I Participated in a Film Festival. And it was Epic.

For those of you who may not know, a little film festival came to Bentonville, Arkansas.

From May 3 – 8, Northwest Arkansas hosted the second annual Bentonville Film Festival, and I was fortunate enough to participate. From amazing films, to panel discussions featuring actor, advocate and festival co-founder Geena Davis – the event was one for the record books.

My journey with the Festival began several weeks before it kicked off, when I was given the opportunity to be a juror for the Narrative film category. I was given a number of films dealing with family, sexuality, faith and several other topics.

I was literally given the job of watching movies for four straight weeks.

And it was awesome.

At the Welcome Breakfast, I began putting films with faces, so-to-speak. The room was filled with all of the creative minds that brought the films I had been watching to life. After shaking off my nerves, I managed to get up the courage to speak to Rory Feek, director of the film Josephine. This movie in particular resonated with me not only because of the well written story line and cinematography, but because of the passion and determination I saw from the entire team.

That, coupled with the films festivities, made the entire event life changing.

As a juror, I had the opportunity to view films in other categories, explore the newly renovated Downtown Bentonville, taste delicious barbeque and observe panel discussions.

Don’t get me wrong, this southern lady loves good barbeque and I can easily write an entire post on the Girls That Grill competition, but my appetite for barbeque could not surpass my appetite for knowledge. -Cheesy symbol crash here –

Although I only had the time to attend one panel, the one I chose left a lasting impression and ignited a spark I didn’t realize I had. The panelists included Geena Davis, Meg Ryan, Nia Vardolos and Kimberly Williams- Paisley. These four influential women delivered a message of strength, opportunity and empowerment.

They spoke to the challenges that not only they have faced, but also to the challenges that women and diverse groups are still facing in Hollywood. By taking control of their own careers the panelists have become pioneers for gender equality in film, and by extension, equality in general.

To say that the film festival was just a week of fun wouldn’t be doing it the justice it deserves. This festival stands for so much more than a movie and a bucket of popcorn. I walked away with the desire to make a change, not only in my life but in the lives of others.

The Bentonville Film Festival showed me that no dream and no passion is too small to chase, and I only hope it can do the same for those who attend in the future.

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