Winning Films Receive Distribution Offers!

Bentonville, AR (May 8, 2015) – The films and filmmakers taking home the top prizes at Geena Davis’s inaugural Bentonville Film Festival (BFF), celebrating women and diversity, were revealed this evening at a gala awards ceremony that drew Courteney Cox, Nick Cannon, Bruce Dern, Rosie O’Donnell, Melissa Joan Hart, Catherine Hardwicke, Joey Lauren Adams, Brian Yang, Alysia Reiner, Khandi Alexander, Sara Evans, and of course, Geena Davis, among many others. The event was hosted by Nick Cannon and Soledad O’Brien.

2015 Bentonville Film Festival Award Winners:

Jury Award

Winner: “Jack of The Red Hearts”

Director: Janet Grillo

Cast: Famke Janssen, AnnaSophia Robb

Summary: A teenage con artist tricks a desperate mother into hiring her as a live-in companion for her autistic daughter. Synopsis: A streetwise teenage runaway is on the lam from her Probation Officer. Her name is Jacquelyn but if you call her anything but Jack, she’ll cut you. Needing to lay low and earn money so she can rescue her younger sister Coke from Foster care, Jack cons her way into a suburban home as the live-in helper for the family’s autistic daughter, Glory. Much to her surprise, Jack has a unique ability to connect with the nonverbal little girl. As she positively impacts Glory, the family begins to affect Jack, particularly Kay, Glory’s mother. As these two scrappy survivors find an affinity with each other, Kay finds in Jack a daughter she can talk to. When romantic sparks fly between Jack and Robert, Glory’s brother, we see a group of wounded people poignantly begin to heal each other—just a little bit. But the law catches up, the truth comes out, and Jack is forced to make a choice—to save her own hide, or help someone else.

Best Documentary

Winner: “In My Father’s House”

Director: Ricki Stern, Annie Sundberg

Cast: Rhymefest, Kanye West

Summary: “In My Father’s House” explores identity and legacy in the African-American family, as Grammy award-winning rapper Che ‘Rhymefest’ Smith and his long-lost father reconnect and try to build a new future in Chicago’s turbulent South Side. Himself a child of a broken home, Che hasn’t seen his father, Brian, in over 20 years, and presumes him dead. But after buying his father’s childhood home, Che sets out to find him, and learns that his is now a homeless alcoholic living only several blocks away/ The film offers a probing take on memory and identity in a family two generations removed from slavery as it tracks Che and Brian’s shared journey to create a new legacy for themselves, their community and the next generation of family.

Best Family Feature

Winner: “A Brilliant Young Mind”

Director: Morgan Matthews

Cast: Asa Butterfield, Rafe Spall, Sally Hawkins, Eddie Marsan, Jo Yang, Martin McCann

Summary: A young math genius sees logic thwarted by one truly baffling equation: love. Teenage math prodigy Nathan (Asa Butterfield) struggles when it comes to building relationships with other people, not least with his mother, Julie (Sally Hawkins). In a world difficult to comprehend, he finds comfort in numbers. And when Nathan is taken under the wing of an unconventional and anarchic teacher, Mr. Humphreys (Rafe Spall), the pair forge an unusual friendship. Eventually, Nathan’s talents win him a place on the UK National team at the International Mathematics Olympiad (IMO) and the team travel to a training camp in Taiwan, under the supervision of squad leader Richard (Eddie Marsan). In unfamiliar surroundings, Nathan is confronted by a series of unexpected challenges — not least the unfamiliar feelings he begins to experience for his Chinese counterpart, the beautiful Zhang Mei (Jo Yang), feelings that develop when the young mathematicians return to England for the IMO, held at Trinity College, Cambridge. From suburban England to bustling Taipei and back again, this original and heart-warming film tracks the funny and complex relationships that Nathan builds, as he is confronted by the irrational nature of love.

Highest Diversity

Winner: “Meet the Patels”

Director: Geeta V. Patel and Ravi V. Patel

Cast: Ravi V. Patel, Geeta V. Patel, Champa V. Patel, Vasant V. Patel,

Summary: “Meet the Patels” is a laugh-out-loud real life romantic comedy about Ravi Patel, an almost-30-year-old Indian-American who enters a love triangle between the woman of his dreams … and his parents. Filmed by Ravi’s sister in what started as a family vacation video, this hilarious and heartbreaking film reveals how love is a family affair.

Best Ensemble

Winner: “Big Stone Gap”

Director: Adriana Trigiani

Cast: Ashley Judd, Jane Krakowski, Patrick Wilson, Jenna Elfman, Whoopi Goldberg, Jasmine Guy, Anthony LaPaglia

Distributor: Picturehouse (releasing on Oct 9, 2015)

Summary: A story centered around a transitional point in the life of Ave Maria Mulligan, the heart of her community in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia.

Best Protagonist

Winner: Stephanie Linus in “Dry”

Director: Stephanie Linus

Cast: Stephanie Linus, Darwin Shaw

Summary: Zara, a successful African doctor living in Wales is determined to stay away from her childhood memories and this now threatens her commitment to marry Alex, a gentleman she truly loves. Her mother, a missionary to Africa, has been unable to get Zara to go with her for her yearly medical aid trips to Africa. When her mother falls ill and unable to make a crucial trip and Zara discovers there is a strong possibility her long lost daughter might still be alive in Africa, she steered in a new direction to face and conquer her darkest fears. Her trip to Africa becomes inevitable. Back in Africa, thirteen- year old Halima’s poor parents make her marry Sani, an old 60 year old man. With no idea of sex or its intricacies, she goes through a dreadful ordeal as her new husband repeatedly rapes her. Pregnant and after the delivery of her child, young Halima suffers a condition known as Vesico Vaginal Fistula (VVF). A health nightmare suffered by over 800,000 other women just like her, she is ostracize and abandoned by her husband, family and community. It is a period of rejection, isolation and despair for Halima. The movie follows a trail of Zara’s trip to Africa, her constant turmoil as a result of inexplicable horrors from her child hood, her experiences and heartaches while working with these suffering women against the backdrop of a rich African culture. Finally, Zara meets Halima and marvels at the revelation of the tie that binds them together. It is full of intrigues, suspense, unbelievable surprises and the joy of reconciliation and the power of the human spirit that is guaranteed to put a smile on people’s face.

Audience Award

Winner: “Thao’s Library” (Documentary)

Director: Elizabeth Van Meter

Cast: Thanh Thao Huynh, Vicki Van Meter, Elizabeth Van Meter

Summary: This year, 2015, marks fifty years since the first US combat ground forces landed in Vietnam and forty years since the fall of Saigon. The ripple effect of this war continues to rage on today in the life of Thao, a 24-year-old Vietnamese woman born the victim of Agent Orange. Halfway around the world a struggling American, Elizabeth, attempts to cope with a bottomless well of depression brought on after the sudden loss of her famed younger sister. Elizabeth happens to be shown a photograph of Thao. The young woman appears to have almost no legs and is sitting in her wheelchair outside of her family’s shed which houses pig feed, fertilizer and books. Despite her crippling physical deformities, Thao has created, from donated and scavenged materials, a library within her family’s shed for the children of the village. The photographer who captured the image of Thao asks her, “If you could have anything in the world what would it be?” Thao replies, “Three hundred dollars, so I can buy more books for the library.” Through this simple request, Thao and Elizabeth, two unlikely friends are brought together to reflect on the past and deal with the present, forging a bond that eventually will change both of their lives forever

Dernsie Award *a feature film screenplay competition sponsored by actor Bruce Dern and Jason Netter through his Kickstart Productions banner.

Winner: Ani Simon-Kelly (“The Short History of the Long Road”)

BFF Spirit Award

Winner: Lizzie Valasquez (“A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story”)

BFF is the only film festival in the world to offer guaranteed distribution to winning films. As such, Jury Award winner “Jack of the Red Hearts”; Best Documentary winner “In My Father’s House”; and Best Family Feature “A Brilliant Young Mind” will receive distribution offers from AMC Theaters (theatrical release), Vubiquity (VOD), Vudu (digital) and Walmart (DVD, in store).

Gil Robertson, President of the African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA) served as BFF’s Jury President.

For a recap on the week’s festivities in Bentonville for BFF, please check out:







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For more information on BFF please visit

About the Bentonville Film Festival

BFF is a one-of-a-kind event designed to champion women and diversity in film, and is the first and only film competition in the world to offer guaranteed theatrical, television, digital, VOD and retail home entertainment distribution for its winning films. BFF distribution partners are AMC Theatres (theatrical), Lifetime (TV), Vubiquity (Video on Demand), VUDU (digital) and Walmart (in-store home entertainment / DVD).

BFF is hosted by ARC Entertainment, Walmart, Coca-Cola and AMC Theatres, and is co-founded and chaired by Academy Award® winner Geena Davis, whose research institute, “The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media” has sponsored the largest amount of research ever done on gender depictions in entertainment media, covering a 20+ year span. Davis has pioneered the use of rigorous research combined with direct advocacy and education to leading entertainment industry creators and decision makers, causing a sea change in the quality and quantity of female characters on screen.

Following the debut of BFF, the Bentonville Film Foundation as part of the Bentonville Film Festival initiative will launch a year-round event calendar to promote women and minority filmmakers, artists, directors, and producers at colleges and universities around the country in partnership with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which is the official non-profit partner of the festival.

BFF Advisory Board members include a number of notable actors and filmmakers such as Angela Bassett, Nick Cannon, Viola Davis, Bruce Dern, Emilio Estevez, Samuel L. Jackson, Randy Jackson, Eva Longoria, Julianne Moore, Paula Patton, Natalie Portman, Shonda Rhimes, M. Night Shyamalan, and Shailene Woodley.

Walmart is the proud founding sponsor of the Bentonville Film Festival and its investment ensures it is unlike any other nationwide. As the largest seller of DVD and Blu-Ray movies, Walmart is always looking for new and compelling content to offer the 140 million customers who shop their stores each week. That’s why, for the first time, the winners of three categories – Jury Selection, Audience Award and Best Family Film – are guaranteed distribution in Walmart stores and online through its instant video demand service VUDU.

Walmart’s support of the Bentonville Film Festival was made in large part due to its focus on women and minority filmmakers. Empowering women and supporting diversity are two key company initiatives which Walmart has long supported, because the retailer believes it is the right thing to do and important in being a successful business. The festival is also a great opportunity for the retailer to showcase Northwest Arkansas, one of the country’s best-kept secrets.

Coca-Cola values and celebrates diversity in both its consumers and associates. Diversity is more than policies and practices. Inclusion, respect, unity and fairness are values applied across the business and are integral to how the Company operates and views the future.

Coca-Cola understands the importance of women and minorities in spurring economic growth and cultivating sustainable development. Empowering them to succeed is a global focus for Coca-Cola and supporting the Bentonville Film Festival helps further the Company’s commitment to fostering diversity. Plus, with an inextricable link between Coca-Cola and the movie-going experience, this distinctive festival provides another great opportunity to refresh movie fans.

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