Now in its third year, the film festival — which champions women and diverse voices — has more submissions and titles than ever
This year marks the third birthday of the Bentonville Film Festival, co-founded by Academy Award winner Geena Davis with a mission to champion women and diverse voices.
The 2017 festival, which runs from May 2-7 in Bentonville, Arkansas, unveiled its lineup on Monday, including the opening night film 3 Generations, starring Elle Fanning, Naomi Watts, and Susan Sarandon.
And there’s plenty more in its slate of films (there was, according to a press release from festival organizers, a 247 percent increase in submissions) that span across categories like Narrative and Documentary Feature Competition, Short Film Competition, Episodic Content Competition, and Spotlight Narrative and Documentary Feature Competition, and hail from countries including France, Nicaragua, Brazil, India, Austria, and Iran, among others.
In a statement, Geena Davis says, “I’m so excited to be heading into our third annual BFF. The Festival has become an important catalyst for change and we look forward to celebrating the accomplishments of the past year and setting the stage for years to come.”
Tickets and more information can be found at here. You can see the festival’s lineup announcement below.
Narrative and Documentary Competition
These captivating and unique features exemplify the values the Bentonville Film Festival has come to be known for. Collectively, they represent our efforts, to deliver commercial mission-minded films to our dedicated audiences.
An Acquired Taste, directed and written by Vanessa LeMaire. (USA). Why kill your own food? A new mindful generation of teens defy factory farming and turn to hunting as a way of connecting with the source of their sustenance. To make a humane kill, these animal lovers confront tormenting ethics and their worst nightmares, partly to eat dinner, and partly to carve out their own identities in a world increasingly at odds with reality and nature.
Bogalusa Charm, directed by Stephen Richardson and written by Jennifer Harrington. (USA). A loving portrait of a small Louisiana town created at the site of the world’s largest lumber mill that we examine through the lens of a 27 year-old charm school for girls run by Miss Dixie Gallaspy.
Blood Road, directed by Nicholas Schrunk and written by Mark Anders. (USA, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam). Although she’s used to pushing her body to its limit, nothing could prepare ultra-endurance mountain biker Rebecca Rusch for the emotional journey she took in 2015 when she pedaled 1,200 miles of the Ho Chi Minh trail in search of the crash site that claimed the life of her father, a US Air Force pilot shot down during the Vietnam War.
Cinemability, directed by Jenni Gold, written by Jenni Gold and Sam Reed. (USA). This star-studded documentary takes us on a thought provoking and humorous journey to explore the evolution of disability portrayals in film and television.
Late Blossom Blues,directed by Wolfgang Pfoser-Almer and Stefan Wolner, written by Wolfgang Pfoser-Almer. (USA).A 1932-born hard-working poor black man from the Mississippi backwoods becomes an internationally acclaimed Blues star after he releases his debut album at age 81.
Letters From Baghdad, directed by Sabine Krayenbühl and Zeva Oelbaum. (USA/UK/France). Gertrude Bell, the most powerful woman in the British Empire in her day, shaped the modern Middle East after World War I in ways that still reverberate today. More influential than her friend and colleague Lawrence of Arabia, Bell helped draw the borders of Iraq and established the Iraq Museum. Why has she been written out of history?
Looking at the Stars, directed by Alexandre Peralta, written by Alexandre Peralta and Melissa Rebelo Kerezsi. (Brazil/Nicaragua/USA). “Looking at the Stars” is an intimate glimpse into the lives of the extraordinary ballerinas at the world’s only ballet school for the blind – the Fernanda Bianchini Ballet Association for the Blind.
Mothers in the Middle, directed by Lauren Hollingsworth and written by Kaitlin McLaughlin, Inbal B. Lessner and Lauren Hollingsworth. (USA) World Premiere. Five middle-class working mothers juggle parenting and demanding jobs while contemplating major life decisions.
Served like a Girl, directed by Lysa Heslov, written by Lysa Heslov and Tchavdar Georgiev. (USA). Five women veterans who have endured unimaginable trauma in service create a shared sisterhood to help the rising number of stranded homeless women veterans by entering into a competition that unexpectedly catalyzes moving events in their own lives to bring them full circle in a quest for healing and hope.
The Gateway Bug, directed by Johanna B Kelly, written by Johanna B Kelly and Cameron Marshad. (USA). Over 2 billion people on earth eat insects for protein. “The Gateway Bug” explores how changing daily eating habits can feed humanity in an uncertain age, one meal at a time.
Unrest, directed and written by Jennifer Brea. (USA). Jennifer Brea is an active Harvard PhD student about to marry the love of her life when suddenly her body starts failing her. Hoping to shed light on her strange symptoms, Jennifer grabs a camera and films the darkest moments unfolding before her eyes as she is derailed by M.E. (commonly known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), a mysterious illness some still believe is “all in your head.”
Vegas Baby, directed and written by Amanda Micheli. (USA). Some think an in vitro fertilization contest sounds crazy, but countless Americans desperate to start a family believe this social media experiment is their only hope.
Woman On Fire, directed and written by Julie Sokolow. (USA). Brooke Guinan is the first openly transgender firefighter in New York City. As a third-generation firefighter, Brooke has a passion for heroism that runs in her blood.
Women of the Silk Road, directed and written by Yassamin Maleknasr. (Iran/Oman/Turkey/Tajikistan) World Premiere. Four women. Four countries. Four stories. Stories of love, struggle and art portraying the unknown faces of the East. “Women of the Silk Road” explores the diversity of individual lives under the broad banner of the Middle East and Central Asia; and the simple truth that all lives are about love.
A Different Sun, directed and written by Reed Tang. (USA). A Chinese family moves from their native land to a town in Germany and struggle to adjust to the different culture. Marriage hangs in the balance.
Cast: Chin Han, Jing Xu, Tessa Keimes, Ashley Gerasimovich and Catherine Jiang
A Witches’ Ball, directed by Justin G. Dyck and written by Keith Cooper. (USA) World Premiere. A young witch is ready to jump in feet first to the Witching World but not before overcoming some magical hurdles.
Cast: Morgan Neundorf, Karen Slater, Loukia Ioannou and Will Ennis
Axis, directed by Aisha Tyler and written by Emmett Hughes. (USA). On the day he is set to star in a career-changing blockbuster, an Irish actor with a rocky past confronts a series of devastating events that threaten his sobriety, his loved ones, and possibly his life.
Cast: Emmett Hughes, Thomas Gibson, Ciáran Hinds, Paula Malcomson, Bronagh Waugh, Jerry Ferrara, Aisha Tyler and Sam Rockwell
Bloodstripe, directed by Remy Auberjonois, written by Kate Nowlin and Remy Auberjonois. (USA). A dramatic psychological thriller about a female Marine veteran and the struggle to come home.
Cast: Kate Nowlin, Chris Sullivan, Tom Lipinski, Rusty Schwimmer, Ashlie Atkinson, Ken Marks and Rene Auberjonois
Girl Flu, directed and written by Dorie Barton. (USA). Bird, 12, has to become a woman whether she wants to or not when – in the worst week of her life – she gets her first period, is ditched by her impulsive, free spirited mom, and learns that you can never really go back to The Valley.
Cast: Katee Sackhoff, Jade Pettyjohn, Jeremy Sisto, Heather Matarazzo, Judy Reyes and Diego Josef
H.O.M.E., directed by Daniel Maldonado, written by Daniel Maldonado and Hector Carosso. (USA). A ‘love letter’ to New York City woven of two stories through its subways and ethnic enclaves.
Cast: Jeremy Ray Valdez, Jesús Ochoa, Angela Lin and Carlo Alban
Homestate, directed by David Hickey, written by Blaise Miller and David Hickey. (USA). A truly homemade film about a down and out brother that shows up unannounced, altering the routine of his sister’s family.
Cast: Blaise Miller, Grace Love, Shaneye Ferrell and David Hickey
Imperfections, directed and written by David Singer. (USA). A struggling actress working as a diamond courier conspires to stage a fake robbery, setting up her ex-boyfriend as the fall guy.
Cast: Virginia Kull, Marilu Henner, Ed Begley, Jr., Zach McGowan, Ashton Holmes, Chelcie Ross and Jerry Mackinnon
Let Me Go, directed and written by Polly Steele. (UK) World Premiere. The film is set in the year 2000 following not only Helga and Traudi’s journeys but the next two generations and how Beth, Helga’s daughter and Emily her granddaughter are confronted with the unraveling of the darkest of family secrets.
Cast: Juliet Stevenson, Jodhi May, Lucy Boynton, Karin Bertling and Stanley Weber
Little Pink House, directed and written by Courtney Moorehead Balaker. (USA/Canada). A small-town nurse named Susette Kelo emerges as the reluctant leader of her working-class neighbors in their struggle to save their homes from political and corporate interests bent on seizing the land and handing it over to Pfizer Corporation.
Cast: Catherine Keener, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Callum Keith Rennie, Colin Cunningham and Aaron Douglas
Parkers Anchor, directed by Marc Hampson, written by Ryan and Jennica Schwartzman. (USA) World Premiere. When her plans for marriage and a family fall apart, Krystal finds herself back in her hometown, re-evaluating her life. Krystal soon discovers that you’re never starting over, every step of the journey seems destined in hindsight.
Cast: Jennica Schwartzman, Amy Argyle, Christopher Marquette, Ryan Schwartzman, Penny Johnson Jerald, Michael Beach, Sarah Colonna, Brandon Keener, Claire Donald, Peter Weidman and Deborah Smith
Quality Problems, directed by Brooke Purdy and Doug Purdy, written by Brooke Purdy. (USA). Family To-Do-List: throw perfect eight-year-old’s birthday party, find wandering grandpa and deal with cancer in the left boob.
Cast: Brooke Purdy, Doug Purdy, Max Purdy, Scout Purdy, Mo Gaffney, Chris Mulkey, Jenica Bergere, Ryan Bollman and Michael Patrick McGill
Saving Sally, directed by Avid Liongoren and written by Charlene Sawit-Esguerra, Carlo Ledesma and Avid Liongoren. (Philippines/France). A teenage comic book artist who secretly sees unpleasant people as cartoon-like monsters struggles to save his eccentric best friend (and love of his life) from her abusive foster parents—but she becomes involved with an older man who happens to be a monster too.
Cast: Rhian Ramos, Enzo Marcos, TJ Trinidad and Peejo Pillar
The Archer, directed by Valerie Weiss and written by Casey Schroen. (USA). High school archery champion Lauren has just landed in Paradise Trails, a brutal juvenile correctional facility in the wilderness, after hospitalizing a boy in self-defense. But when Lauren learns how deep corruption runs at Paradise Trails under the pernicious rule of warden and bow-hunter, Bob, she plots her escape, with the aid of rebellious inmate Rebecca.
Cast: Bailey Noble, Jeanine Mason, Michael Grant Terry and Bill Sage
The Relationtrip, directed by Renée Felice Smith and C. A. Gabriel, written by Renée Felice Smith, C. A. Gabriel and Dana Scanlon. (USA). At an age when everyone around them is settling down and finding love, Beck and Liam are self-proclaimed loners. After bonding over their mutual disinterest in relationships, they decide to go away together on a ‘friend’ trip. That’s when things get weird. Really, surreally weird.
Cast: Renée Felice Smith, Matt Bush, Eric Christian Olsen, Linda Hunt, Nelson Franklin, Brandon Kyle Goodman, Sally Struthers, Georgia Mischak and Owain Rhys Davies
The Space Between, directed and written by Amy Jo Johnson. (Canada). A new father discovers his child is not his own and sets out on a journey to find answers.
Cast: Michael Cram, Sonya Salomaa, Michael Ironside, Julia Sarah Stone, Amy Jo Johnson, David Paetkau, Jayne Eastwood and Kristian Bruun
The Sun at Midnight, directed and written by Kirsten Carthew. (Canada) US Premiere. Shot at the Arctic Circle, “The Sun At Midnight” tells the story of an unusual friendship between a hunter obsessed with finding a missing caribou herd and a teenage rebel who gets lost while on the run.
Cast: Devery Jacobs, Duane Howard, Mark Anderako, Sarah Charlie Jerome, William Greenland, Shayla Snowshow and Jaclynn Robert
Unbridled, directed by John David Ware and written by Bonne Bartron. (USA). Inspired by a healing ranch for troubled girls in North Carolina, “Unbridled” tells a tremendous story of redemption and triumph, exposing the atrocities of abuse, neglect and sex trafficking and the healing and redemption experienced by girls and horses who have suffered the same types of abuse.
Cast: Eric Roberts, T.C. Stallings, Tea Mckay, Jenn Gotzon, Dey Young, Rachel Hendrix, David Topp and Rusty Martin, Sr.
Wexford Plaza, directed and written by Joyce Wong. (Canada). A misunderstood sexual encounter unravels the life of a lonely female security guard and her deadbeat paramour in this slice-of-life comedy set in a dilapidated Scarborough strip mall.
Cast: Reid Asselstine, Darrel Gamotin, Francis Melling and Mirko Miljevic
Spotlight Narrative and Documentary Competition
This competition provides a platform for well-crafted, polished, feature-length productions that have garnered significant support from distinguished members of the entertainment industry. Fueled by a palpable desire for change and innovation, these films exhibit fortitude and tenacity both in front of and behind the camera.
A Happening of Monumental Proportions, directed by Judy Greer and written by Gary Lundy. (USA). During the course of one day, a group of students at a school in Los Angeles find themselves caught up in a plot of sex, lies and dead bodies.
Band Aid, directed and written by Zoe Lister-Jones. (USA). A couple who can’t stop fighting embark on a last-ditch effort to save their marriage: turning their fights into songs and starting a band.
In Search of Fellini, directed by Taron Lexton and written by Nancy Cartwright and Peter Kjenaas. (USA). A shy small-town Ohio girl who loves movies but dislikes reality, discovers the delightfully bizarre films of Federico Fellini, and sets off on a strange, beautiful journey across Italy to find him.
Cast: Maria Bello, Ksenia Solo, Mary Lynn Rajskub and Beth Riesgraf
Krystal, directed by William H. Macy and written by Will Aldis. (USA) World Premiere. A young man living a sheltered life develops a crush on a stripper and joins her Alcoholics Anonymous group just so he can be in the same room with her.
Losing Sight of Shore, directed by Sarah Moshman, written by Sarah Moshman and Peter Saroufim. (USA/UK/Samoa/Australia) World Premiere. Four brave women set out to row across the Pacific Ocean from America to Australia.
Mully, directed and written by Scott Haze. (USA) “Mully” depicts the extraordinary rags-to-riches story of Charles Mully, whose meteoric rise from orphaned poverty in Kenya leads him on an unimaginable journey of selflessness.
Pray for Rain, directed by Alex Ranarivelo, written by Christina Moore and Gloria Musca. (USA) World Premiere. When Emma Gardner learns of her father’s untimely death, she returns to her home town to find that the idyllic farming community of her childhood has been ravaged by drought and is now a place tormented by gangs and the ill effects of extreme poverty. She quickly figures out that her dad’s accidental death was not accidental at all and the lists of possible suspects is very long.
Cast: Jane Seymour, Annabelle Stephenson, Nicholas Gonzalez, James Morrison and Paul Rodriguez
Pure Country: Pure Heart, directed by Damon Santostefano and written by Holly Goldberg Sloan. (USA) World Premiere. When Ada and her sister, Piper, discover a letter about their late father, a Marine who died in Iraq, they embark on a secret quest beyond their life in rural Tennessee to discover the truth about the man they never knew. As they uncover his remarkable past as a musician, the sisters find their own voice, beginning their journey as singers/songwriters.
Cast: Kaitlyn Bausch, Cozi Zuehlsdorff, Amanda Detmer, Laura Bell Bundy, Willie Nelson, Shawn Michaels and Ronny Cox
Sanctuary, directed by Len Collin and written by Christian O’Reilly. (Ireland). Larry has Down’s, Sophie has epilepsy, in a world that conspires to keep them apart, will love triumph?
Cast: Kieran Coppinger, Charlene Kelly, Robert Doherty, Emer Macken, Michael Hayes and Valerie Egan
The Black Prince, directed and written by Kavi Raz. (UK/India) World Premiere. The tragic yet fascinating true story about the last King of the mighty Kingdom of Punjab.
Cast: Satinder Sartaaj, Jason Flemyng, Shabana Azmi, Amanda Root, Keith Duffy, David Essex and Sophie Stevens
Short Film Competition
New to BFF for 2017, not a second is wasted in these pieces of short-form cinema that deliver highly-concentrated doses of powerful imagery and condensed storytelling.
Bombing, directed and written by Gloria Mercer. (Canada). A comedian struggles to adjust to taking care of her estranged daughter.
Cast: Lauren McGibbon, Annabel Maclean, Daniel Jeffery, Sarah Faye Bernstein, Penelope Good, Michael Bean, Derek Trowell, Steve Waldman and Tyson Storozinski
Code Red, directed and written by Sabrina Doyle. (USA) US Premiere. What’s a girl to do when she gets an unwelcome visit from Aunt Flo? A self-conscious teenager uses technology to combat the stigma around menstruation. Inspired by a real-life story.
Cast: Elle Winter, Kylee Russell, Sam Evans, Emily Johnson and Carson Boatman
Deep Storage, directed and written by Susan Earl. (Australia) US Premiere. Two loners find love in the most unromantic of places.
Cast: Miles O’Neil, Alice Ansara, James Lawson and Dawn Klingberg
Flip the Record, directed and written by Marie Jamora. (USA). In this 1980s coming-of-age story set to pulsing hip-hop music, a Filipino-American teen discovers her identity through a budding talent for turntablism.
Cast: Michael Rosete, Courtney Bandeko, Jon Viktor Corpuz, Sammay Dizon, JD Charisma, Olga Natividad and Derek Basco
Free to Laugh, directed by Lara Everly. (USA). A comedy workshop in Los Angeles teaches improv and stand up to women recently released from prison, culminating in a show for friends and family.
Healing River, directed by Hollie Noble, written by Megan Bannon and Jessica Marcy. (USA) World Premiere. Six years after a tragic accident, 26-year-old Andy and his family struggle to find their footing again. As Andy faces addiction and post traumatic stress, another deeper trauma emerges to threaten his course to recovery.
Jonah Stands Up, directed and written by Hannah Engelson. (USA). New Orleans artist and rabble-rouser Jonah Bascle faces his mortality. He leaves behind a legacy of comedy, visual art, and disability advocacy.
Kate and Lily, directed and written by Grey Cusack. (USA). Kate seems cursed to make a fool of herself every time she bumps into Lily, an old friend from college. But little does Kate know, not everything is what it seems.
Cast: Lindsey Naves, Claudia Crook, Noël Wells, Joey Scoma and Shane Browne
Little Hero, directed and written by Marcus A McDougald and Jennifer Medvin. (USA). “Little Hero” is a documentary about a six-year-old boy’s autism as seen through his twin sister’s eyes.
Lunch in Lima, directed and written by Gail Gilbert. (USA). An elegant ladies lunch in Peru reveals the dark side of privilege with no conscience.
Cast: Rengin Altay, Adrianne Cury, Julie Greenberg, Susannah Kavanaugh, Amelia Lopez, Daniela Lopez and Isabel Quintero
Marc Chung Protects His Address, directed by Michael Chan and written by Drew Pollins. (USA). Marc Chung buys a gun to protect his address in this comedic and highly stylized student short film.
Cast: Robert M. Lee, Corban Cloward, Christopher Carrillo, Austin Kress, Dante Smith and Scarlett the Corgi
Momo, directed and written by Avid Liongoren. (Philippines) US Premiere. A little girl searches for her missing dog, Momo.
Nacido de Nuevo, directed by Evan Kaufmann, written by Rick del Castillo and A. Taylor. (USA) On the anniversary of his young son’s death, border patrol agent Ramon Nunez finds redemption at the hands of an illegal alien in a single polarizing and life-altering night.
Cast: Juan Pablo Raba, Grace Santos, Johan Luis and Anthony Escobar
Pool, directed and written by Leandro Goddinho. (Brazil). On a quest to understand her grandmother’s past, Claudia meets Marlene, an old woman who’s created an homage to her memories inside an empty pool.
Cast: Luciana Paes, Sandra Dani, Carolina Bianchi, Marcela Feter, Ester Laccava, Mawusi Tulani and Jane Eyre
The Final Show, directed and written by Dana Nachman. (USA). A woman who has lived a long life full of love and loss has to decide, based on all that she has learned, who to take along to eternity.
Cast: Marion Ross, Peter Mark Richman, Nancy Dussault, Jerry Douglas, Murphy Dunne, Roger Rose, Elizabeth Hayden, Kay Benjamin and Loren Lester
They Charge for the Sun, directed by Terence Nance and written by Eugene Ramos, story by Terence Nance. (USA). In a dystopian future where people live nocturnally to avoid the harmful rays of the sun, a young girl unravels the lie that has kept her and her sister in the dark.
Cast: Rylee Nykhol and Jontille Gerard
Three Fingers, directed and written by Paul D. Hart. (USA). A young female Marine war veteran navigates her disintegrating life until there is nothing left but to make a choice.
Cast: Virginia Newcomb, Benjamin Keepers, Kim Kendall, Jon Winscher and Kinsley Carter
Episodic Content Competition
Each piece of episodic content contains a progressive perspective that asks viewers to revisit the inviting worlds these filmmakers have created, on a recurring basis. Entertaining voices, settings not often seen, and conflicts centered on the causes near and dear to our hearts, compel all who watch to stay true and stay tuned.
Au Pair, directed and written by Enid Zentelis. (USA) World Premiere. A Chinese au pair, Min, is in America “to be the woman she can’t be in China”- a radical, outspoken feminist. But her host mother, newly divorced Cindy, intends to use Min as dating bait.
Cast: Wei-Yi Lin, Maeve Fogarty, Naomi Fogarty, Ann Carr, Scott Vicari, Jamie Harold and Mary Kay Place
Lost & Found, directed and written by Haroula Rose. (USA). When Stella and Ian host their “unwedding”, all kinds of uncomfortable truths are unearthed for this group of friends. What is intended to be a healthy way of breaking up in fact raises all kinds of issues for this group of thirty-somethings in their own relationships, especially when Stella’s unruly mother Lourdes appears unexpectedly.
Cast: Melonie Diaz, William Janowitz, Jennifer Lafleur, Terence Nance, Avi Rothman, Peter Thomson, Laura Lee Botsacos, Nick Thurston, Ethan Gold and Haroula Rose
Nosh: Bite-Size Adventures, directed by Dream Kasestatad and written by Jan Epstein Schwaid. (USA) World Premiere. In this smart and funny educational series, two pint-sized cooking show hosts and their hapless young producer prepare their favorite foods, then go on fantastic adventures through time and space to learn more about the recipes’ origins.
Cast: Liberty Hayes, Holden Jahn, Ann Zavelson and Sean Callawy
Wild Kitchen, directed by Caroline Cox. (Canada) US Premiere. “Wild Kitchen” is a 22-minute documentary TV series about wild food, the people who harvest it, their unique stories that compel them to live off the land.
Cast: Tiffany Ayalik, Lawrence Nayalle and Liz Nayalle