Bentonville Film Festival Award-winners to Play AMC Theatres Around the Country

Geena Davis Speech - H 2015
Jeff Lewis

Geena Davis Speech - H 2015

The festival, co-founded by Geena Davis and Trevor Drinkwater, also sets its 2016 dates.

Three of the films that won awards at the inaugural Bentonville Film Festival, which was held in Bentonville, Ark. in May, will be released in AMC Theatres’ AMC Independent locations, beginning in October, via a distribution deal with ARC Entertainment, the festival announced today.

In addition to securing the theatrical releases, the BFF Foundation, which provides educational resources for aspiring artists as part of the festival’s mission of championing women and diversity in media, will be taking the filmmakers on a national Symposium Tour to promote their films.

The tour will kick off on Oct. 9 when the documentary winner In My Fathers House, directed by Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg, is released at AMC locations in 20 markets across the country. BFF will hold panel discussions in Atlanta and New York City with Stern and Sundberg as well as Grammy-winning artist Che “Rhymefest’ Smith, the subject of the film.

Audience award winner Thao’s Library, directed by Elizabeth Van Meter, will hit theaters on Oct. 16, and panel discussions will be held in San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Janet Grillo’s Jack of the Red Hearts, the Jury Award winner, will be released on Dec. 4 in 25 markets with panel discussions in New York, Atlanta and L.A.

“AMC’s partnership with the Bentonville Film Festival is a perfect complement to our AMC Independent programming initiative, which delivers unique stories and voices that represent and resonate with our diverse guest base around the country,” Nikkole Denson-Randolph, vp, alternative and special content for AMC, said. “We’re excited and proud to deliver these powerful stories to our guests and to provide a platform for women and minority filmmakers.”

Co-founded by Oscar winner Geena Davis and entrepreneur Trevor Drinkwater, the first edition of BFF attracted more than 37,000 attendees and screened 45 films in competition. The second edition of the festival, hosted by ARC Entertainment, Walmart, Coca-Cola and AMC Theatres, will be held May 3-8, 2016. Submissions for the next festival open Oct. 1.

“We’re so proud of the 2015 BFF winning films and are excited to take all of this talent on our Symposium Tour. We’re bringing together the creative minds behind the scenes of our films to create a truly educational and interactive experience,” Davis said. 

The actress, who also founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media at Mount St. Mary’s University, said of the festival’s first outing, “We only had four months to pull it together, so I count it as a big success. All the sponsors have come back for the second year, many in a more substantial way, and we’re adding new sponsors along the way.”

Looking toward the fest’s sophomore season, Davis said, “We’ll be broadening our scope to include television as well. We’re going to have a major studio premiere. It’s turning out to be a big deal. Next year, we’re also going to be more centralized around the town square, so festival-goers can walk or bike or anything, and the town is all behind us.”

In terms of how the festival fits with her other activities, Davis said, “It dovetails perfectly. What I’ve been doing with my institute in germs of gender research, we’ve sponsored the largest amount of research of gender depictions in media, covering a 20-year-span, and I can go directly to the project creators and share the research with them. But the festival is a different angle of approach — it’s to champion films that have a lot of diversity, that have gender balance, or are directed or produced by a woman or a minority, showing how commercial these projects are and that this is the way things are going. So it’s a way to be very, very proactive. My ideal would be that the festival comes with enough cachet that when someone’s hiring they’ll say, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we qualified for the Bentonville Film Festival, why don’t we hire a woman or minority as a director, why don’t we change the lead character so we can have more impact.”