The 10 best female-focused film festivals
It’s been true for a long time and it’s still true today – there are radically fewer women than men in filmmaking. According to the Center for the Study of Women in Television & Film, women comprised only 18% of all directors, writers, producers, cinematographers, and editors working on the top 250 domestic grossing films of 2017.
Perhaps more surprising is how the study, tracking women’s employment in movies since 1998, shows little has changed in those numbers for the past 20 years (e.g. Lion King Movie) – which is exactly why female-focused film festivals remain so important.
According to getpsychology.com, only 47% of the tickets sold last year were for women. At the same time, women make up 51% of the population, the same number of them among the active movie-going audience. Not only that, but the issue of gender equality has prompted the American industry to present more and more female characters.
There are countless female filmmakers across the world who deserve to have their work seen, but aren’t being given ample opportunity to do so. The very best female-focused film festivals not only provide those opportunities, they offer tools to encourage potential employment within the industry.
Whether offerings of financial assistance, screening opportunities, streaming distribution, lectures, workshops, business schemes, or developmental programs, these festivals support female talent as well as celebrating their work.
Though there are numerous terrific female-focused film festivals, these are easily ten of the most diverse and interesting.
1. St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival (Newfoundland / Canada)
One of the longest running female-focused film festivals in the world, the SJIWFF has been supporting and promoting female filmmakers since 1989. Featuring a year-long program of short and feature film screenings, workshops, and outreach events, the SJIWWF culminates in a five-day film festival attracting over 4500 participants and over 400 annual submissions.
2. Female Eye Film Festival (Canada)
Featuring the tagline “Always honest, not always pretty”, the FeFF features an eclectic annual program of films, script readings, book signings, and industry initiative panels for independent female filmmakers. The festival screens a diverse selection of shorts and features across a variety of genres, accepts film submissions, and also runs a script development program open to both men & women.
3. Reel Sisters of the Diaspora (U.S.)
Founded by African Voices magazine and Long Island University, this Brooklyn-based festival is devoted to supporting films produced, directed, and written by women of color. Since 1997, Reel Sisters has showcased over 500 films by women of African, Caribbean, Latino, Asian, Indian, and Native American descent. On top of film screenings, the festival also provides resources and scholarships to emerging female filmmakers, alongside a phenomenal program of panels & workshops.
4. Broad Humor (U.S.)
Established in 2006, this niche film festival is dedicated to comedic movies written and directed by women. As well as screening feature films during the four-day Los Angeles-based event, the festival also features competitions for short films and screenplays, with submissions making up 95% of the programming.
5. FutureFemmeFest (UK)
Self-described as “a film festival, screenwriting competition, music festival, meetup group, streaming platform, educator, and innovator”, FutureFemmeFest is relatively new but nonetheless powerful.
Accepting submissions from “anyone who identifies as a FutureFemme – woman, man, gender-fluid, trans, whatever”, the festival showcases successful entries at live events across the UK and also runs a screenwriting prize. Perhaps even more exciting is their upcoming streaming platform which promises to “champion FutureFemme filmmakers”.
6. LunaFest (U.S.)
The first all-female travelling film festival, LunaFest was started in 2000 to “amplify the voices of strong women everywhere”. Today the festival has screenings in 175 cities across the U.S. and Canada, where the submitted work of female filmmakers is proudly showcased.
7. London Lesbian Film Festival (Canada)
With aims to “portray the richness and diversity of lesbian experiences and to strengthen our communities”, this Ontario-based festival is North America’s longest running, and Canada’s only, lesbian film festival. Featuring three days of female-focused LGBT movies, the festival welcomes “anyone who self-identifies as a woman”.
8. Ax Wound Film Festival (U.S.)
Created by Women In Horror month founder Hannah Neurotica, AWFF is a niche genre festival featuring a diverse selection of international horror movies written & directed by women. The annual event showcases a single feature, short films, and a full day of workshops & panels dedicated to empowering and inspiring women in the industry.
9. Birds Eye View (UK)
Built around the bold motto of “agitate, educate, celebrate”, this UK-based festival “advocates and elevates the female perspective in film through ‘action!’ – not just words”. Originally an international film festival between 2002 and 2014, Birds Eye View now concentrates on year-round screenings, special events, and filmmaker training.
10. LA Femme Film Festival (U.S.)
Created in 2006 “when it became apparent that there was a need to enhance women behind the camera”, LA Femme supports emerging and established female filmmakers. The festival showcases “commercially viable” films written, directed, and produced by women, while also providing mentorship, distribution, and financial opportunities for up-and-coming female filmmakers.