- Sunday, May. 8, 2016
- BENTONVILLE, Arkansas
Director/writer Justin Roberts’ No Greater Love took the Best of the Fest honor at the second annual Bentonville Film Festival (BFF) which champions women and diverse voices in media. Other major winners during a gala awards ceremony on Saturday (May 7) included It Had to Be You which earned Best Narrative distinction, Lost & Found which took the Best Family Film category, and Floyd Norman: An Animated Life, winner of the BFF Audience Award.
BFF is the only festival to offer guaranteed distribution to the winning festival films in three categories: Best Narrative, Best Family Film and Audience Award winners.
An addition to this year’s Festival is a script writing competition sponsored by Lifetime with the entry window about to open. The network is looking for full-length movie scripts and will option a winning script for development. Applications will be accepted beginning May 30, 2016 and will close on July 8 2016, with A+E executives participating on the script-contest jury. Details of the competition can be found here.
BFF 2016 attracted a record-breaking number of attendees committed to ensuring developing and promoting media that represents the world we live in – 51% women and highly diverse. Festival attendees interacted with filmmakers and actors including Meg Ryan, Nia Vardalos, Robert Townsend, Bruce Dern, Jon Voight, Mo McRae, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Kathy Najimy, Andrea Navedo, Jennifer Yuh Nelson, Teyonah Parris, Constance Wu, Sarah Megan Thomas, Tisha Campbell-Martin and Joey Lawrence. Panel Discussions with key industry leaders and decision makers including Stephen Quinn, chairman, AFE; Vanessa DeLuca, editor-in-chief, Essence; Jeremy Verba, VP, VUDU; Nick Hall, SVP, original programming, HBO; Syrinthia Studer, SVP marketing & acquisitions, Paramount; Wendy Calhoun, co-executive producer, Empire; Julie Ann Crommett, entertainment industry educator-in-chief, Google; Alex Cohen, co-host of “Take Two” on NPR; Elizabeth Frank, chief content & programming officer, AMC Theatres; Gil Robertson, AAFCA; Chevonne O’Shaughnessy, ACI; Karen Bailey, SVP original programming, Starz; and representatives from Walmart, Coca- Cola, AMC Theaters, Starz and Lifetime delivered insights to develop actionable plans to accelerate the depiction of diversity in all forms of media. Featuring an A-list advisory board that includes Soledad O’Brien, Shonda Rhimes, Viola Davis, Samuel L. Jackson, Emilio Estevez and Natalie Portman, the Festival was able to help 87 percent of its competition films obtain distribution in its inaugural 2015 event.
“We are honored to celebrate filmmakers who are forging a path for women and diverse voices on a national stage,” said Geena Davis, Academy Award Winning actor and co-founder of the Bentonville Film Festival. “Their films incite us to recognize the value and complexity of diverse narratives. We thank them for sharing their work with BFF and our audiences”
The Festival, presented by founding sponsor Walmart, presenting sponsor Coca-Cola and distribution partners AMC Theatres, Lifetime and Starz, featured 34 films: including 12 world premieres, 16 documentaries and 18 narratives. Qualifying films for BFF meet two or more diversity requirements in the areas of director, producer, writer, lead character or cast/crew/extras.
The award winners selected from the jury, Festival audience and BFF Foundation are as follows:
Best of the Fest – No Greater Love
Audience favorite Showcase Film. Determined by Audience ballot.
No Greater Love – Director/Writer: Justin Roberts. (2015, USA)
No Greater Love explores a combat deployment through the eyes of an Army chaplain, as he and his men fight their way through a hellish tour in one of the most dangerous places in Afghanistan and then as they struggle to reintegrate home.
Best Narrative – It Had to Be You
Jury award for Best Competition Narrative. Determined by Jury.
It Had to Be You – Director/Screenwriter: Sasha Gordon (USA/Italy)
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
BFF Audience Award – Floyd Norman: An Animated Life
Audience favorite Competition Film. Determined by Audience ballot.
Floyd Norman: An Animated Life – Directors: Erik Sharkey, Michael Fiore. (USA)
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.”
Best Family Film – Lost & Found
Best Family Film in a Competition Narrative Film. Determined by Jury.
Lost & Found – Director: Joseph Itaya, Screenwriters: Joseph Itaya, Erik Cardona (USA)
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
Best Documentary – A Journey of a Thousand Miles: Peacekeepers
Jury award for Best Competition Documentary – Determined by Jury.
A Journey of a Thousand Miles: Peacekeepers – Directors: Geeta Gandbhir, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy. (USA/Pakistan)
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.
The Dernsie – Alice Coulthard – Josephine
Best Acting in a Competition Narrative Film. Determined by Jury (named for Bruce Dern, BFF BOA Member)
Josephine – Director: Rory Feek, Screenwriter: Rory Feek and Aaron Carnahan (USA)
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
Best Ensemble – Fair Market Value
Best Ensemble in a Competition Narrative Film. Determined by Jury
Fair Market Value – Director: Kevin Arbouet, Story: Judy San Roman, Screenwriter: Kevin Arbouet. (USA) World Premiere
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
Highest Diversity Score – Tested
Determined by analysis through the Bentonville Film Festival Foundation
Tested – Director: Curtis Chin. (USA)
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.
BFF Spirit Award – Monica Gonzalez, ESPN
Selected by BFF recognizing an individual in media advancing the cause of diversity and inclusion.
Monica Gonzalez, former Mexican-American professional soccer player, now soccer analyst and announcer for ESPN, has taken her Gonzo Soccer Academy global, teaching soccer, life and leadership skills to over 900 girls worldwide.
Impact Award – Walmart, AMC Theatres, Lifetime & STARZ
Selected by BFF based on contribution to Festival & Mission
In addition to the support of Walmart, AMC Theatres and Lifetime, the expanded partnership support from Starz offered filmmakers in the 2016 BFF Film Competition even greater distribution opportunities. Carmi Zlotnik, managing director at Starz, said, “Starz is pleased to partner with the BFF. The festival has already made an impact, and we are proud to participate in a bigger way this year. We are dedicated to supporting new voices and emerging storytellers.”