The Bentonville Film Festival announced today that they will honor American Horror Story actor Jamie Brewer with the “See It, Be It” Award which highlights a rising and influential voice in the landscape of diversity and inclusion in media. The annual festival, which takes place May 7-11 in Bentonville, Ark., has also unveiled its initial programming slate of panels which focus on championing inclusion in all forms of media.
Brewer will be honored for her unwavering commitment to representing and championing those with intellectual disabilities both on screen and off, ensuring media accurately reflects the world in which we live.
“We are thrilled to honor Jamie this year. She is the embodiment of fearless courage and the power of what representation can do to elevate a community of people around the world,” said Academy Award winner Geena Davis, BFF Co-Founder and Chair. “Championing the underrepresented is the sole reason I wanted to launch this festival.”
Brewer has established herself as a TV star in Ryan Murphy’s popular American Horror Story anthology, appearing in the first installment, Murderhouse and then coming back in various roles throughout its eight-season run. She has also appeared in Southland, Raymond & Lane and Switched at Birth. She has also appeared on stage and won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress for her performance in Amy and the Orphans. On the feature side, she will appear in the forthcoming comedy Turnover.
This year’s slate of programming of filmmaker and industry panels is intended to elevate diverse voices in all facets of entertainment and media. Conversations will focus on an array of topics surrounding the portrayal of diversity in media and feature actors, producers, directors and change-agents alongside some of the brightest minds from progressive companies with missions centered on equality.
The list of panel participants at this year’s fest will include Davis as well as Jason George, Samantha Mathis, RJ Mitte, Jackie Cruz, Gabrielle Carteris, Miranda Bailey, Trudie Styler, Rachel Harris, Jeanine Mason, Frankie Grande, Kara Hayward, and Rita Ortiz, with more to be announced.
Read the slate of programming below.
Wednesday, May 8
- Geena and Friends: Academy Award-winning actor Geena Davis along with an all-star group of equally brilliant women actors will re-imagine memorable dialogue from all-male movie scenes through an all-female lens. A fun and poignant way to explore how refreshing and unstereotyped it can be to expand our vision for casting roles originally written for men.
- This Changes Everything: Told first-hand by some of Hollywood’s leading voices in front of and behind the camera, the powerful documentary THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING, executive produced by Geena Davis, 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.
- AspireTV – Looking Through a Brown Lens: This panel will discuss the creative structure and thought that goes into telling a unique story through Black culture. Panelists will discuss what their “why” is for the films they’ve produced and what methods they utilized to create an emotional connection to the audience. They will also discuss the avenues of funding, casting and promoting their films and what their tactics were in making the films a reality.
Thursday May 9
- Let’s Make a Deal: Although opportunities have improved in the last 40 years, women and diverse filmmakers still struggle to secure funding and distribution to bring their films to life and in front of audiences. This panel will discuss how filmmakers can “make the argument” and leverage the realities of emerging technology, including the ever-evolving landscape of release strategies, smart business, branding, and marketing models to solidify that pitch to get their stories told and in front of an audience.
- Queer & Here to Stay: 3.4% of our American population identify as LGBTQIA+. However, a recent study from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media revealed that over the past decade, less than 1% of all lead characters were LGBTQIA+ in the 100 top grossing family films in the U.S. This panel will look at the presence of LGBTQIA+ characters and stories on screen, as well as what the future now looks like for gay, lesbian, trans and intersectional filmmakers and their projects at our multiplexes, art-houses, and on our TV screens.
Friday, May 10
- Indigenous Voices: This panel will discuss and highlight the inclusion of Indigenous stories in film, and the importance of having indigenous people involved in the creative process. The panel will feature industry professionals and film talent that work behind and in front of the camera.
- If She Can See It, She Can Be It!: As women represent 51% of the population and 52% of moviegoers, we have a social and business imperative to create media that values the stories of intersectional women. The Geena Benchmark report which analyzed the top 100 family films over a decade showed that female-led films generated 55% more at the box office than similar male led films. This panel will showcase best practices from business leaders who have successfully created female-driven content.
- The New Mr. Mom: Re-defining Traditional Family Roles: Seventy percent of moms with children under 18 participate in the labor force and moms are the primary or sole earners for 40 percent of households with children under 18 today, compared with 11 percent in 1960 (U.S Department of Labor). This powerhouse panel will feature female talent from Vudu’s first series, “Mr. Mom”. The series (a modern take on the beloved classic ‘80s film) follows a mom who is re-entering the workforce and a dad who decides it’s his turn to stay at home with the kids. The panel will discuss how conventional family roles are continually being re-defined by both moms and dads, how families today must band together as a team to make it all work, and the continued effort to combat dated stereotypes in content and media. How have things changed for families since the 1980s, and how is inclusive media like Vudu’s “Mr. Mom” helping to shift societal expectations on what makes up today’s family?
- Able & Willing: 18.7% of people in the U.S. have a disability, making up one of our largest minorities. However, the Geena Benchmark study which analyzed a decade of films from the Top 100 Largest Grossing Family Films, found that less than 1% of all lead characters were shown having a disability. How do we, as filmmakers, broaden our creative landscape when conceiving characters or casting to more effectively add the differently abled to that mix – going beyond gender and race to those with disabilities as well? How do we force ourselves out of what may be a comfort zone to consider someone we hadn’t initially envisioned in the role? And what are the rewards of doing so?
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