The Bentonville Film Festival announced their lineup of gala selections and competition films which includes the world premieres of Joey Travolta’s Carol of the Bells, Haroula Rose’s Once Upon a River. Co-founded by Geena Davis 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. The fest takes place May 7-11 in Bentonville, Ark.
The fest champions more diversity and inclusiveness in the film industry and beyond. This year’s competition selections includes 15 narrative films, 14 documentaries, and 9 episodic projects. Of the lineup, 81% are female directed and 68% of the selections include a POC director and/or cast/subject in the forefront.
“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,” said Davis. “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 opening night film, This Changes Everything is produced by and features Davis along with Meryl Streep, Reese Witherspoon, Natalie Portman, Zoe Saldana, Rosario Dawson, Cate Blanchett, and 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. This will be followed by “Geena and Friends” where Davis and an all-star group of female actors re-imagine memorable dialogue from all-male movie scenes through an all-female lens.
The gala film, Joey 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 centerpiece selection, Once Upon a River, is based on the best-selling novel by Bonnie Jo Campbell. The film is a tale of redemption involving love and loss for a woman who embarks on an outdoorsy, Americana-laced misadventure along the Stark River with a distinctly 70s-esque esthetic. The film stars Kenadi DelaCerna, John Ashton, Tatanka Means, Ajuawak Kapashesit, Coburn Goss, Sam Straley, Arie Thompson and Evan Linder.
Read the full gala and competition slate below.
OPENING NIGHT SPECIAL SCREENING
THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING
Director: Tom Donahue
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.
CENTERPIECE SCREENING SELECTION
CAROL OF THE BELLS
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.
CENTERPIECE SCREENING SELECTION
ONCE UPON A RIVER
Director: Haroula Rose
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
The inspirational true story of Brian Banks (Aldis Hodge), an All-American high school football star committed to USC who finds his life upended when he is wrongly convicted of a crime he didn’t commit. Despite lack of evidence, Banks is railroaded through a broken justice system and sentenced to a decade of prison and probation. Years later, with the support of Justin Brooks (Greg Kinnear) and the California Innocence Project, Banks fights to reclaim his life and fulfill his dreams of playing in the NFL.
Director: Trudie Styler
Film follows the story of teenager Billy Bloom who, despite attending an ultra conservative high school, makes the decision to run for homecoming queen.
WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE
Director: Stacie Passon
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
A musician from Glasgow dreams of becoming a Nashville star.
NARRATIVE FEATURE COMPETITION
Director: Miranda Bailey
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.
THE GARDEN LEFT BEHIND
Director: Flavio Alves
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.
GO BACK TO CHINA
Director: Emily Ting
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
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
A burned out touring comedian and a local mom who dreams of a career in stand up, become unlikely friends.
Director: Gregory Dixon
Black artist turning 30 is dealing with her relationship, her ailing mother, and her career aspirations.
Director: Jeremy Teichner
In the Olympic Athlete Village, a young cross-country skier bonds with a volunteer doctor after a disappointing finish in her competition.
Director: Alex Thompson
A coming-of-age dramedy about a young girl and her thirty-something nanny over the course of an eventful summer.
THE SHORT HISTORY OF THE LONG ROAD
Director: Ani Simon-Kennedy
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
A young Iranian-American woman goes to great lengths to appease her parents and their need to see her settled down.
Director: Tchaiko Omawale
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
The young leader of a legendary Miami graffiti crew comes of age while battling a longtime rival.
Director: Diane Paragas
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.
DOCUMENTARY FEATURE COMPETITION
ALWAYS IN SEASON
Director: Jaqueline Olive
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.
ANY ONE OF US
Director: Fernando Villena
Through the inspiring journey of a recovering athlete, ANY ONE OF US offers an unprecedented glimpse into the world of spinal cord injuries.
BAMBOO AND BARBED WIRE
Director: Katen Day
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.
CARE TO LAUGH
Director: Julie Getz
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.
KATE NASH: UNDERESTIMATE THE GIRL
Director: Amy Goldstein
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
Through the power of community, young Latinas discover that any dream or aspiration is achievable.
Directors: Ivete Lucas, Patrick Bresnan
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
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.
QUEEN OF PARADIS
Director: Carl Lindstrom
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
A Christian professor at an evangelical college’s social media support of Muslim women sets off controversy.
Director: April Wright
An action-documentary about the evolution of stunt women from THE PERILS OF PAULINE (1914) and beyond.
THIRST FOR JUSTICE
Director: Leana Hosea
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.
WE ARE RADICAL MONARCHS
Director: Linda Goldstein Knowlton
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
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.
FAMILY FILMS COMPETITION
Director: Bridget Stokes
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
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
Four middle-aged ladies discover purpose when they launch a unique fundraising effort to save a local women’s shelter from imminent foreclosure.
THE WORLD WE MAKE
Director: Brian Baugh
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.