We’re just days away from the kickoff of the first annual Bentonville Film Festival, an Arkansas-based (and brand spanking new!) film fest dedicated to championing women and diversity in film. Chaired by Geena Davis, the festival was only announced back in January, but it’s already off the ground and ready to roll out nearly a week of programming all centered around one – admittedly, pretty big – idea. The festival’s inaugural slate seems to be in tune with the theme of the festival in a major way, offering up a bevy of family-friendly features (the festival’s ticketing site makes note of appropriate age ranges for each film, a nice touch) and feel-good films. There’s also, however, plenty of hard-hitting documentaries to be found here, and it looks like as good-natured as BFF appears to be, the fest isn’t afraid of delivering some tough stuff.
If you’re headed to Arkansas next week (perhaps like me? cough cough), we’ve picked some BFF must-sees that should quite nicely round out your viewing schedule. Take a peek:
Autism In Love
This sensitively made documentary recently screened at the Tribeca Film Festival, where it was lauded for its humanity and honesty. The feature follows four adults with autism as they attempt to do something that’s pretty hard for anyone: fall in love and stay there.
BFF appears to feature a ton of great growing-up features, but Paul Jarrett’s Fan Girl sounds especially appealing and fun. A zippy and fun examination of the modern American high school, Fan Girl reportedly folds in social anxieties with social media, giving audience a cool new teen lass to root for, one who likes both punk music and making movies (so, like, cooler than me even now?)
Code: Debugging The Gender Gap
Another holdover from Tribeca, this doc examines why there are so few women and minorities in the software engineering field. Moreover, it looks at what would happen if that changed – and soon! – and why it must.
A Ballerina’s Tale
African-American ballerina Misty Copeland has danced her way across, over, and through tons of barriers in a very tough industry. Nelson George’s documentary examines how she got there, and some of the major issues she faced on the path to super-stardom.
I Dream Too Much
Shiftless college grad Dora isn’t motivated to do, well, much of anything, so when she decides to help out her injured great aunt Vera, her choice is more about finding a distraction from the rest of her life, rather than being a nice niece. Of course the two end up growing closer, but Dora ends up learning some pretty surprising lessons from a whole mess of new people in her life. Sounds like the kind of low-key charmer that festivals can often illuminate in a big way.
Big Stone Gap
Author Adriana Trigiani brings her own novel to the big screen with this star-studded outing, including Ashley Judd, Patrick Wilson, and Whoopi Goldberg, a story about a small town, a quiet life, and a major secret.
Maya the Bee Movie
Adorably animated Maya loves making new friends, even the kind of friends that the rest of her bee family couldn’t, ahem, bee more rude to, including grasshoppers and hornets. Maya’s good heart ultimately proves to be the heroine of the entire adventure, once the queen’s royal jelly is stolen and only a rag-tag group of pals can save it.
Last Days in the Desert
Ewan McGregor is Jesus. What more do you need?
Love Finds You In Charm
A rom-com with a twist! Emma Miller seems to have it all – a nice family, a good job, a loving community – but the same things that make her life so steady and so wonderful are also keeping her from really embracing her adventurous spirit. Emma is Amish, and while she loves her lifestyle, she wants more. Will she find it on a trip to see family in tiny Charm, Ohio? (Probably.)
When Marnie Was There
The latest offering from Studio Ghibli centers on a magical-sounding friendship between two young girls – Anna and Marnie – but it packs a special secretive punch that will likely fell its entire audience. Sold!
Pitch Perfect 2
The festival’s Closing Night Film needs no further introduction, it’s clearly aca-awesome enough on its own.
The Bentonville Film Festival takes place May 5 to May 9 in Bentonville, Arkansas. If you’d like to purchase tickets for screenings, panels, or events, head right here.