GEENA DAVIS’S BENTONVILLE FILM FESTIVAL UNVEILS PANEL SERIES LINEUP AND SPECIAL EVENTS SUPPORTING WOMEN AND DIVERSITY; Star power continues to increase with Courteney Cox, Dana Owens (Queen Latifah), “Twilight” Director Catherine Hardwicke, Ben Barnes, Emilio Estevez, Melissa Joan Hart, Alysia Reiner, Khandi Alexander, and country singer Sara Evans confirmed to participate; They Join Robert De Niro, Nick Cannon, Rosie O’Donnell, Bruce Dern, Joey Lauren Adams and Soledad O’Brien

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Star power continues to increase with Courteney Cox, Dana Owens (Queen Latifah), “Twilight” Director Catherine Hardwicke, Ben Barnes, Emilio Estevez, Melissa Joan Hart, Alysia Reiner, Khandi Alexander, and country singer Sara Evans confirmed to participate


They Join Robert De Niro, Nick Cannon, Rosie O’Donnell, Bruce Dern, Joey Lauren Adams and Soledad O’Brien


Bentonville, AR / Los Angeles, CA (April 27, 2015) – Geena Davis’s Bentonville Film Festival (BFF), which debuts May 5-9, today unveiled a robust panel series that covers over a dozen topics addressing women, diversity and their intersections within the entertainment industry, featuring many well-known and highly regarded participants from various sectors of the industry. The Festival also revealed details of several special events including a softball game headlined by “A League of Their Own” stars Geena Davis and Rosie O’Donnell, as well as a BFF concert series.


Below are the panel discussions scheduled to run during the festival.


  • In Control of Her Own Destiny(Womenwho created their own successful film production companies)

Participants include  Rosie O’Donnell, Melissa Joan Hart, Alysia Reiner, Kristin Hahn, Sarah Morgan Thomas


  • Behind the Lens(Directors’ perspective on diversity in cinema)

Participants include Catherine Hardwicke, Nisha Ganatra, George Tillman Jr., Perri Peltz, Anna Martemucci, Josh Welsh (Film Independent)


  • Catherine Hardwicke Directors’ Workshop“Twilight” Director Catherine Hardwicke presents a Director’s Process Workshop


  • Redefining Family Entertainment(Best practices for creating content parents can approve and support)

Participants include Geena Davis, Wanda Young (Walmart), Yalda Uhls (Common Sense Media), Lana Castleman (KidScreen), Laura Caraccioli (Electus), Patty Kerr (AFE), Madeline Di Nonno (Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media), Sarah Noonan (Nickelodeon)


  • Decoding Stereotypes in Media – Sponsored by Google

Participants include Julie Ann Crommett (Google), Sowmya Subramanian (YouTube), YouTube Science expert Crystal Dilworth, and producers Diane Ikemiyashiro, (“Miles from Tomorrowland”) and Susan Cartsonis (“What Women Want”)


  • Art of the Deal(Deals breaking the boundaries for women and minority filmmakers)

Participants include Jason Kelly (Bloomberg Media), Elizabeth Frank (AMC), Jon Patricof (Tribeca Enterprises), Peter Trinh (ICM), Geralyn Dreyfous (Impact Partners), Emily Best (Seed&Spark) and Darrell Miller (Fox Rothchild)


  • Real vs Reel Diversity(Entertainment and business leaders affecting change on-screen and behind-the-scenes)

Participants include Michelle Ebanks (Essence), Nikkole Denson-Randolph (AMC), Gil Robertson (AAFCA), Brian Yang, Sharonda L. Britton (Walmart), Khandi Alexander, Maria Morales (PEOPLE en Espanol)


  • Power of the Pen(Improving the representation of women and diversity through great characters)

Participants include Darla K. Anderson, Effie Brown, Ami Canaan Mann, Susan Cartsonis


  • Power of the Brand for Social Change(The role of corporations in addressing gender equality and diversity)

Participants include Stuart Kronauge (Coca-Cola), Raquel Harris (Sams), Mindy McAlindon (Southern Acres Marketing), Kristine Decker (P&G), Michelle Ferguson (Luna), Elise Mitchell (Mitchell Communications), Danielle Carrig, (Lifetime)


  • Digital Storytelling: Breaking boundaries for Women & Diversity(Best practices to create more female and storytelling leveraging multiple digital platforms)

Participants include Julian Franco (Vudu), Melanie Capacia Johnson (Tiny Horse), Jonathan Shank (Red Light), Tom Hoehn (Walmart), Dyllan McGee (Makers), Kelly Edwards, (HBO), Amirose Eisenbach, (AMC)


  • Women in Advertising

Participants include Jillian Gibbs (APR), Kat Gordon, Andy Murray (Walmart), Jiah Choi (Coca-Cola), Dorothy Thompson (Streetlights)


  • Gender Equality: Why Men Matter

Participants include Wanda Young, (Walmart), Fernando Szew, (MarVista Entertainment), Dean General, (Kraft), JS Kang, (Sterling Sports Management), Judge Reinhold


  • Women’s Economic Empowerment

Participants include Geena Davis, Kathleen McLaughlin (Walmart), Helene Gayle (CARE), Pamela Prince-Easton (WBENC), Abigail Wozniak (The White House)


  • Seed & Spark Crowdfunding  Workshop

     Emily Best (CEO of indie-film crowdfunding and distribution platform Seed&Spark) and Greg Cohen


Beyond the panel discussions, BFF will hold a softball game on Thursday, May 7 at Arvest Park, home of the minor league baseball team, the Northwest Arkansas Naturals. Country music star Sara Evans will be on hand to sing the national anthem and open the game, which will have two teams managed by Geena Davis and Rosie O’Donnell, co-stars of the iconic women’s baseball film “A League of Their Own.” Two-time Olympic medalist and women’s softball icon Jennie Finch will be among the players suiting up for this game. There will be an evening screening of the film at the stadium following the game.


Meanwhile, My Country Nation will sponsor a BFF concert that will include a performance from American country singer-songwriter Frankie Ballard, country/pop duo Megan&Liz  (Megan and Liza Mace) as well as a special “Sound of Music” concert event featuring the Von Trapp family with the Bentonville Choir and Bentonville Orchestra.


The concert will be held at the Arend Arts Center. There will also be a nightly concert series held at the Ice House of Bentonville with performances to be announced this week.


The BFF opening ceremony will take place on Tuesday, May 5th at the world acclaimed Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, which was founded by Alice Walton, designed by Moshe Safdie, and features the largest collection of American Art in the world. Geena Davis will open the star-studded gala event with a keynote address.


In addition to the opening ceremony, Crystal Bridges Museum will host two very special BFF events. On Thursday, May 7th the Museum will host BFF’s discussion with Robert De Niro following a screening of ”Remembering the Artist” – the acclaimed documentary about De Niro’s father, Robert De Niro Sr., directed by Perri Peltz.


The following day (May 8th), the Museum will host “Geena and Friends,” which will see Geena Davis  and a select group of brilliantly talented women in a table read where they re-imagine some great dialogue from all-male movie scenes. A light-hearted way to explore how funny, unique and perhaps refreshing it can be to expand our vision of who can be cast in roles originally written for men. Rosie O’Donnell, Dana Owens (Queen Latifah)Khandi Alexander and Alysia Reiner will be among participants in this lively event.


BFF’s closing night awards show, presented by Kraft Foods Group, will be co-hosted by Nick Cannon (host of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent”) and award winning journalist, documentarian, news anchor, and producer Soledad O’Brien, on Friday, May 8th at the Old High. Presenters will include Courteney Cox and Dana Owens (Queen Latifah).


The complete BFF schedule of events, including dates, times and venue locations can be found on the BFF website


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), Vudu (digital), Vubiquity (VOD), 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, who’s 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.


For more information on the festival please visit


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