Geena Davis’ Bentonville Film Festival will be produced as an annual program of the newly formed nonprofit BFFoundation in Arkansas, organizers revealed on Wednesday.
The foundation, which recently opened a new office in downtown Bentonville, will continue its mission to create a deeper impact for racial and gender equality in media while growing the film industry in Arkansas. Davis will serve as festival chair.
“Our organization remains dedicated to championing the inclusion of underrepresented storytellers and content creators across the industry,” said the actor in a statement. “We will continue to champion change by supporting work that reflects gender and racial equity on both sides of the camera — that allows for authentic representation of all forms of relationships and sexual orientations, and amplifies the voices of females, LGBTQIA+, BIPOC, and people with disabilities in entertainment and media.”
Wendy Guerrero, who has been president of programming for BFF since its first year in 2015, will serve as president of the festival and the foundation, leading year-round initiatives and programming.
Meanwhile, independent film producer Kristin Mann will serve as head of content for the Bentonville Film Foundation, overseeing its production arm. As part of her role, Mann will be responsible for the creation and development of films and TV shows, particularly those with underrepresented voices onscreen and behind the camera.
“I’m honored to partner with the foundation and am excited to be a part of growing the festival, developing content and helping build a sustainable film production ecosystem like this in my home state of Arkansas where I grew up dreaming of one day working in the film industry,” said Mann.
Board members will include Madeline Di Nonno, CEO of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which was founded in 2004 to research gender representation in media, along with BFF Festival producer Jason Netter.
“As presenting sponsor, we at Coca-Cola are excited to see BFF’s evolution from an annual festival to a year-round program,” said Louis Martin, president of Coke’s global Walmart and Sam’s Club customer team. “This change will greatly enhance BFF’s impact, both locally here in Arkansas as well as across the broader film industry. We are proud to support BFF and help champion its mission of diversity, inclusion, and racial and gender equity.”
Last year as the film festival shifted to a hybrid online-physical platform in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, 80 percent of 68 competition selections came from women directors. Among the films were Oge Egbuonu’s documentary debut (In)visible Portraits and Cheryl Horner McDonough’s gun-reform feature Parkland Rising.
The seventh annual BFF, which will also take place in a hybrid format, is set for Aug. 3-8 and will include film screenings, panel discussions and other virtual industry events for filmmakers.