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Bentonville Film Festival: These Up-and-Coming Filmmakers Are Ones to Watch (Part 2)

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A continuation of the series, you can catch part one here.

What I love about the Bentonville Film Festival is that it celebrates diversity both on-screen and behind the camera. I have never seen so many unique storytellers in one place, and it gives me hope to think that these creators represent the future of the industry. I had a chance to talk with quite a few of them about the movies they made, and I’m proud to share snippets of those conversations with you now. So without further adieu …

Mothers in the Middle

Directed by Lauren Hollingsworth, this documentary centers on five working mothers who are trying to juggle parenting with demanding jobs while also making major life decisions.

“I realized very quickly, first of all, that nobody has the answers,” Hollingsworth said of the film. “It is incredibly hard to be a working parent and there’s a lot of issues, a lot of big challenges that women are facing and they’re facing it alone. I don’t feel like we are talking to each other very much about our problems. I feel like we’re always putting up a front.”

When asked why she thinks women put of a front, she told me, “I think failure is a sign of weakness. I work in Hollywood. It’s a boy’s club. At least in my business, it’s really important to show everybody that you’re strong. If you wanna get ahead, you have to project that. And I think in any career, a working woman has to have a tough exterior because people will just not promote you if you don’t.”

Learn more about the film here.

In Search of Fellini

This drama is about a girl named Lucy who hails from a small town in Ohio. She has always loved movies and after discovering the work of Federico Fellini, she sets off on an adventure to Italy to find him.

The film was co-written by Simpsons alum  Nancy Cartwright, who told me it’s loosely based on her own life. “I was in an acting class, this was pre-Simpsons, and I was studying one film that was directed by [Fellini] called La Strada and something about the film intrigued me.” She tried to turn the film into a play and when she couldn’t get the rights, she booked it to Italy.

The film, which was directed  Taron Lexton and stars Lost Girl’s Ksenia Solo, took 20 years to make. It’s proof that it’s never too late to finish that idea that’s been floating around in your head. Head here for more info.

Parker’s Anchor

Winner of BFF’s Best Narrative by Audience Award

This drama centers on a woman named Kristal whose plans for marriage and a family fall apart. She finds herself back in her hometown rethinking her life. She soon discovers that you’re never really starting over and that everything happens for a reason.

“Fertility is not the end of the story and that is a hopeful message,” co-writer, producer and lead actress Jennica Schwartzman said of her film. “No matter what happens in life, even though things will fall apart and you will be blamed, that doesn’t change what the next chapter will be about. I hope that we’re giving some encouragement for what you do next. ”

Co-writer, producer and actor Ryan Schwartzman added: “[It’s about] finding that strength to move forward when your life falls apart. Once you can get past that brokenness,  family can help lift you up. There is another chapter.”

Find more about the film here.

Pure Country, Pure Heart

This film comes from WWE Studios and stars Willie Nelson, Broadway actor Laura Bell Bundy, Kaitlyn Bausch, Amanda Detmer,  WWE Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels and more. “Essentially it’s about two sisters whose father dies in a wreck and they know nothing about him because their mom won’t talk about him,” director Damon Santostefano explained.

“It explores issues that women deal with all the time,” added producer Patty Reed. You can find more about the film here.

Quality Problems

From filmmakers Brooke Purdy and Doug Purdy comes the story of a family that goes through regular family problems and one of them happens to have breast cancer. Loosely based on real events, this one is actually a comedy. “It’s really just a week in the life of a regular family with some heightened problems but they get through it with laughter,” Brooke Purdy told me.

Producer and co-editor Jen Prince added: “As female filmmakers, and I think males too who write female characters, the feedback often hlikableble are they, how sympathetic are they. That’s always when you’re showing a script. And that was one thing by us, and I would encourage people to think about, is we’re not evaluating is [our lead character] likable. She’s being real. We’re not afraid to show the arguing and the laughing.”

Head here for more info about the film.

The Archer

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Director Valerie Weiss describes it as a “feminist action movie” that is basically “Thelma and Louise meets First Blood.”

“It’s a buddy love story between these two women whoa re in the wilderness prison.” The prison is for-profit institution similar to what you’d find in the real life story from Kids for Cash in which two judges received $2.8 million for sending thousands of kids to jail. In this film, lead character Lauren Pierce (Bailey Noble) goes to jail for what was essentially self-defense and she meets fellow inmate Rebecca. After realizing how terrible this place is, they decide to break out. They are then hunted down, First Blood style, by the warden (who is a bow hunter) and his son.

Learn more about it here.

The Relationtrip

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This one is an anti-love story from filmmakers Renée Felice Smith and  C. A. Gabriel about two people who decide to go together on a friendship and things get weird.

“We are very interested in the germination of these relationships, how they get started. Nowadays, it seems like everyone rushes into it and then we have these high-speed romances,” Smith told me. “There’s like three or four days where it’s really amazing and then they both fall off the face of the Earth to each other and they never see each other again. So that’s kind of what we wanted to explore.”

So what happens next is that the lead characters go through the stages of a long-term relationship over the span of three days. The film also features a band called “Fuck Dragons,” a hip-hop duo whose members got together in high school and college. There’s a funny opening sequence in which someone no-shows and then Matt [Bush] is forced to perform by himself.

Head here to find more about this out-of-the-box romcom.

Unbridled

This harrowing drama is based on a real place in North Carolina called Corral Riding Academy which pairs victims of sex trafficking with horses that have been abused so they both learn to trust again. One of the things to keep in mind about this story is that it’s inspired by girls who were underage and due to the sensitivity of their situations, filmmakers needed to find a way to present these stories without compromising their identities.

Screenwrtier Bonné Bartron was asked to write the script in five days and make it G-rated and was able to after being inspired by what she saw at the Academy.  “Sex trafficking is so prevalent [in America] and we don’t usually hear about it. That’s the crazy thing, is we usually hear about it overseas. But here, we have thousands and thousands of kids that go missing and thousands and thousands of reported sex-trafficking cases reported. And we don’t talk about it and because we don’t talk about it, that’s how victims happen.”

Find more about the film here.

Vegas Baby

This documentary from Amanda Micheli follows a Las Vegas fertility clinic which holds an annual contest in which winners receive free fertility treatment.

“People don’t talk about [infertility] so a lot of times, the advice that you get is a little insensitive.” When working with distributors and people who would potentially fund the movie, she was often told it wasn’t an important issue. “And I think that’s partly just because women’s health is considered less important than general health. But this affects people from all walks of life.”

The film itself lets viewers draw their own conclusions, but Micheli is very open about her own personal political beliefs. “I think, right now for me, the biggest priority is to have access to a safe and legal abortion and prenatal care, and I think infertility is lower down the list but I think it’s important to be a part of the conversation. If you look at some of the legislation that’s being put forward right now, a lot of it that’s “pro-life” to prevent abortions also will prevent IVF. And there’s a lot of people who that’s the only way they can have a biological family.”

For more information on the film, head here.

Wexford Plaza

Set in a dilapidated strip mall in suburban Toronto, this dark comedy follows a lonely female security guard who has a misunderstood sexual encounter with a male makeup salesman. “It’s kind of like a comedy of errors and becomes a bit farcical because of all the misunderstandings that happen,” director Joyce Wong explained. “I wanted to tell a female-centric story about mixed signals because that’s something everyone can relate to.”

When it comes to telling a story about a woman, it helps to have a woman behind the scenes calling the shots. “Even with some of the people working on the film, they weren’t really able to understand the female gaze and the female perspective. So it was really important to be one of the producers on it because I had ultimate say over creative.”

And despite her prominent role, Wong sometimes finds herself shrinking in order to not cause a ruckus. “Especially at some of the film festivals that I’ve been to. I don’t want to seem like the gaze police or the aggressive bitch so I have to play some sort of cold, neutral thing.” The film marks her feature debut and one of the things she learned is “just being authentic with your intentions” because that’s when “people will respect you the most.”

To find out where you can catch the film, head here.

(image: Bentonville Film Festival)

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