver. This is the journey of a charming, strong, and courageous young woman who defies all expectations, moving beyond the pain she’s experienced to create a new life.

Floyd Norman: An Animated Life (Directors: Erik Sharkey, Michael Fiore)–Animator. Storyman. Troublemaker. At 80 years old, see how this Disney Legend, the first African-American animator at Disney, continues to impact animation and stir up his own brand of “trouble.”

Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise (Directors: Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack)–Iconic writer, poet, performer, and activist Maya Angelou overcame the Jim Crow South and devastating abuse to become one of our culture’s greatest voices. Rare footage and never-before-seen photos unveil a public and personal life that intersected with some of the most profound moments in recent American history.

Newtown (Director: Kim A Snyder)–This film traces the aftermath of the worst mass shooting of school children in American history. This is a portrait of traumatized community, weaving an intimate story of resilience and their new sense of purpose in the face of unimaginable loss.

Raising Bertie (Director: Margaret Byrne)–Through the intimate portrayal of three boys in Bertie County, NC, this starkly poetic film offers a rare in-depth look at the issues facing America’s rural youth and the complex relationships between generational poverty, educational equity, and race. The evocative result is an experience that encourages us to recognize the value and complexity in lives all too often ignored

She Started It (Directors: Nora Poggi, Insiyah Saeed)–Despite estimates that less than ten percent of all tech start-ups are founded by women, we follow five young women entrepreneurs who set out to build their own business in a male dominated field who will stop at nothing to pursue their dreams.

Tested (Director: Curtis Chin)–A diverse group of 8th graders in New York City vie for a coveted spot in one of the city’s elite public schools by taking a single standardized test.

The Founders (Directors: Charlie Fisk, Carrie Schrader)–In 1950, thirteen women defied convention and created the Ladies Professional Golf Association. They forged a path for future women athletes to be celebrated and taken seriously. Set against the timeless beauty of the golf course, the four remaining pioneers reminisce about the journey, the struggle and the game itself.

The Good Breast, World Premiere (Director: Bernadette Wegenstein) Four women and their surgeon share their diverse and emotional journeys as they face the challenges of breast cancer. Their experiences reveal how the breast is far more than just an organ, but contains within it all the history, suffering, and power of female identity.

The Incomparable Rose Hartman (Director: Otis Mass)–With a career spanning decades, photographer Rose Hartman is known for her iconic photos from Studio 54, her boisterous personality and presence capturing the New York social scene. Her work will draw you in, the film will make you understand this force of nature.

The Three Hikers (Director: Natalie Avital)–In 2009, when three American hikers mistakenly wandered off the beaten path near Iraq’s poorly marked border with Iran, they quickly experienced the consequences of their error. This gripping chronicle of the ensuing two-year prison ordeal sheds new light on the delicate diplomacy behind the trio’s release.

Waiting for B, U.S. Premiere (Directors: Abigail Spindel, Paulo Cesar Toledo)–In Sao Paulo, Brazil, a group of Beyoncé fans camped out for two months to be the first in line for her 2013 concert. This film is an intimate portrait of the fans and their day-to-day lives in camp and off.

Big Sonia (Directors: Leah Warshawski, Todd Soliday)–“National treasure”, local celebrity, Holocaust Survivor – Sonia (90) has just been served an eviction notice for the last shop left in a dying suburban mall. Following Sonia on the motivational speaker circuit, BIG SONIA explores what it means to be a survivor. Will you let your trauma define you? Or will your past make you stronger?