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Bentonville Film Festival Announces 2017 Competition Winner

The third annual Bentonville Film Festival (BFF) which champions women and diverse voices in media, announced the winners of its film competition Saturday, May 6 at their awards ceremony hosted by Terry Crews, star of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.” BFF is the only festival to offer guaranteed distribution to the winning festival films in three categories: Best Narrative, Best Family Film and Audience Award winners.

Hosted in Bentonville, Arkansas, 2017’s festival attracted a record-breaking number of attendees committed to ensuring development and promotion of media that represents the world we live in – 51% women and highly diverse. Festival attendees interacted with filmmakers, actors and key industry leaders including Meg Ryan, William H. Macy, Judy Greer, Rachel Winter, Marilu Henner, Jane Seymour, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Stephanie Beatriz, Melissa Fumero, Amy Jo Johnson, Aisha Tyler, Nely Galan, Olivia Washington, Joey Travolta (Inclusion Films), Patty Jenkins (Director, Wonder Woman), Stephen Quinn (Chairman, AFE), Gil Robertson (AAFCA), Chevonne O’Shaughnessy (ACI), Karen Bailey (SVP Original Programming, Starz), and representatives from Walmart, Coca- Cola, MARS, AMC Theaters, Starz and Lifetime delivered insights to develop actionable plans to accelerate the depiction of diversity in all forms of media.

“I am beyond excited at the support of my colleagues in the industry, from returning talent like Meg (Ryan) to our first time ‘BFFs’ like Judy Greer and William H. Macy who have embraced the mission of the festival,” says Geena Davis, Academy Award Winning actor and Co-Founder of the Bentonville Film Festival. “The films at BFF have inspired and provoked change that we hope will continue for years to come.”

The awards ceremony also featured performances by Siedah Garrett (original songwriter of “Man in the Mirror”), STEP team from the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women, Cowboy Troy, and Grammy Award-Winning musician Jewel. Presenters included Meg Ryan, Aisha Tyler, DJ Henri, Juan Pablo Raba, Mo McRae, Snapchat guru CyreneQ, Brooklyn 99’s Melissa Fumero and Stephanie Beatriz, and Festival Co-Founder Trevor Drinkwater.

The Bentonville Film Festival, presented by founding sponsor Walmart and presenting sponsor Coca-Cola, featured 70 competition films with 33 competition features, 14 spotlights, 19 shorts and 4 episodic. The Bentonville Film Festival is able to help almost 90 percent of its competition films obtain distribution.

The award winners selected from the jury, Festival audience and BFF Foundation are as follows:

Best of the Fest – “Blood Road”
Audience favorite Showcase Film. Determined by Audience ballot.
“Blood Road” – USA
Director: Nicholas Schrunk
To gain closure over the death of her father, a fighter pilot who was shot down during the Vietnam War, professional mountain bike athlete Rebecca Rusch and her Vietnamese riding partner pedal 1,200 miles of the Ho Chi Minh Trail to locate her father’s crash site while experiencing the impact war leaves on families, countries and cultures.
Cast: Huyen Nguyen, Rebecca Rusch

Audience Spotlight – “A Happening of Monumental Proportions”
Audience favorite Spotlight Film. Determined by Audience ballot.
“A Happening of Monumental Proportions” – (USA)
Director: Judy Greer; Screenwriter: Gary Lundy
During the course of one day, a group of students at a school in Los Angeles find themselves caught up in a plot of sex, lies and dead bodies.

Audience Short – “Deep Storage”
Audience Favorite Short Film. Determined by Audience ballot.
Deep Storage – (Australia) US Premiere
Director & Screenwriter: Susan Earl
In the film, two loners find love in the most unromantic of places.
Cast: Miles O’Neil, Alice Ansara, James Lawson, Dawn Klingberg

Audience Episodic – “Lost and Found”
Audience Favorite Episodic Film. Determined by Audience ballot.
Lost and Found — (USA)
Director & Screenwriter: Haroula Rose
When Stella and Ian host their “unwedding,” all kinds of uncomfortable truths are unearthed for this group of friends. What is intended to be a healthy way of breaking up in fact raises all kinds of issues for this group of thirty-something’s in their own relationships, especially when Stella’s unruly mother Lourdes appears unexpectedly.
Cast: Melonie Diaz, William Janowitz, Jennifer Lafleur, Terence Nance, Avi Rothman, Peter Thomson, Laura Lee Botsacos, Nick Thurston, Ethan Gold, Haroula Rose

Audience Documentary – “Woman on Fire”
Audience Favorite Documentary. Determined by Audience ballot.
Woman on Fire — (USA)
Director & Screenwriter: Julie Sokolow
Brooke Guinan is the first openly transgender firefighter in New York City. As a third-generation firefighter, Brooke has a passion for heroism that runs in her blood.

Audience Narrative – “Parkers Anchor”
Audience Favorite Narrative film. Determined by Audience ballot.
Parkers Anchor — (USA) World Premiere
Director: Marc Hampson; Screenwriters: Ryan & Jennica Schwartzman
When her plans for marriage and a family fall apart, Krystal finds herself back in her hometown, re-evaluating her life. Krystal soon discovers that you’re never starting over, every step of the journey seems destined in hindsight.
Cast: Jennica Schwartzman, Amy Argyle, Christopher Marquette, Ryan Schwartzman, Penny Johnson Jerald, Michael Beach, Sarah Colonna, Brandon Keener, Claire Donald, Peter Weidman, & Deborah Smith

Best Jury Narrative – “The Sun at Midnight”
Jury award for Best Competition Narrative. Determined by Jury.
The Sun at Midnight – Director: Kirsten Carthew Cast: Devery Jacobs, Duane Howard, Mark Anderako, Sarah Charlie Jerome, William Greenland, Shayla SNowshow, Jaclynn Robert
Shot at the Arctic Circle The Sun at Midnight tells the story of an unusual friendship between a hunter obsessed with finding a missing caribou herd and a teenage rebel who gets lost while on the run.

Best Family Film – “Saving Sally”
Best Family Film in a Competition Narrative Film.
Saving Sally – (Philippines/France)
Director: Avid Liongoren; Screenwriters: Charlene Sawit-Esguerra, Carlo Ledesma, Avid Liongoren
“Saving Sally” is about a teenage comic book artist who secretly sees unpleasant people as cartoon-like monsters. He struggles to save his eccentric best friend (and love of his life) from her abusive foster parents—but she becomes involved with an older man who happens to be a monster too.
Cast: Rhian Ramos, Enzo Marcos, TJ Trinidad, Peejo Pillar

Best Documentary – “Served Like a Girl”
Jury award for Best Competition Documentary.
Served Like a Girl – (USA)
Director: Lysa Heslov; Screenwriters: Lysa Heslov, Tchavdar Georgiev
In “Served Like a Girl,” five women veterans who have endured unimaginable trauma in service create a shared sisterhood to help the rising number of stranded homeless women veterans.

Best Ensemble – “Let Me Go”
Best Ensemble in a Competition Narrative Film. Determined by Jury
Let Me Go (UK) World Premiere
Director & Screenwriter: Polly Steele
The film is set in the year 2000 and follows not only Helga and Traudi’s journeys, but the next two generations, focusing on how Beth, Helga’s daughter and Emily her granddaughter are confronted with the unraveling of the darkest of family secrets.
Cast: Juliet Stevenson, Jodhi May, Lucy Boynton, Karin Bertling, Stanley Weber

Highest Diversity Score – “Looking at the Stars”
Determined by analysis through the Bentonville Film Festival Foundation
Looking at the Stars – (Brazil/Nicaragua/USA)
Director: Alexandre Peralta; Screenwriters: Alexandre Peralta, Melissa Rebelo Kerezsi
Looking at the Stars is an intimate glimpse into the lives of the extraordinary ballerinas at the world’s only ballet school for the blind—the Fernanda Bianchini Ballet Association for the Blind.

Impact Award – Paula Doufat of STEP
Selected by BFF based on contribution to Festival & Mission
In addition to the support of Walmart, AMC Theatres and Lifetime, the expanded partnership support from Starz offered filmmakers in the 2016 BFF Film Competition even greater distribution opportunities.

Man in the Mirror Award – “Mully”
Recognizes those that are dedicated to overcoming odds and changing the conversation. It is dedicated to the individual or organization that provides extraordinary inspiration or outstanding opportunities to women and diverse groups.
Mully – (USA)
Director and Screenwriter: Scott Haze
“Mully” depicts the extraordinary rags-to-riches story of Charles Mully, whose meteoric rise from orphaned poverty in Kenya leads him on an unimaginable journey of selflessness.

BFF Jurors ranged from industry professionals to corporate executives and were led by Rosie O’Donnell in the Documentary competition and Hazel Joyer-Smith in the Narrative competition.

Narrative Jurors included Hazel Joyner-Smith and Louis Martin. Documentary Jurors included Rosie O’Donnell (head juror) and Tani Sylvester.

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