Bentonville Film Festival organizers hope it becomes Arkansas’ South by Southwest

by Nancy Peevy ([email protected]) 340 views 

The town without a movie theater is again gearing up to host a world-class film festival, and a festival co-founder hoping moves in the direction of the popular South by Southwest event in Austin, Texas.

Plans are being finalized for the second annual Bentonville Film Festival (BFF) to be held May 3-8, 2016 in downtown Bentonville. Trevor Drinkwater, founder and CEO of ARC Entertainment and co-founder of the festival, said that, as it grows, he envisions BFF becoming a unique blend of films, music and digital content.

“We definitely believe that this will become more like a South by Southwest than a Cannes Film Festival. Ultimately that’s what we’d like to hit,” he said.

South by Southwest Conferences and Festivals, held in March for the last 30 years in Austin, Texas, is described on its website as a “unique convergence of original music, independent films and emerging technologies. Fostering creative and professional growth alike, SXSW is the premier destination for discovery.”

As BFF expands this year, organizers have added a short film competition with ESPNW and a Diversity and Inclusion Summit. The “Ten Brands, Ten Stories” short film competition with ESPNW asks participants create a digital short film around one of 10 festival sponsors’ brands that explores the themes of athleticism and perseverance.

“It’s a great partnership with ESPNW … and lets some of the consumers, just normal folk, come up with some creative ideas for films that profile some of these great brand initiatives that these companies have,” Drinkwater said.

The Diversity and Inclusion Summit is a private event for sponsor companies to discuss the importance of diversity and inclusion in corporate America and in Hollywood, and come up with ideas to accelerate the pace toward a more diverse workforce and more diversity shown in the media, Drinkwater said.

Other ticketed and non-ticketed events will happen throughout the week of the festival, including:
• May 4: “Together, We Make Music” concert at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion in Rogers with Barrett Baber, an Arkansas native and finalist on the NBC television show, The Voice. Tickets will be available in April.

• May 6: “Girls That Grill Competition”, along with other free family activities at the Bentonville square.

• May 6: “First Friday Family Films”, including “Stuart Little” at the First Baptist Church Bentonville and “Ghostbusters” outside the 21C Hotel. Free.

• May 8: “League of Their Own” softball game at Arvest Ballpark, along with KidsFest. Tickets will be available closer to the festival at or in person at the box office.

Free studio lounges, hosted by major movie studios such as Nickelodeon, will be located around the Bentonville square. Nationally recognized and local musicians will perform at the Meteor Guitar Gallery on Central Ave. during the week. Tickets to most performances will be $25.

Three mobile theaters (cinetransformers) set up around the Bentonville square will show the 35 to 40 films in competition. Each cinetransformer has a capacity of 91 people. On Wednesday evening of the BFF, the theaters will offer special screenings of studio films, including “Priceless” and on May 8, they will host encore screenings of the winning films.

Drinkwater said he is excited about having so much of the BFF happen in and around downtown Bentonville so that people can easily enjoy all the events.

“Even if you don’t want to buy a ticket and go to a movie, you can come down to the square and have a great day,” he said. “What I loved about last year was that it felt like it was a very communal event, we all kind of hung out together. Now that it’s on the square, we’re going to do that even more readily.”

Drinkwater hopes people from all ages and stages and walks of life will attend the BFF.

“We want the festival to be very inclusive, so that people want to come and feel like they are a part of it and not feel like it’s behind a red velvet line,” he said.

Tickets are selling fast, he said, with voyager passes being the most popular right now. Tickets can be purchased at, ranging in price from $75 to $5,000. Single tickets will go on sale in April, closer to the BFF.

Co-founded in 2015 by Academy Award Winner Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and Trevor Drinkwater, founder and CEO of ARC Entertainment, the Bentonville Film Festival is a commercial platform with the mission to champion women and diverse voices in media. It is the only festival to offer winning films guaranteed distribution. For the second year, winning films will receive full distribution from Walmart, VUDU and AMC Theaters.