The Bentonville Film Foundation recently announced the narrative, documentary feature, short, and episodic film selections debuting in the 2021 Bentonville Film Festival’s competition program set for August 2-8 in Bentonville, Arkansas. For this year’s event, BFF will combine virtual and safe in-person activations, including premieres, conversations, awards, and events to produce a hybrid experience for Festival attendees. Festival passes and single tickets are on sale now.
This year Festival attendees will enjoy a 30th anniversary screening of “Thelma & Louise” at the 112 Drive-In (Fayetteville, AR) on Tuesday, August 3, followed by an exclusive conversation with the film’s star and Festival Chair, Academy Award® winner Geena Davis, and Academy Award®-winning screenwriter Callie Khouri. The film, which first premiered in 1991, is an empowering tribute to trailblazing women. Davis’ (Thelma) and Susan Sarandon’s (Louise) iconic strong female lead performances cemented the revolutionary film as a feminist classic that still resonates today.
“We are proud to offer audiences an inspirational line up celebrating diversity and inclusion on screen and behind the camera, to demonstrate the power of intersectional equity in entertainment media,” said Davis. “We were excited last year to see our audience grow globally as a result of our virtual component. Come to our Festival this year, in person or virtually, and be transported into stories that can change the world.”
“The silver lining from last year’s 2020 virtual Festival was the unique opportunity to expand our capacity and thereby, our audiences, with more than 30,000 virtual attendees,” said Wendy Guerrero, President of Bentonville Film Festival and Foundation. “The Festival is a welcome celebration of art and creativity, and is central to our mission of supporting filmmakers from diverse backgrounds.”
The week-long Festival, presented by the Bentonville Film Foundation, in partnership with founding sponsor Walmart and presenting sponsor Coca-Cola, is known for its dedication to championing marginalized and under-represented voices in film with 71 percent of the competition titles directed by women.
The following projects, among others, are confirmed for the 2021 Bentonville Film Festival competition:
7 DAYS, U.S.A. (Director/Writer: Roshan Sethi). Ravi is set up on an arranged marriage date with Rita by their traditional Indian parents. When the circumstances of quarantine force them to shelter together, Ravi discovers that Rita is not quite the traditional girl of his dreams.
I screened this film at another film festival, and it is a delightful look at what measures this couple had to take when they found themselves on lockdown with one another—complete strangers. However, Ravi learns that Rita is not all what her profile revealed. But it might not matter at the end of seven days.
AMERICANISH, U.S.A (Director: Iman Zawahry, Writers: Aizzah Fatima, Iman Zawahry). In Jackson Heights, Queens, two sisters and their fresh off the boat cousin try all the conventional ways to earn the love and respect of the matriarch of their family only to learn that life works out in the most unconventional ways.
CATCH THE FAIR ONE, U.S.A. (Director/Writer: Josef Kubota Wladyka) A former boxer embarks on the fight of her life when she goes in search of her missing sister. I was able to previously screen this film. The boxer prepares to go up against a gang of thugs and sex traffickers, as she looks for—and finally—catches up with her sister. For her family that had been estranged, she arrives in just the nick of time.
THE DAPHNE PROJECT, U.S.A. (Directors/Writers: Alec Tibaldi, Zora Iman Crews) Daphne Wilco, actress and social justice warrior, wreaks havoc on a production of Euripides’ “The Bacchae” in the name of progress — her progress.
THE DISAPPEARANCE OF MRS. WU, U.S.A. (Director: Anna Chi, Writers: Donald Martin, Anna Chi, Ella Lee) Aware that her time is running short, irascible Wu family matriarch Lily (Lisa Lu) is eager to repair the strained relationship with her adult daughter Mary (Michelle Krusiec) and help her shy 18-year-old granddaughter Emma (Rochelle Ying) find her voice.
As her final wish, she persuades longtime friend Charlotte (Joely Fisher), Emma and Emma’s best friend Karen (Tiffany Wu) to spring her from her L.A. nursing home and take a wild road trip up the California coast to a special place from her past.
Along the way, long-held secrets are revealed, and Mary and Emma each come to understand the painful choices their mothers made in this funny and touching multi-generational story about family, forgiveness and being true to oneself. World Premiere
I’M FINE (THANKS FOR ASKING), U.S.A. (Directors: Kelley Kali, Angelique Molina, Writers: Kelley Kali, Angelique Molina, Roma Kong) In this exhilarating, poignant debut feature, Danny (played by co-director Kelley Kali in a star-making performance), a recently widowed woman barely makes ends meet by braiding hair and making deliveries on roller skates. Having convinced her 8-year-old daughter they are ‘camping out’ in a tent for fun (in a nod to “Life is Beautiful”) she manages to save enough money for a down payment on a new apartment. When a client is unable to pay her, she realizes that if she can’t raise $200 by day’s end, she will lose the apartment and have to admit to her daughter that they are actually “houseless.”
What follows is an intense, manic and frayed day until the final reckoning. In a world where we need more under-represented voices telling their own stories, this movie hits the mark. Equal turns funny and heart wrenching, this is a soaring, urgent achievement that announces the co-directors, co-writers, and leading cast as major forces in a work that will have audiences cheering.
LUDI, U.S.A. (Director: Edson Jean, Writers: Edson Jean, Joshua Jean-Baptiste). Ludi, a hardworking and exhausted nurse, battles co-workers, clients and one impatient bus driver to learn her self-worth as she chases the American Dream in Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood.
WOMEN IS LOSERS, U.S.A. (Director/Writer: Lissette Feliciano). Inspired by real women and the Janis Joplin song of the same title, “Women Is Losers” is a dramedy that follows the life of a young single mother whose refusal to let herself and her newborn son sink into poverty puts her at odds with pre-Roe v. Wade America.
ALL THESE SONS, U.S.A. (Directors: Bing Liu, Joshua Altman). In the summer of 2020, Chicago experienced the worst rates of gun violence in nearly 20 years. While city leadership has responded with aggressive and racist policing, a collection of anti-violence organizations has fought for change within the neighborhoods most impacted.
Beginning in 2018, we follow Marshall Hatch Jr. from the West Side and Billy Moore from the South Side—who has a more personal commitment to helping disenfranchised and at-risk young Black men—as they work directly with young men from the community to not only end this cycle of death but to end it by undoing generations of oppression leading all the way back to the American slave trade. As Marshall puts it, at stake is the very soul of the nation.
I screened this documentary during another recent film festival, and it shows the great pains that violence prevention advocates in my hometown go through to help youth living in two areas of Chicago that have been more heavily beset with crime and murder—with seemingly no end even during this summer, 2021.
CRUTCH, U.S.A. (Directors: Chandler Evans, Sachi Cunningham). “Crutch” chronicles the life of Bill Shannon, an internationally renowned artist, break dancer and skateboarder on crutches, as he finds his voice and uses his performance art to expose the secret world of assumptions that exist all around us.
A FIRE WITHIN, U.S.A. (Director: Christopher Chambers). “A Fire Within” chronicles the incredible, true story of three women who are immigrants from Ethiopia and torture survivors, who one day discover that their torturer is in the U.S…working at a hotel in Atlanta, Georgia. It is a thrilling story about three immigrants, three refugees, three survivors taking a stand to make their voices heard and their courageous fight to bring a notorious torturer from Africa to justice — right here in America.
SUBJECTS OF DESIRE, U.S.A. (Director: Jennifer Holness). “Subjects of Desire” explores the cultural shift in North American beauty standards toward embracing Black female aesthetics and features while exposing the deliberate and often dangerous portrayals of Black women in the media. Told from the POV of women who aren’t afraid to challenge conventional beauty standards, the film is partially set at the 50th Anniversary of the Miss Black America Pageant, a beauty pageant that was created as a political protest. The film is a culturally significant, provocative film that deconstructs what we understand about race and the power behind beauty.
AMERICANIZED, (Director/Writer: Erica Eng). Growing up in Oakland’s hip-hop culture, Eng struggles with her Chinese American identity. To her high school basketball team, she’s just that girl who sits on the bench; but to the Asian kids she’s “Americanized.” As her sophomore year of high school comes to an end, Eng tries to find a sense of belonging within the two worlds that don’t accept her.
BIG TOUCH, (Director/Writer: Christopher Tenzis). An Afro-Surrealist story about a giant woman and a tiny man who through the power of touch, experience an unexpected transformation.
BJ’S MOBILE GIFT SHOP, (Director/Writer: Jason Park). A young Korean-American hustler runs throughout the city of Chicago making sales out of his “mobile gift shop.”
CRACKED, (Director/Writer: Lin Que Ayoung). It’s the end of the summer of 1985 in Queens, New York City. Toya, a feisty young girl, falls in love for the first time. After a series of disturbing events, Toya’s affection for Poochy compels her to face her traumatic past.
PIZZA PARTY, (Director/Writer: Tessa Hope Slovis). “We are not broken, we are a million shattered pieces glued into something strong and solid.”
Based on a true event preceding the Larry Nassar trials, an unlikely pair come together at a dystopian pizza party for sexual assault survivors. #42; A quiet high schooler meets #1; A quick-witted litigator due with her first child any day now—flanked lovingly by her husband Max.
Their relationship blooms and #42 becomes #1’s greatest teacher. Through solidarity, #42, #1 and every woman in the room begin to reconcile with and acknowledge the innocence that was taken away from them. Opening a portal into a dream-like world of leotards and little girl cries, of strength, joy and unrelenting fury.
SORRY FOR THE INCONVENIENCE, (Director/Writer: Jane Chow). In Los Angeles Chinatown, a lonely teenager tries to help her parents keep their seafood restaurant afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic. Between chopping green beans and packing takeout orders, she attempts to hang on to a semblance of normalcy by studying for her driver’s permit and prepping for her high school Zoom theater debut in “The Tempest.”
For more information about the 2021 Bentonville Film Festival, visit bentonvillefilm.org and follow Bentonville Film Festival across social media channels: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.