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Northwest Arkansas’ calendar is packed with fantastic community celebrations, runs, rides, tournaments, rallies and fairs, but only a few have separated themselves to become true regional standouts.

The Bentonville Film Festival, which starts next Tuesday and ends May 6, certainly fits the bill as one of the best events. In just its fourth year, it joins a select group of the region’s top celebrations and many of the others have been around for a decade or more.

The festival, founded by Academy Award winner Geena Davis and Inclusion Companies CEO Trevor Drinkwater, champions inclusion in all forms of media. It promotes inclusion throughout the year, and it all culminates with the six-day film festival in Bentonville that’s put on in partnership with founding sponsor Walmart and presenting sponsor Coca-Cola.

“This year’s edition of the Bentonville Film Festival truly exemplifies our mission,” Davis said. “We are thrilled to honor industry pioneers, while at the same time recognizing current trendsetters and changemakers, and showcasing a new class of inclusive storytellers. To be able to bring them all together in one place to enact change – that is what BFF is all about.”

Those taking part in this year’s film festival include actor Meg Ryan, who will be recognized on May 4 as the festival’s first recipient of the Legacy Award. The award honors filmmakers and entertainers who represent inclusion in the film and entertainment industries in an exemplary fashion and who are leaders in pushing the industry toward better practices regarding diversity. Ryan will be making her third appearance at the film festival.

Ryan led an impressive lineup last year that included William H. Macy (“Fargo”), Judy Greer (“13 Going on 30,” “Ant-Man”), Patty Jenkins (“Wonder Woman” director), Terry Crews (“Idiocracy”), singer-songwriter Jewel, a large group of independent filmmakers, and industry changemakers. 

This year’s festival will include an impressive slate of 96 feature films. A full list of films, when they’ll be presented and information about purchasing tickets and multi-event passes is available on the Bentonville Film Festival website.

In addition to films, the festival will include its first bike ride, showing off some of  the region’s amazing trails and celebrating one of Northwest Arkansans’ favorite pastimes.

A closing concert by rock and roll legends Los Lobos and opening act Run River North will be held at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 6 near the Bentonville Square. Inclusion Town, Diversity Drive and other signature entertainment zones will be part of this year’s festival, too.

The festival continues to add to its collection of events and activities, announcing on April 11 that it will be including a notable array of musical acts set to perform at the Coca-Cola Sound Stage at The Meteor in downtown Bentonville. They include Lauren Alaina, Carly Pearce, and Song Suffragettes.

Meanwhile, country music star Martina McBride will put an exclamation point on the festival with her performance at the Closing Night Awards Ceremony.

“The appreciation of music often goes hand-in-hand with that of film, and we are excited to offer attendees a diverse array of musical experiences at this year’s festival,” Drinkwater said. “As always, we are thrilled to work with our partners to bring diversity and inclusion to the streets of Bentonville.”

Special thanks to our major investors for their support of the Northwest Arkansas Council and our work in the region: