Geena Davis is launching a film festival dedicated to highlighting diversity in film and securing distribution for the winning films. The Bentonville Film Festival will take place in Bentonville, Alabama from May 5-9 and will screen an estimated 75 films.
Perhaps the most notable aspect of the festival—aside from the fact that it's in Arkansas—is that it is supposedly the only film competition to guarantee theatrical, TV, digital and retail home entertainment distribution for prizewinners.
"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," she said. "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."
The winners of the Audience, Jury Selection and Best Family Film awards will receive a distribution agreement with a guaranteed traditional theatrical release on at least 25 screens from the AMC chain, which will also participate in the film submission and jury selection process.
The advisory board for the Bentonville Film Festival reflects the diversity they're hoping to promote. Among others, Angela Bassett, Samuel L. Jackson, Eva Longoria and Natalie Portman will serve on the board.
Davis cites the piss-poor representation of women in film as motivation for improving diversity in Hollywood. And, perhaps most importantly, she notes that the festival is specifically looking "for films that can succeed commercially."
One of the most frequent bullshit arguments used to defend the lack of diversity in film is that movies with white or white male leads are more profitable than movies starring just about any other type of person who is not a robot. This clearly ignores the films like Think Like a Man and The Hunger Games, which prove that women and minorities are perfectly capable of delivering successful box office results when given the opportunity.
Bentonville Film Festival outlines a set of guidelines that films must follow in order to be considered:
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.
Submissions to the festival begin January 15 and selections will be announced in March.
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