Thursday, April 4, 2019

The 2019 Bentonville Film Festival (BFF) announces Gala Selections and Competition Films

Joey Travolta’s CAROL OF THE BELLS and Haroula Rose’s ONCE UPON A RIVER will both make World Premieres
as Centerpiece Screening selections

Special Screening of Tom Donahue’s THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING and presentation of BFF’s famous Geena & Friends, featuring festival co-founder Geena Davis will kick off events

BENTONVILLE, AR (April 4, 2019) — The Bentonville Film Festival (BFF) today announced its film line up of gala selections and competition films with Joey Travolta’s CAROL OF THE BELLS, and Haroula Rose’s ONCE UPON A RIVER making their world premieres as Centerpiece Screening Selections. BFF will kick off with a screening of Tom Donahue’s documentary THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING and a special presentation of the festival’s signature event, Geena and Friends. Taking place May 7-11 in Bentonville, Arkansas, BFF is a one of a kind annual event that will celebrate 5-years of elevating diverse voices in all facets entertainment and media in partnership with founding sponsor Walmart and presenting sponsor Coca-Cola,
Noted for its direct approach to foster more diversity and inclusiveness in the film industry and beyond, BFF’s competition selections, which includes 15 narrative films, 14 documentaries, and 9 episodic projects, are 81% female directed, with 68% of the selections having a POC director and/or and cast/subject.

BFF co-founder Geena Davis, said, “This year’s lineup of films truly exemplifies our mission and we are thrilled to highlight the work of female filmmakers, people of color, LGBTQ+, filmmakers, talent with disabilities and more — in other words, everyone. Connecting those filmmakers with audiences, providing a platform for them to tell their stories, and offering opportunities for each one of us to see a reflection of ourselves onscreen is such an essential step to help them build their careers and ensure that we can all see entertainment options that match the diversity we see in our day-to-day lives.”

The Bentonville Film Festival will open on Wednesday, May 8, with a special screening of Tom Donahue’s documentary THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING at Record North (104 SW A St). Executive produced by Davis, the film features her, with Meryl Streep, Reese Witherspoon, Natalie Portman, Zoe Saldana, Rosario Dawson, Cate Blanchett, and many others as it takes an incisive look into the history, empirical evidence, and systemic forces that foster gender discrimination and thus reinforce disparity in our culture. Most importantly, the film seeks pathways and solutions from within and outside the industry, and around the world. BFF will follow with the always highly anticipated Geena and Friends, featuring Davis along with an all-star group of female actors who re-imagine memorable dialogue from all-male movie scenes through an all-female lens. The presentation is a fun and poignant way to explore how refreshing and un-stereotyped it can be to expand our vision of who can be cast in roles originally written for men.

Two films will make their world premieres as Centerpiece Selections at BFF on Friday, May 10. Joey Travolta’s CAROL OF THE BELLS will screen at Record North at 4:00PM, with Haroula Rose’s ONCE UPON A RIVER screening at the Skylight Cinema (350 SW A St) at 6:30PM. Travolta’s CAROL OF THE BELLS stars Breaking Bad’s RJ Mitte as a troubled young man looking for his biological mother. When he finds her, he can’t handle the discovery that she is developmentally disabled. Unable to work through this unforeseen reality on his own, the man’s wife takes matters into his own hands forcing her husband to face the truth and heal the past. The film stars a trio of familiar and beloved television stars, Donna Pescow, Lee Purcell, and Donna Mills, in addition to Mitte.

Based on the best-selling novel by Bonnie Jo Campbell, Rose’s ONCE UPON A RIVER was described as “one of the most anticipated films of 2019” by Filmmaker Magazine. The film is a tale of redemption involving love and loss for a young woman who embarks on a life-changing personal odyssey along the Stark River. Cast members attending the world premiere screening with Haroula Rose, will include Kenadi DelaCerna, John Ashton, Tatanka Means, Ajuawak Kapashesit, Coburn Goss, Sam Straley, Arie Thompson, and Evan Linder.

Joining Rose’s ONCE UPON A RIVER in the Narrative Feature Competition will be Cold Iron Pictures’ Miranda Bailey’s BEING FRANK. The producer behind notable films like THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL, SWISS ARMY MAN, and DON’T THINK TWICE takes the director’s reins on this one. Emily Ting’s sophomore narrative directorial effort GO BACK TO CHINA, following her successful debut ALREADY TOMORROW IN HONG KONG (2015); and two films that recently debuted at SXSW - festival alum Jeremy Teicher’s OLYMPIC DREAMS (Teicher previously attended BFF with his film TRACKDOWN in 2015), and Alex Johnson’s SAINT FRANCES also are in the mix.

Additional films in the narrative feature competition this year include: Tom Quinn’s COLEWELL; Flavio Alves’s THE GARDEN LEFT BEHIND; Miranda de Pencier’s THE GRIZZLIES; Amber McGinnis’s INTERNATIONAL FALLS; Gregory Dixon’s OLYMPIA; Ani Simon-Kennedy’s THE SHORT HISTORY OF THE LONG ROAD; Sara Zandieh’s SIMPLE WEDDING; Tchaiko Omawale’s SOLACE; Jose Daniel Freixas’s VANDAL; and Diane Paragas’ YELLOW ROSE.

The Documentary Feature Competition is led by Jaqueline Olive’s ALWAYS IN SEASON, and Ivete Lucas and Patrick Bresnan’s PAHOKEE – both of which won critical acclaim at this year’s Sundance FF, Rebecca Stern’s WELL GROOMED, which premiered at SXSW, as well as the world premiere of Katen Day’s BAMBOO AND BARBED WIRE, featuring narration by George Takai.

Rounding out the Documentary Competition are; Fernando Villena’s ANY ONE OF US; Julie Getz’s CARE TO LAUGH; Amy Goldstein’s KATE NASH: UNDERESTIMATE THE GIRL; Fanny Veliz’s OUR QUINCEANERA; Katie Galloway and Dawn Valdez’s THE PUSHOUTS; Carl Lindstrom’s QUEEN OF PARADIS; Linda Midgett’s SAME GOD; April Wright’s STUNTWOMEN; Leana Hosea’s THIRST FOR JUSTICE; and Linda Goldstein Knowlton’s WE ARE RADICAL MONARCHS.

Once again, BFF will offer guaranteed distribution to its narrative feature film winner. BFF’s distribution partners include AMC Theatres, Lifetime, Starz, ACI-Inspires and others.
The winner of the Documentary Film Competition will receive a mentorship prize package sponsored by ITVS, a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization that has, for over 25 years, funded and partnered with a diverse range of documentary filmmakers to produce and distribute untold stories.
Co-founded by Oscar® winner Geena Davis and Inclusion Companies CEO Trevor Drinkwater, with support from founding sponsor Walmart and presenting sponsor Coca-Cola, BFF and its partners champion inclusion across all forms of media. Major Unilever, Universal, AMC Theaters, Sony, MARS and Cox Communications.

For additional programming and talent updates, ticketing information, or general information about the Bentonville Film Festival, please visit

The 2019 Bentonville Film Festival official competition selections:

Director: Tom Donahue
Country: USA, Running Time: 97 min
In this timely follow-up to his documentary CASTING BY, Tom Donahue explores the insidious and systemic sexism in Hollywood through the voices of marquee celebrities, including Geena Davis, Meryl Streep, Sandra Oh, Jessica Chastain, and many other ambassadors of the #TimesUp movement.

Director: Joey Travolta
Country: USA, Running Time:
A young man with a troubled past seeks out his biological mother. However, his world is turned upside down upon discovering that she is developmentally disabled. Unable to work through this new discovery on his own, the man’s wife takes matters into his own hands forcing her husband to face the truth and heal the past.

Director: Haroula Rose
Country: USA, Running Time: 95 min
In 1978 rural Michigan, Native American teen Margo Crane's actions tragically result in her father’s murder, sending her on the run.


Director: Tom Shadyac
Country: USA, Running Time: 83 min
An All-American football player's dreams to play in the NFL are halted when he is falsely accused of rape and sent to prison.

Director: Trudie Styler
Country: USA, Running Time: 91 min
Film follows the story of teenager Billy Bloom who, despite attending an ultra conservative high school, makes the decision to run for homecoming queen.

Director: Stacie Passon
Country; USA, Running Time: 90 min
Merricat, Constance and their Uncle Julian live in isolation after experiencing a family tragedy six years earlier. When cousin Charles arrives to steal the family fortune, he also threatens a dark secret they've been hiding.

Director: Tom Harper
Countries: UK/USA, Running Time: 100 min
A musician from Glasgow dreams of becoming a Nashville star.


Director: Miranda Bailey
Country: USA, Running Time: 110 min
A seventeen-year-old boy blackmails his father after discovering his secret second family.

Director: Tom Quinn
Country: USA, Running Time: 89 min
For thirty-five years, Nora has been the postmaster of Colewell, Penn. When Nora receives word that her office will be closed, she must decide whether to relocate and take a new job or face retirement in Colewell.

Director: Flavio Alves
Country: USA, Running Time: 88 min
Tina, a young transwoman, and Eliana, her grandmother, as they navigate Tina's transition and struggle to build a life for themselves as undocumented immigrants in New York City.

Director: Emily Ting
Countries: USA/China, Running Time: 95 min
After a spoiled rich girl blows through half of her trust fund, she is cut off by her father and forced to go back to China and work for the family toy business.

Director: Miranda de Pencier
Country: Canada, Running Time: 104 min
In this inspiring true story, a group of Inuit students in a small, struggling Arctic community are changed forever through the transformative power of sport.

Director: Amber McGinnis
Country: USA, Running Time: 92 min
A burned out touring comedian and a local mom who dreams of a career in stand up, become unlikely friends.

Director: Gregory Dixon
Country: USA, Running Time: 91 min
Black artist turning 30 is dealing with her relationship, her ailing mother, and her career aspirations.

Director: Jeremy Teichner
Country: USA, Running Time: 85 min
In the Olympic Athlete Village, a young cross-country skier bonds with a volunteer doctor after a disappointing finish in her competition.

Director: Alex Johnson
Country: USA, Running Time: 102 min
A coming-of-age dramedy about a young girl and her thirty-something nanny over the course of an eventful summer.

Director: Ani Simon-Kennedy
Country: USA, Running Time: 87 min
When teenage Nola suddenly loses her father while living on the road, she is forced to take the wheel for the first time - learning to own her grief, her past, and her new destination.

Director: Sara Zandieh
Country: USA, Running Time: 86 min
A young Iranian-American woman goes to great lengths to appease her parents and their need to see her settled down.

Director: Tchaiko Omawale
Country: USA, Running time: 87 min
A black teenage girl moves in with her grandmother and works to get an art fellowship so she can move home, while also dealing with her eating disorder.

Director: Jose Daniel Freixas
Country: USA, Running Time: 83 min
The young leader of a legendary Miami graffiti crew comes of age while battling a longtime rival.

Director: Diane Paragas
Country: USA, Running Time: 107 min
A headstrong undocumented Filipino girl's secret dreams of being a country musician are shattered when she witnesses her mother getting picked up by Immigration Authorities in their small Texas town.


Director: Jaqueline Olive
Country: USA, Running Time: 89 min
When 17-year-old Lennon Lacy is found hanging from a swing set in rural North Carolina in 2014, his mother’s search for justice and reconciliation begins while the trauma of more than a century of lynching African Americans bleeds into the present.

Director: Fernando Villena
Country: USA, Running Time: 86 min
Through the inspiring journey of a recovering athlete, ANY ONE OF US offers an unprecedented glimpse into the world of spinal cord injuries.

Director: Katen Day
Countries: USA/Japan, Running Time: 91 min
BAMBOO AND BARBED WIRE focuses on stories of Japanese-Americans interned at MINIDOKA, interviewing remaining survivors, their families and bringing to life their personal sacrifices, losses and grace under pressure.

Director: Julie Getz
Country: USA, Running Time: 77 min
The film profiles stand up comic, Jesus Trejo, who balances his comedy career while taking care of his parents. However, dual medical crises forces a major change in his approach to both his career and life in general. Like all comics, he uses adversity and his life experience as material for his routine.

Director: Amy Goldstein
Country: USA, Running Time: 89 min
Kate Nash, punk renegade, TV wrestling queen, and DIY leader of an all-girl band forgoes money and fame to speak out about gender inequality in the music business and to embolden other young women to find their voice.

Director: Fanny Veliz
Country: USA, Running time: 75 min
Through the power of community, young Latinas discover that any dream or aspiration is achievable.

Directors: Ivete Lucas, Patrick Bresnan
Country: USA, Running Time: 112 min
Following four youth at a small Florida high school who are ascending heartbreak and relishing in the joyous senior year rituals and rites of passage that serve as their send-off from home.

Directors: Katie Galloway, Dawn Valdez
Country: USA, Running Time: 55 min
Following a former gang member (now teacher), THE PUSHOUTS asks crucial questions of race, class, and power - exploring the promise and perils of education - at a particularly urgent time.

Director: Carl Lindstrom
Country: USA, Running Time: 83 min
After the success of artist Reine Paradis' breakout photo series 'Jungle', filmmaker Carl Lindstrom follows her on a surreal journey across the United States as she works to complete her highly anticipated second series 'Midnight'.

Director: Linda Midgett
Country: USA, Running Time: 95 min
A Christian professor at an evangelical college's social media support of Muslim women sets off controversy.

Director: April Wright
Country: USA, Running time: 85 min
An action-documentary about the evolution of stunt women from THE PERILS OF PAULINE (1914) and beyond.

Director: Leana Hosea
Country: USA, Running Time: 65 min
In the Spring of 2015, residents in Flint, Michigan and Sanders, Arizona proved, despite official denial, that their water was dangerously contaminated. Now, Janene from the Navajo, African-American Flint activist Nayyirah, and blue-collar stay-at-home mom Christina are leading the fight for clean water. When they meet in Standing Rock at the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, it sparks a realization that not only are the stakes nationwide, but the very future of democracy is threatened.

Director: Linda Goldstein Knowlton
Country: USA, Running Time: 91 min
WE ARE RADICAL MONARCHS focuses on Oakland-based alternative to the Girl Scouts – specifically for girls of color, ages 8-13. The girls earn badges for units on social justice, such as Black Lives Matter, Radical Beauty, Disability Justice, and being an LGBTQ ally.

Director: Rebecca Stern
Country: USA, Running Time: 85 min
A year immersed in the visually stunning and humorous world of competitive creative dog groomers reveals that, no matter where or how, an innate passion for creative expression is universal.


Director: Bridget Stokes
Country: USA, Running Time: 90 min
Emmett, a 12-year-old black child prodigy, teams up with his eccentric SAT tutor to solve a crime and keep his family from splitting up.

Director: Danny Green
Country: USA, Running Time: 102 min
REVIVAL is hybrid of every film idiom: Broadway musical, Hollywood musical, animation, green screen technology, and sound stage. Revival is the hippest experience of The Gospel the world has yet seen.

Director: Brittany Yost
Country: USA, Running Time: 100 min
Four middle-aged ladies discover purpose when they launch a unique fundraising effort to save a local women’s shelter from imminent foreclosure.

Director: Brian Baugh
Country: USA, Running Time: 109 min
18-year-old Lee (a spirited equestrian) and Jordan (an academic and football standout) are at the threshold of building a life together. But their character is tested when racial bias surfaces in their otherwise progressive small town.

About the Bentonville Film Festival
Co-founded by Academy Award® winner Geena Davis & Inclusion Companies CEO Trevor Drinkwater, the Bentonville Film Festival is a one of a kind annual event that champions inclusion in all forms of media. BFF is a yearlong platform, culminating with an annual six-day festival, in partnership with founding sponsor Walmart and presenting sponsor Coca-Cola. The Bentonville Film Festival is held the first week of May of every year in Bentonville, Arkansas and includes an impactful Inclusion, Research and Content Summit. Connecting engaged entertainment industry leaders and major corporate change makers with a diverse array of storytellers affords BFF the unique opportunity to amplify commercially viable content, solutions and initiatives that adequately represent the world around us. Because if they can see it, they can be it!

About the Bentonville Film Festival Foundation
Bentonville Film Festival Foundation, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization focused on promoting underrepresented voices in the entertainment industry through research, education, mentoring and industry partnerships. The primary partner of the Foundation is the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media (GDIGM). The Foundation believes that by convening the media ecosystem - advertisers, content creators and content distributors - in support of media that accurately reflects the gender balance and diversity of our country, it can create a seismic change in how we inspire young minds to do great things. The Foundation also hosts events throughout the year in multiple locations and in collaboration with other likeminded organizations.

Snapchat: BFFfestival

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