Finally, a film festival that puts diversity first. Thanks, Geena Davis.
We were so thrilled in January when Geena Davis announced her latest endeavor, the Bentonville Film Festival; a fest designed specifically to support women and diversity in film.
Davis has been going to bat for women in film for some time now. As an actress, she’s known for her iconic roles in feminist-minded films like A League of Their Own and Thelma and Louise and in 2006, Davis founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, through which she has been commissioning research and presenting her findings to film executives and producers for almost a decade.
So, as the Los Angeles Times reports, when movie exec and producer Trevor Drinkwater and Walmart’s director of movies Louis Greth first conceived of this festival, Davis was exactly the partner they wanted involved. Together, the three brought the world the very first Bentonville Film Festival (Bentonville is where Walmart is headquartered) this past week.
The first year of BFF (love the acronym, Geena!) sounds like it was a resounding success. 46 films competed in the festival, and the winners really exemplify the diverse mission of the fest.
The Jury Award went to the film Jack of the Red Hearts which tells the story of an 11-year-old nonverbal autistic girl and her unlikely relationship with her live-in helper, a teen girl who also happens to be a con artist.
The Audience Award was given to Thao’s Library, a documentary whose title subject is a 24-year-old Vietnamese woman born to a victim of Agent Orange. As a result, Thao has coped with crippling physical deformities all her life. The film recounts Thao’s unlikely friendship with an American woman Elizabeth, who helps Thao realize her dream of expanding her library.
“Best Documentary” went to In My Father’s House which tells the story of Grammy-Award winning rapper Che “Rhymefest” Smith reconnecting with his father who he hasn’t seen in 20 years. Their reunion happens in his father’s childhood home located in Chicago’s rough South Side.
The festival’s “Diversity Award” was given to Meet the Patels, a documentary co-directed by siblings Ravi and Geeta Patel, that follows Ravi on his journey to find an Indian wife and win the approval of his parents.
Now we want to see ALL these movies.
We are so thrilled that this festival is giving a platform to these stories that desperately need to be told. Geena Davis awesomely explained to the BBC why this festival is SO necessary. While her answer focuses on the importance of female stories, the same logic can be applied to all the many types of diversity represented at BFF. Davis said, “I believe we’re teaching kids to have an unconscious bias against girls, that they’re just serving the function of beauty. So that’s why there’s a need for this event. There is gender inequality, and the fastest way to fix it is to fix it through media and then life will imitate art.” We love that: “Life will imitate art.” With films this diverse and moving, we hope that’s true!