I write this as I sit at a cute bakery in Downtown Bentonville, Arkansas. I had to take an Uber to the airport to get here, and my driver asked me if I was purposely going to Arkansas. I never thought I would because it was not on my bucket list, but my love for films and the desire to see better representation in the media led me to this town. I have spent most of the week working remotely and attending screenings of several projects I would not have watched otherwise. These days have reinforced the importance of diverse film festivals.
For as long as I can remember, I have been interested in movies and TV shows. I grew up in a family that motivated us to be creative and follow our passions. Probably how both my brothers ended up being film students, and I ended up being a writer. But along this crazy journey, I came across Geena Davis and her fight for diversity, which resonated with me.
Seven years ago, actor — she does not like being called actress because she believes there should be no difference — Geena Davis co-founded the Bentonville Film Festival. The goal was and continues to be to champion women and diverse voices in the film industry. So, they encourage filmmakers to share their uniquely diverse stories and show the world that there is more to films than your typical white male lead in action. There are all sorts of characters who deserve to have a place on the screen for audiences to see and relate to.
Besides being a Geena Davis fan, I am very interested in media representation. I believe every voice deserves to be heard, and everyone deserves a place on the big screen. I grew up wanting to see other queer Latinas who would make me feel like I mattered. Why did the screen always have to be filled with stereotypes? We are more than what society believes us to be. So, when I found out about the festival, I knew I had to be there one day.
I was lucky enough to attend this year, and I am so glad I purposely made it to Arkansas. I have been surrounded by people like me. People who are interested in filmmaking and portraying characters who are relatable for everyone. People who grew up queer, foreign, and outcasts. People who want to make the world a more accepting, equal, and loving place. All the movies I have had the pleasure of watching represent people with problems we can all understand. Women whose families force them to find a husband. Teenage girls coming to terms with who they are and what life has to offer. Families who are atypical but feel like home to everyone who watches.
Seeing diversity on the screen allows us to feel seen and understand we deserve the space we occupy in this society. At times, the industry forgets there are all sorts of people with different backgrounds, cultures, and capabilities. Even though we may not be seen, we are always there. For us to see our reality reflected on screen is a significant step in the right direction. A direction that will take us to a much better future, and that is why we need to remember the importance of diverse film festivals.