I'm attending the Bentonville Film Festival (BFF) this week. This is the second year for this festival that was begun by Geena Davis who is a champion for inclusion of women and diversity in film. She has actually done a study that shows how little women are used in front of and behind the camera. Even crowd scenes with extras do not have enough women to represent our society. She has taken the results of that study to Hollywood producers and writers and powers that be and shocked them all. Most of them have vowed to change. This film festival is all about inclusion and is the only film festival that offers full distribution for the winning films.
Yesterday I attended a panel called Progress or Perfection and three films. All three films were well done and well received by the audience.
Driving With Selvi, a documentary about a former child bride who escaped her abusive husband to become South India's first female taxi driver. The film follows her over several years and we see a courageous and strong woman who is determined to not only succeed, but to thrive.
Wild Prairie Rose is a narrative film that started a bit slowly for me, but quickly won me over. Rose comes back home to the country from Chicago to take care of her ailing mother. She hopes to only be there 3 weeks and get back to her life. However, she meets a deaf man that changes her perspective on everything. What is interesting about this film is the director chose to cast a deaf man in the role rather than a hearing man who played deaf. Also, in the audience watching the film were a number of deaf people with an interpreter off to the side who signed for them during the film. The interpreter was two rows in front of me and I was surprised that it offered no distraction from my movie watching at all.
The third film I saw yesterday, was clearing the best produced.....all three films were very good and I loved them all....but this one had more star power. The Great Gilly Hopkins stars Kathy Bates, Olivia Spencer and Glenn Close. This film had me laughing and even in tears towards the end....and I saw many people around me with tissues. All of the films had their film makers do a Q & A after the film, and even David Paterson, the screenwriter/producer of this film was in tears as he stood in front of us. The film was adapted from a novel written by his mother Katherine Paterson. He said the book is used in schools and was based somewhat on their family. It's about a 12 year old wise cracking young girl who has been shuffled from foster home to foster home until she meets Maime Trotter, played by Kathy Bates. Having been in foster homes myself until I was finally adopted at age six....I could identify with this film from the start.
I'm off to watch a bunch more films today...and will try and post more about them tonight. So far, I'm loving this festival. Thanks Geena Davis for all the work you are doing to promote diversity in film.