A couple of weeks ago was a great week to live in Northwest Arkansas, especially Bentonville. With the Bentonville Film Fest (BFF) in its second year, the town was buzzing with Hollywood A-listers and some top-notch films. With so much going on, we had to call in the troops to help manage such a busy week! Moms, nanny’s, babysitters were all on-call, but well worth-it.
Things kicked off with the opening ceremony’s “white carpet” at Crystal Bridges. We have to say, this year was over-the-top with creativity. Crystal Bridges is transformed and you forget you’re in Northwest Arkansas. (We would show you pictures of the amazing décor and bar set-up, but no cameras are allowed!) The best part of the party? A tribute to Prince was playing as artist Patrick Hunter painted to the music. It was wild and the crowd went crazy! (Sorry, we had too. But it’s true.) We were on the front row taking it all in, and dancing. You can see the painting on Patrick’s Instagram @patcassoart.
Everyone kept asking … how do you host a film festival in a town with no movie theatres? Bring in your own, of course! BFF brought in cine-transformers: a 90-seat theatre in the form of a tractor/trailer complete with cushioned seats, restrooms and incredible sound quality. There were three cine-transformers located around the Bentonville Square making festival attendance a no-brainer.
The festival saw more than 63,000 attendees participate this year, including an 89 percent attendance rate at the films and panel discussions – compared to just 15 percent during the inaugural year. Looks like we’re learning what film festivals are all about…even though in Northwest Arkansas, it’s still very much a social scene and special-events driven occasion. We’re an entitled community. When you have a company like Walmart bringing in celebrities on any given Saturday, the expectations for entertainment around here are pretty high.
On that note, we helped host a luncheon featuring guest speaker and BFF co-founder, Geena Davis to benefit Mercy’s Women With A Mission Society. Geena was so gracious, stayed to eat lunch with us, but the best part? She donated to our cause, writing a check on the spot. We were amazed. When it comes to giving back, she’s not just talking the talk.
We got to meet several celebrities, but almost had more than a celebrity sighting as we were almost run over by Harry Connick, Jr., walking through the Bentonville Square! He had bodyguards, handlers, filmmakers and a crowd of onlookers following his every move. Wow. Connick was judging the first ever all-female Girls that Grill competition. Quite the entertainment!
Anyway, about the films! Aside from interviewing 18 of the filmmakers and viewing several movies that week (we saw so many great ones but a few of our favorites were Floyd Norman: An Animated Life (winner of the BFF Audience Award); The Founders; Te Ata; Tested; and Josephine (directed by Rory Feek and also won The Dernsie award.)
Of course, the pre-screening of Marvel’s Captain America was a huge hit. The lines were several blocks long not only to see this film but also My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 and Ithaca, probably because Nia Vardalos and Meg Ryan were here to discuss their films after the screenings! Ithaca was Meg Ryan’s directorial debut.
We joined hundreds of fans at the Walmart AMP for a concert with Darius Rucker (he also closed the show with a Prince tribute); A League of Their Own reunion game and one of our favorite panels for the week: In Control of Her Own Destiny with panelists and BFF co-founder Geena Davis, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Nia Vardalos and Meg Ryan.
Lastly, we met some fabulous people, including Julie Heimeshoff who started the #BentonvilleisAwesomeJimmy movement. When Geena was on his show talking about the Bentonville Film Festival, Jimmy was really skeptical about our little corner of God’s country…. How dare you Jimmy! Julie was offended and made it her mission to take “little” Jimmy Kimmel around Bentonville to show him how fabulous our community is. Check out Julie’s Instagram @julieyoujest to see all the hilarious adventures.
We had so much fun that we’re already looking forward to next year’s festival. Be sure to buy your tickets early! Save the date for May 2-7, 2017. Bentonville will be busy again.
Warning: longest post ever, sorry! Enjoy the pics below!