Bentonville Film Festival 2023 announces new categories, events

Al Dominguez (left), president of Walmart sales for Coca Cola Company, and Bentonville Film Festival and Foundation President Wendy Guerrero pause during a media preview today in Bentonville. The Bentonville Film Festival leadership gave an exclusive first look at the 2023 festival program. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Charlie Kaijo)

The Bentonville Film Festival announced this afternoon its programming for the festival's ninth year. In-person events will take place June 13-18, while on-demand streaming will continue through June 25.

The festival, led by Academy Award-winning actor Geena Davis, is dedicated to championing women, persons with disabilities, non-binary, LGBTQIA+, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) and API (Asian and Pacific Islander) voices in media and entertainment.

"We are proud of the programming, it gets better every year (and) it's at the highest level it's ever been," Wendy Guerrero, president of the Bentonville Film Festival and BFFoundation, said during an interview this morning. "We serve audiences with extremely entertaining films, champion filmmakers and share with the community. It's a joy to create a deeper impact for racial and gender equity in the heartland.

"It's a special place to do that."

Last year's events began with a guided art ride via bicycles, followed by a mixer at Thaden School. This year's festival will kick off with the same.

Festivalgoers will meet at the Red Barn at the Momentary contemporary art space at 4 p.m. on June 13 for a guided ride, then end the night by viewing the world premiere of "Hard Miles." Made by Bentonville native R.J. Daniel Hanna, it's the story of a "strong-willed social worker at a youth prison who leads teenagers on a thousand mile ride." The film begins at 7 p.m. Some members of the cast will be in attendance for a conversation following the screening. The cast includes Matthew Modine ("Stranger Things," "Full Metal Jacket") and Sean Astin ("The Goonies," "Rudy").

Opening night will feature "The Great Divide," a film with a directorial debut by Jean Shim, who is an Emmy-winning commercial and short-film director. The plotline follows the rise in anti-Asian hate in the wake of the covid 19 pandemic and stars Ken Jeong ("Community," "Hangover," "Crazy Rich Asians"), as well as Jae Suh Park ("Friends From College") and Emerson Min ("Always Be My Maybe," "Blackish").

Two new film categories, adventure and animation, were added to the festival's lineup. Teachers and students of Thaden School in Bentonville had a strong hand in developing the adventure category, Guerrero said.

The Bentonville Film Festival will continue its free outdoor screenings with the Geena Davis Theater, as well as its popular festival village.

Among its free offerings is a new event, the Filmmakers' Tailgate, which will take place June 15-17 for guests of all ages to enjoy a favorite film and food from big-name brands, Guerrero said, such as Gordon Ramsey, Guy Fieri, Cinnabon and a Netflix sneak peek food sampling.

This year's events coincide with Juneteenth. Festival organizers will incorporate Black- and women-owned businesses into its events on June 17, along with "screening and highlighting Black storytellers."

More programming updates will be made later this week.

Bentonville Film Festival passes are live on the festival website and ready for purchase. There are three tiers, including on-demand (streaming) pass for $175; an all-festival pass for $375; and a foundation pass for $1,000.



By The Numbers

Demographics of the filmmakers of Bentonville Film Festival 2023:

More than 75% of the competition program is comprised of women or gender non-conforming content creators; 60% are BIPOC, Asian, or Pacific Islander industry professionals; 55% are part of the LGBTQIA+ community; 15% of creators are over 50 years old; and more than 30% of the program is comprised of creators with disabilities.

Additionally, more than 65% of onscreen leads are women/gender non-conforming; BIPOC actors make up 60% of leading roles; 40% are part of the LGBTQ+ community; and 25% represent talent with disabilities.

-- Source: Bentonville Film Festival Foundation

photo Wendy Guerrero, president of the Bentonville Film Festival and BFFoundation, laid out plans for the 2023 festival during a media preview today. In-person BFF events will take place June 13-18, while on-demand streaming will continue through June 25. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Charlie Kaijo)