Geena Davis and ARC Entertainment have launched the Bentonville Film Festival (BFF) to champion women and diversity in film.

The festival will take place from May 5–9 in Bentonville, Arkansas, and styles itself as the first and only competition in the world to offer guaranteed theatrical, television, digital and retail home entertainment distribution for its winners.

ARC Entertainment, Walmart, Coca-Cola and AMC Theatres will host the event, to be chaired by Davis, which will screen 75 films in competition ranging from studio premieres to independent features and documentaries.

The festival’s advisory board is comprised of entertainment industry leaders and artists such as Angela Bassett, Bruce Dern, Samuel L Jackson, Randy Jackson, Eva Longoria, Julianne Moore, Paula Patton, Natalie Portman, Nina Tassler and Shailene Woodley.

“I have been an advocate for women for most of my adult life,” said Davis. “The Geena Davis Institute On Gender In Media is dedicated to improving the representation in gender and diversity of talent, filmmakers and business leaders by growing awareness through research, education and advocacy.

“The Bentonville Film Festival is a critical component of how we can directly impact the quantity and quality of females and minorities on screen and behind-the scenes.”

Films that win the Audience, Jury Selection and Best Family Film awards will receive a guaranteed theatrical release on a minimum of 25 screens from AMC Theatres. AMC Theatres will also participate in the film submission and jury selection process.

Walmart will handle digital distribution via its Vudu platform and DVD roll-out in Walmart stores.

“I’m honoured to collaborate with ARC Entertainment, Walmart, AMC and Coca-Cola to launch this important initiative,” added Davis.

“I have been so impressed with the commitment Walmart has made to support women through their Global Women’s Economic Empowerment Initiative, which has as one of its goals to source $20bn from women-owned businesses in the US.”

The festival will include an awards show hosted by Davis and presented by Kraft Foods Group, as well as panel discussions with celebrities and industry leaders and family film night events that will be free to the public and held in “non-traditional venues.” 

Following the inaugural festival the Bentonville Film Foundation will launch a year-round calendar of events to promote women and minority film-makers, artists, directors and producers at colleges and universities around the country in partnership with the Geena Davis Institute On Gender In Media, which is the official non-profit partner of the festival.

Film submissions will open on January 15 and competition entries will be announced in March.