The Bentonville Film Festival (May 2-7) this year is expanding its theme of inclusion and diversity to promote work done by individuals with disabilities, through a partnership with Inclusion Films, a company owned by actor and filmmaker Joey Travolta.
Travolta runs a film production camp for young people with “diversabilities,” said Gina Allgaier, chief engagement officer of BFF.
“We are excited that they are hosting a one-week camp this week (April 24-28), here at NorthWest Arkansas Community College and then next week Inclusion Films and some of the students will be working with the festival to capture content.”
Travolta also will appear on the “Lights! Camera! Inclusion!” BFF discussion panel 11 a.m. to noon on May 3 at The Record South in downtown Bentonville. Travolta and his fellow panelists will discuss potential resources for individual empowerment and how to “become agents for good, right where we are,” according to a BFF press release.
Also new this year is a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) learning center, featuring hands-on and virtual-reality learning tools, and KidsFest on Saturday at the downtown square.
BFF grew from 37,000 attendees in its first year (2015) to about 63,000 in 2016, Allgaier said. The number of film submissions sent into BFF was larger this year, she added.
“While we hope the festival will grow in terms of attendees this year and each year forward, we also are thrilled about the increase in film submissions we receive and that they are now being sent in from all around the world which is indicative of our expansion and the reach of our message.”
One repeat event going on for 2017 is the “A League of Their Own” reunion game. This year is the 25th anniversary of the movie. The game will take place 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on May 7 at Arvest Ballpark in Springdale and will feature select cast members from the film and professional athletes, according to a BFF press release.
Also, BFF’s distribution partner Starz is coming back with the panel, “Girls Rule,” featuring Tanya Saracho, Emma Frost, Karen Bailey, and Maril Davis, according to a BFF press release.
Another reprised event, “Geena and Friends,” led by BFF co-founder and Academy Award-winning actress Geena Davis, will feature actress Meg Ryan and other actors in a gender-swapped script-reading of iconic scenes from popular films.
Snapchat personality Cyrene Q will be present “Through our Lenses,” a visual compilation of diverse perspectives created by Snapchatters around the world. MSNBC’s Richard Lui will host a conversation on Japanese-American internment camps in Arkansas and the power of healing through art to accompany a screening of the documentary “Relocation: Arkansas.” Actress Judy Greer will appear on the panel “In Control of Our Destiny,” and will present her directorial debut, “A Happening of Monumental Proportions.”
Other highlights include filmmaker and actor William H. Macy, who will premiere his film, “Krystal” and appear on the “Stories Matter” panel, according to BFF.
STEM champions, Dr. Knatokie Ford and Dr. Kevin Clark, will also be panelists in the later half of the week.
There will also be screenings of recent works from major studios that embody that changes BFF hopes to see in the entertainment industry, according to the press release. Showcase films include “Step,” from Fox Searchlight, and the Latino family drama, “Lowriders” starring Gabriel Chavarria, Demian Bichir, Theo Rossi and Eva Longoria from Universal. Question-and-answer sessions will follow each.
“Inclusion: Does That Include Me?”
May 3, 10 a.m.-11 a.m. @ The Record North
Geena Davis leads a panel discussion dedicated to diversity, exposing implicit bias, encouraging connection and empathy. Panelists include representatives from Wonder Crew, Coca-Cola, Mars and Wal-Mart Stores.
May 3, noon-1 pm at The Record North
A panel featuring William H. Macey will seek to an answer questions on storytelling over the past 100 years and examine story as one of the most effective tools for social change.
“What’s So Funny?”
May 3, 1-2 p.m. at The Record South Comedy as the cure for bias blues.
May 3, 2-3 p.m. at The Record South
An event to recognize recording artists who use sound and the power of mission-driven music to advocate for causes.
“In Control Of Her Own Destiny”
May 4, 11 a.m.-noon at The Record North
Featuring actress and filmmaker Judy Greer, this panel will explore the idea of what would happen if we gave all young girls the ability to forge their own path, free from the weight of implicit bias. Women share the tools they use in their personal and professional lives to make that possibility a reality.
“Progress vs. Perfection”
May 4, 1-2 p.m. at The Record North
These panelists will discuss on the importance of seeking progress, and not unattainable perfection, to measure our success in striving for gender equality and cultural diversity.
“Geena and Friends”
May 4, 4-5 p.m. at The Record North Each
Geena Davis and a handful of celebrity friends come together to swap gender roles while reading scenes from some of Hollywood’s favorite scripts to expose implicit bias and have some fun! Featuring Meg Ryan.
“If You Can Read it, See It, Play It, Be It…”
May 5th 10-11 a.m. at The Record South
Looking beyond film and television, this event showcases forward-looking companies, innovative artists and cutting-edge creators on their mission to create books, games, toys and tech that aim to inspire.
“Kids: Shaping Tomorrow’s Influencers Today”
May 5, 4-5 p.m. at The Record South
Meet the children’s television programmers and product developers who have dedicated their life’s work to making conversations about diversity a little bit easier.
“STEM to STEAM”
May 5, 12:30-1:30 p.m. at The Record North
This panel is dedicated to demonstrating why the arts are just as essential as the disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math. The discussion will feature STEM for ALL representatives from the Center for Digital Media Innovation and Diversity at George Mason University, Dr. Knatokie Ford and Dr. Kevin Clark.
“Game Changers” – May 6, 11 a.m.-noon at The Record South
A discussion on how success in sports hinges on teamwork and collaboration.
“Sustainability: Going Further”
May 6, noon-1 p.m. at The Record North From managing natural resources to maintaining health, safety and labor rights for workers, the panel will discuss why this issue is becoming increasingly vital to industries.
“Samsung Create Student Short Film Competition”
May 6, 2-3 p.m. at The Record North
Student filmmakers were challenged to make a short film based on the mission of BFF on a tablet. The top films will premiere at BFF followed by a question-and-answer session with the student filmmakers.
Link here for the complete 2017 festival schedule, including info on all the Showcase Films.