Will Geena Davis’ Bentonville Film Festival Be A Game Changer For Women?


While noted women’s advocate Geena Davis‘ new Bentonville Film Festival certainly isn’t the first event dedicated to female-centric films, we certainly hope it will change the ratio drastically, because of the incredible work of her institute.

They team up with other organizations such as United Nations to research and deliver reports on how the media is disproportionately affecting women and minorities, and use this content to speak to industry executives in the hope that they will use the power and influence to make necessary changes.

Now Geena’s Institute on Gender in Media are taking things one step further in a bid to change the ratio and have announced the launch of a new film festival called the Bentonville Film Festival. The inaugural event will take place from May 5-9 in Bentonville, Arkansas. Why there and not New York or Los Angeles? Because the festival is sponsored and presented by two major brands, Coca-Cola and Walmart, and Bentonville is the home of Walmart.

It will screen roughly 75 films, and it is being billed as a “one-of-a-kind” event “designed to champion women and diversity in film.”

It is also the only film competition in the world to offer guaranteed theatrical, television, digital and retail home entertainment distribution for its winners.

“I have been an advocate for women for most of my adult life,” said Geena Davis. “The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media is dedicated to improving the representation in gender and diversity of talent, filmmakers, and business leaders by growing awareness through research, education and advocacy. The Bentonville Film Festival is a critical component of how we can directly impact the quantity and quality of females and minorities on screen and behind-the scenes.”

To qualify for the festival’s competition, a film has to meet two of seven requirements: female or minority lead; female or minority director; female or minority writer; female or minority production company; gender and diversity balanced cast; gender and diversity balanced crew; and family or shared viewing appropriate. They are looking for films that can viably succeed commercially.

Bentonville plans to expand from just an annual festival, to a year-round event promoting women and minority filmmakers, artists, directors, and producers at colleges and universities in partnership with the Geena Davis Institute. Sounds like a winning idea and formula!

Members of the advisory board include notable celebs such as Angela Bassett, Bruce Dern, Samuel L. Jackson, Randy Jackson, Eva Longoria, Julianne Moore, Paula Patton, Natalie Portman, Nina Tassler and Shailene Woodley.

This festival is being seen as a source of hope for female filmmakers who are finding it increasingly difficult to get distribution and funding the traditional way. While Kickstarter and other crowd-funding platforms such as Seed and Spark have proved to be a successful method to getting films financed and made, it still doesn’t supply a distribution method. This is where Bentonville stands out from the rest.

With Academy Award winner Geena Davis being a household name, the festival might even pave the way for other events to follow suit.

There are quite a few women-centric film festivals around the world, some of which we have written about in the past. The Girls On Film festival in Australia aims to break down stigma about women in film, and the Bath Film Festival in the UK has a dedicated “F” rated category which shows films with a strong female protagonist, a female director or which addresses women’s issues.

The Athena Film Festival is currently the most well-known women-centric film festival in the US, with its focus on films, documentaries and shorts which highlight women’s leadership in real life and the fictional world.

The Bentonville Film Festival could be the game changer not just because of the Geena Davis star factor, but because it might finally allow the film industry as well as audiences to see female-driven films and media content as the rule, not the exception.

Here’s to the organizations working toward changing the ratio until it is balanced. We think that deserves a standing O any day!



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