‘Suze’ and ‘Daughters’ Win Top Prizes at 2024 Bentonville Film Festival

The Bentonville Film Festival, this year celebrating its tenth anniversary, has announced its award winners to close out its latest edition. In collaboration with its founding partner, Walmart, and presenting sponsor, Coca-Cola, the fest’s winners include films and episodic offerings in narrative, documentary, short film, and episodic categories. The annual festival is a globally recognized platform amplifying female, non-binary, LGBTQIA+, BIPOC, and people with disabilities’ voices in entertainment.

The festival’s top two awards went to Linsey Stewart and Dane Clark’s “Suze” (Best Narrative Feature) and Natalie Rae and Angela Patton’s “Daughters” (Best Documentary Award), with the festival’s See It, Be It Award going to Phoebe-Rae Taylor, the star of festival opener “Out of My Mind.” This award, which has been presented every year since the beginning of the festival is, per the festival, “given to someone who has opened doors for people like them through their work and influenced the entertainment industry and pop culture through the creation of content that empowers stories that are otherwise underrepresented.”

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“Our tenth anniversary meant so much to us,” said Geena Davis, Festival Chair, in an official statement. “I’m so grateful to all of the filmmakers in this year’s slate for their incredible work and the beautiful energy they brought to the festival. I am so excited to see the growth of diverse story telling since the beginning of the festival. From launching a film festival in a town with no movie theaters to becoming one of the fastest growing film festivals in the country the support of the Bentonville community has meant so much to me.”

In an interview earlier this week on the ground in Bentonville (and more to come from that in the coming days), Davis told IndieWire she had always envisioned a strong future for the event. “Yes, yes. Profoundly so. Yes, yes,” Davis said when asked if she had pictured a ten-year event (and beyond) when the festival launched in 2014. “I knew that I wanted this to really take off and last and grow and grow, which it is.”

The full list of winners are as follows, with all language provided by BFF.

Narrative Feature
Jury: Sejin Croninger, Amber Sealey, Lisa Ann Walter
Best Narrative Feature: “Suze” Canada (Directors/Writers, Linsey Stewart, Dane Clark)
Jury Statement: “Suze” captivated us with its tender, funny and charming portrayal of a modern-day odd couple. We were blown away by Michaela Watkins and Charlie Gillespie, who turn in wonderfully heartfelt and delightful performances. This is a film that showcases the power of compassion and the beauty of unlikely friendships.

Honorable Mention: “Tokyo Cowboy” U.S.A. (Director, Marc Marriott; Writers, Dave Boyle, Ayako Fujitani)
Special Jury Recognition: “Boca Chica” Dominican Republic (Director, Gabriella Athena Moses; Writers, Mariana Rondón, Marité Ugás)

‘Out of My Mind’<cite>Disney</cite>
‘Out of My Mind’Disney

Documentary Feature
Jury: Shrihari Sathe, Kristal Sotomayor, Diane Quon
Best Documentary Feature: “Daughters” U.S.A. (Directors, Natalie Rae, Angela Patton)
Jury Statement: In a time when incarcerations break apart families, “Daughters” highlights the love between those inside and outside. Through deeply moving stories and intimately portrayed characters, the film is a testament to the power of love.

Special Mention: “Unseen” U.S.A. (Director, Set Hernandez)
Jury Statement: “Unseen”undeniably brings a unique storytelling style that guides viewers into an intimate relationship between the director and protagonist to tell a wider story about resilience. Note: Diane Quon recused herself during deliberations regarding this film.

Special Mention: “We Are Guardians” Brazil (Directors, Chelsea Greene, Rob Grobman, Edivan Guajajara)
Jury Statement: Through rich cinematography, “We Are Guardians” gives voice to brave Indigenous land protectors who work to save not only their family but also our entire planet.

Short Film
Jury: Betsy Bozdech, Jatin Setia, Erich C. Smith
Best Short Film: “Shimmer” U.S.A. (Director, Alice Gu)
Jury Statement: The story of a talented surgeon who’s afraid to tell his father about his alter ego as a championship drag queen, “Shimmer” is a heartfelt, touching film that celebrates acceptance and being your true self. Based on a true story and beautifully filmed, it mixes upbeat entertainment with moments of authentic vulnerability and is perfectly aligned with the Bentonville Film Festival’s mission of shining a light on underrepresented communities and filmmakers.

Honorable Mention: “The Ballad of Tita and The Machines” U.S.A. (Director, Miguel Angel Caballero)
Jury Statement: Special mention for addressing a timely, relevant topic with insight and humor.

Animated Short
Jury: Carlos Aguilar, Claire Taylor, Kris Wimberly
Best Animated Short: “Slow Light” Poland/Portugal (Directors, Katarzyna Kijek, Przemysław Adamski)
Jury Statement: A beautiful example of how film and art are champions of accessibility, “Slow Light”welcomes audiences to the complex world of its protagonist. Directors Katarzyna Kijek and Przemysław Adamski masterfully applied a unique style of animation that serves as the perfect guide for audiences to truly connect with a story rooted in the pursuit of human connection.

Honorable Mention for Creative Innovation: “Wander to Wonder” Belgium (Director, Nina Gantz)

Adventure Short
Jury: Ify Nwadiwe, Sarah Minnie, Elias Plagianos
Best Adventure Short: “Speed of Sound” U.S.A. (Director, Jade Ang Jackman)
Jury Statement: “Speed of Sound”was truly inspiring and visually poetic, keeping us engaged and wanting more. Watching her bravery and dedication to her sport was astonishing; the jury was awed by her perseverance to become a champion, and the filmmaking captured the breath of the journey cinematically.

Jury: Carlos Aguilar, Claire Taylor, Kris Wimberly (same as Animated)
Best Episodic: “What About Me” (Director, William Lott; Creator, Josh Nadler)
Jury Statement: Grounded in relatable family dynamics (with a few twists!), the ensemble story of “What About Me” is truly series worthy. From the opening scene, creator Josh Nadler launches audiences into a world of dynamic characters whose points of view demand to be explored in an episodic format.

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