EXCLUSIVE: After unveiling its lineup for the sixth edition of the Bentonville Film Festival (BFF), the Bentonville Film Foundation has set panels, events and jury for the hybrid virtual/in-person event. The fest will take place August 10-16.
The panels for this year’s fest include “If She Can See It, She Can Be It” with Geena Davis, Oge Egbuonu (director, (In)visible Portraits) and Katori Hall (P-Valley creator). The panel spotlights the best practices for executives and creators who have successfully created or worked with female-driven content.
Isabella Gomez (One Day At A Time), Sonay Hoffman (For Life), Marie Jacobson (SPT’s Gemstone Studios), Mary Molina (Party of Five) and Esta Spalding (On Becoming a God in Central Florida) will be panelists for “What’s Your Story? And Why We Need It Now More Than Ever”, which will feature a conversation of the importance of fresh, distinctive voices on TV.
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“When we begin programming BFF every year our primary focus is always to assure that the films, panels and events we present align with our core mission and values, and accurately represent the diverse world we live in,” said Wendy Guerrero, President of Programming of Bentonville Film Festival. “What we have programmed for our first year as a hybrid festival reflects these goals and more; incredible storytellers sharing their diverse, uncompromised voices. We couldn’t be more pleased with the lineup and what we have to offer our audience both virtually and on the ground in the greater Bentonville area in terms of thought leadership, education, entertainment and accessibility.”
Geena Davis, Bentonville Film Foundation Co-Founder and Chair added: “At BFF we pride ourselves on bringing people together as a community to celebrate underrepresented storytellers. As we navigate this new way of hosting a film festival, we are thrilled this year to be offering the most diverse program we have had yet. We look forward to connecting with a worldwide audience, championing works that reflect our mission, and presenting panels that open doors for broader conversations addressing inclusivity.”
In addition to the panels and events, the 2020 program has added two world premieres to their program. In the documentary competition, Ondi Timoner will premiere her opioid documentary Coming Clean while Charles Mudede will debut his drama Thin Skin in the narrative competition. They join previously announced world premieres Sujata Day’s Definition Please and Iram Parveen Bilal’s I’ll Meet You There.
The fest will include several on-the-ground regional events including three nights (August 10-12) of double features at the 112 Drive-In in Fayetteville, Arkansas and a special, socially distanced, outdoor film event at Louise at Thaden Field in Bentonville.
Oge Egbuonu’s directorial debut, (In)visible Portraits, which shatters the too-often invisible otherizing of Black women in America, is set to open the fest and will be followed by a virtual conversation with Egbuonu and film subjects Jazmine Williams, Sheila Thomas, Dr, Joy DeGruy, Helen Jones and Dr. Melina Abdullah.
The BFF program includes 68 films representing female, BIPOC (65%) and LGBTQIA+ (45%) filmmakers. More than 80% of films at the 2020 Bentonville Film Festival were directed by women.
Read the full list of panels, events as well as this year’s jurors below.
Advancing Latinx Representation
12 PM CT- 1 PM CT
Presented in partnership with LatinXNA
A discussion about advancing Latinx representation in entertainment and media, and the role corporate America plays. Panelists: Wendy Guererro, (President of Programming, Bentonville Film Festival), Ivette Rodriguez (La Collab)
What’s Your Story? And Why We Need It Now More Than Ever
5:30 PM CT- 6:30 PM CT
Presented by Sony Pictures Television
Never has it been more urgent, more important for fresh, distinctive voices, emblematic of our respective communities; never before have women had such a platform. Join a candid conversation with creative changemakers, both in front of and behind the camera, as they discuss bringing their unique perspectives to authentic storytelling in TV and film. Panelists: Isabella Gomez (One Day At A Time), Sonay Hoffman (For Life), Marie Jacobson (SPT’s Gemstone Studios), Mary Molina (Party of Five), Esta Spalding (On Becoming a God in Central Florida)
Building Bridges and Brands
10:30 AM CT- 11:30 AM CT
Presented by HatchBeauty Brands
Join Tracy Holland, Co-Founder of HatchBeauty Brands, in a discussion about how brands can leverage their place in consumer’s minds to impact lasting cultural change. From empowering young, female entrepreneurs to creating representation through product assortment, advertising, and more. Panelists: Kimora Lee Simmons (CEO & Creative Director, Baby Phat), Latriece Watkins (Executive VP Walmart)
If She Can See It, She Can Be It
12 PM CT-1 PM CT
Presented by MARS, Inc.
A showcase of best practices from industry executives, content creators, and actors who have successfully created or worked with female-driven content. Panelists: Academy Award-winner Geena Davis, Oge Egbuonu (director, (In)visible Portraits), Katori Hall (writer, P-Valley)
The Power of Media for Social Change
2 PM CT- 3 PM CT
Presented by MARS, Inc.
The true power of media can change minds, challenge traditions, and create movements by making deep emotional connections that stir and motivate audiences to take action. Join us for a dialogue with brand leaders on how they are amplifying social issues through their channels and the impact of their campaigns in different communities. Panelists: Bea Perez (Coca-Cola), Wanda Young (Samsung)
Flipping the Script: A Look at Representation of Disability in Media
12:30 PM CT-1:30 PM CT
Presented by MARS, Inc.
An intimate look at the presence of stories about characters with disabilities on screen and in media. Panelists: Chad Allen (Creator, Unseen), Nic Novicki (The Good Doctor)
The “Best Of” Geena and Friends
7 PM CT-8 PM CT
Presented by Coca-Cola
A virtual discussion that celebrates the inspiring and fun moments shared at BFF’S annual Geena and Friends event. Hear from BFF Co-Founder, Academy Award® winning actor Geena Davis and some of the brilliantly talented actors who have performed select all-male movie scenes and reimagined them with roles that could have been originally written for women. Cast: Academy Award winner Geena Davis, Kathy Najimy (Sister Act), Alysia Reiner (Orange Is The New Black)
Up Close and Personal: A Conversation with Academy Award-winning actor Geena Davis
12 PM CT- 1 PM CT
Presented by MARS, Inc.
An inside story that highlights film and media’s most renowned individuals. Come join an intimate and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to listen and join in on a conversation with an icon in the industry. BFF recognizes our special guest as an innovator and changemaker in the film and media industry and their desire in championing diversity and inclusion initiatives. Panelist: Academy Award-winning actor Geena Davis
Breaking the Rainbow Ceiling: A Closer Look at Representation of LGBTQIA+ in Media
2 PM CT- 3 PM CT
Presented by MARS, Inc.
A look at the presence of LGBTQIA+ and intersectional characters and their stories on screen. Panelists: Alexandra Grey (Gossamer Folds), Vico Ortiz (Vida), Jen Richards (Gossamer Folds), Julia Scotti (Julia Scotti: Funny That Way)
Special Events Include:
112 Drive In
Listening event ahead of screenings daily.
Written by a blind person, with a blind heroine, for blind (and sighted) audiences. Unseen is the story of Afsana, a blind assassin living in a chaotic world in which she is invisible to society. Audio Experience.
Jury members for the 2020 festival are as follows:
Patrick Harrison joined the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences as Director, Member Relations and Programming, New York in 2001. He is responsible for the creation and implementation of all Academy programs on the East Coast including weekly official membership screenings, Academy at Metrograph film series, the annual Spotlight on Crafts film series, Academy Tributes, educational outreach and the annual Oscar Night New York celebrations. Patrick produces the Academy Conversations film series and moderates post-screening panel discussions between the filmmakers which are distributed on the Academy’s online platforms. Patrick has served on a number of festival juries including the Hamptons International Film Festival, Sarasota Film Festival, and the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival.
Maggie Kiley is quickly becoming one of the most sought-after creatives in the television arena, and a testament of quality work in the industry today. Currently, Maggie can be seen as the director and co-EP behind USA Network’s series: Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story, the second installment in the anthology series. Maggie directed four out of the eight episodes of this season, including its premiere and finale. Maggie has the honor of being the first individual selected by Ryan Murphy for his coveted Half Initiative. With Ryan’s guidance throughout this program, coupled with her undeniable talent, Maggie rightfully earned her spot directing episodes of television’s most successful series, including American Horror Story: Cult, Scream Queens and 9-1-1. Other television credits include directing the pilot and finale episodes of The CW’s Katy Keene; multiple episodes of The CW’s Riverdale; Marvel’s The Gifted; Netflix’s anthology series What/If; Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina; Netflix’s Insatiable; SYFY’s George R.R. Martin series, Nightflyers; and YouTube Red’s Impulse. On the feature film front, Maggie’s award-winning short Some Boys Don’t Leave starred Jesse Eisenberg and played at more than 50 festivals, garnering awards at both Tribeca and the Palm Springs International Shortsfest.
Leah Meyerhoff is an award winning filmmaker who wrote and directed the narrative feature film I Believe In Unicorns, which was released theatrically after premiering at SXSW, winning the Grand Jury Prize at the Atlanta Film Festival and additional awards from Woodstock Film Festival, Nashville Film Festival, Tribeca Film Institute, IFP, and the Adrienne Shelly Foundation. Leah Meyerhoff’s previous work has screened in over 200 film festivals and aired on IFC, PBS, LOGO and MTV. She is a fellow of the IFP Emerging Narrative Labs, IFP Narrative Finishing Labs, Tribeca All Access Labs, and Emerging Visions program at the New York Film Festival. Leah Meyerhoff is also the founder of FILM FATALES, a non-profit organization which advocates for parity in the film industry and supports a membership community of over a thousand women filmmakers around the world. She holds a BA in Art-Semiotics from Brown University and an MFA in Directing from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.
Camilla Hall’s directing debut Copwatch was nominated for Best Documentary at Tribeca in 2017 and was sold to Amazon Prime. She directed Poppy & The Sunflower, a short documentary for Tribeca Studios, funded by 23&Me, and produced the Emmy® nominated Circus Of Books, a Netflix Original documentary, executive produced by Ryan Murphy. She is currently directing an NDA-protected documentary feature film for the UK’s BBC Storyville and Germany’s Arte ZDF. She is also attached to direct two other documentary features set to deliver in 2021, as well as producing Black Barbie: A Documentary, directed by Lagueria Davis and Sirens, directed by Rita Baghdadi. She recently joined the American Film Institute in Los Angeles to teach the academy’s first-ever documentary program and is an active member of Film Fatales, Free the Bid and Cinesisters. Prior to documentary filmmaking, Camilla was an award-winning journalist at the Financial Times.
Piya Sinha-Roy is a film and entertainment journalist and editor based in Los Angeles for the past decade. She has worked at Reuters, Entertainment Weekly and most recently as the senior film editor at The Hollywood Reporter, where she oversaw film news and awards coverage. She has been a passionate voice advocating for better representation of minority groups in Hollywood.
Leslie Sanchez is a sought-after speaker, author, media entrepreneur, and an expert on trending issues impacting women and Hispanics/Latinos in the United States. A pollster and market researcher by training, she is currently a CBS News political analyst and documentary producer for their 24-hour digital channel CBSN. A trailblazer in media, Sanchez was one of only two Hispanic Americans ever hired as political contributors at a major news network, and the first at CNN (2008). In 2011, Sanchez launched Impacto Media, to curate and produce digital content that highlights the nation’s most pressing social and economic issues. Her award-winning documentary films have raised awareness for Hispanic-oriented causes.
Jessie Rosen is an east coast bred, LA-based writer, producer and performer. In 2007, Jessie created the blog 20-Nothings (20-Nothings.com). Rosen’s blog has garnered numerous awards and led to appearances on broadcasts including HuffPost Live, NPR’s “On The Point,” and The Suze Orman Show. She has written assignments for publications such as Marie Claire, The Huffington Post, Thought Catalog, and Hello Giggles. Rosen has been named a TIME Top 25 Blogger and made Forbes Top 100 Website for Women and Top 10 Website for Millennials. In 2015, she released her debut YA novel, Dead Ringer, published by James Frey’s Full Fathom Five Digital. In 2017, Jessie sold a six-episode comedy series, RODHAM, to full screen. She quickly followed that by selling a half-hour project at Warner Brothers Television with Jim Parson’s That’s Wonderful Productions and a family comedy KIMCHI RAVIOLI to Netflix. She was most recently the showrunner across all four seasons of The Baxters – a dramedy for MGM and Will Packer Media.
Tanya Saracho is a playwright and television writer who serves as creator, showrunner, and executive producer of the critically-acclaimed series Vida on Starz, which earned 100% critical rating on Rotten Tomatoes for its first, second and third seasons. The show, which recently aired its third and final season, featured all Latina directors in seasons two and three, including Saracho, who made her television directorial debut last year. The series had an all-Latinx writers room for seasons one and two, and in season three, the room was composed of all Latina writers. Named one of “TV Scribes to Watch” by Variety in 2018, Saracho was recently honored by the LGBTQ California Legislative Caucus as their 2020 Pride Month Honoree. She received the Rising Star Award at the Outfest Legacy Awards, and was awarded the New Voice Award by Final Draft. Vida won the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Comedy Series and was nominated for a second year in a row for season two, and was also honored by the National Hispanic Media Coalition with the 2019 Impact Award. The series won the Audience Award at the 2018 SXSW Film Festival, and made its season two premiere as an Official Selection of the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival.
Nara Walker is a Creative Director and producer. She has more than 15 years of experience in creative development, production, and packaging shows for broadcast and digital outreach, most recently with entertainment marketing agency Trailer Park. A natural-born storyteller, with a specialty in documentary and unscripted formats, Nara has produced content for networks including A&E, OWN, Food Network, CBS, Discovery, NatGeo, CNBC amongst others. Nara was part of the two-time, Emmy® nominated producing team for the A&E true crime series Cold Case Files where she produced, directed, and wrote more than 30 episodes for the series. Nara has also worked in the digital space creating content and helping to establish best practices for O&O multi-channel networks.
Larisa Apan is the Senior Programmer for the Montclair Film Festival and Hamptons International Film Festival, and former Senior Programmer for the Sarasota Film Festival. Originally from Romania, she currently resides in New York where she has been involved in the film industry for the past 10 years. Prior to working as a programmer, she worked on her own short films (shot in 16mm), and on several award-winning shorts that screened internationally at festivals, including Tribeca, TIFF, Austin, and SXSW. She co-founded a production company that produced several animated and stop motion short films. For several years she worked with Academy Award®-winning documentarian Murray Lerner, helping to manage his production company as well as overseeing the digitization of his archive for the Library of Congress. She has also collaborated with the Hamptons International Film Festival and IFP to select the screenplays for the HIFF Screenwriters’ Lab and IFP’s Emerging Storytellers Lab.
Missy Laney is the Director of Development at Adult Swim. She previously worked at BitTorrent Inc and the Sundance Institute.
Yen Tan is a Malaysian-born writer and director. He premiered the critically-acclaimed Pit Stop at Sundance 2013. It was nominated for a John Cassavetes Award at the 2014 Film Independent Spirit Awards. Yen also co-directed Until We Could (2014) with David Lowery, an Addy-winning PSA for Freedom to Marry that was narrated by Robin Wright and Ben Foster. His latest NYT Critic’s Pick feature, 1985, premiered at SXSW 2018 and was inspired by his Short of the Week of the same title. Yen has been a fellow of Austin Film Society’s Artist Intensive, IFP’s Film Week, and Film Independent’s Fast Track. He was named one of Out Magazine’s OUT100 of 2018. Yen is based in Austin, where he also works as an award-winning key art designer for independent films and documentaries.
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