Challenging the male-dominated industry of filmmaking: Films by women, about women, for all! 

By Erin Pedersen

The 9th
Women’s Voices Now Film Festival is officially underway, specializing in documentary films by women, about women, for all. Since 2011, Women’s Voices Now (WVN) has awarded $118k in cash prizes, received 965+ film submissions from 85+ countries, and reached audiences in 178 countries.

The festival promotes emerging women filmmakers using social-change films to advocate for women’s and girls’ rights worldwide. The festival offers a platform for women filmmakers to tell essential authentic stories with the opportunity to win cash prizes and network with industry professionals and each other.

One in every 11 film directors is a woman and only 5.6% of directors over past 16 years have been women in which 1,488 films have been created (Smith, Pieper, Wheeler 2023). This year the Oscars will be hosting their 94th annual Academy Award ceremony. It took 82 years for the first woman to win the director category in 2008, 11 more years for the second woman to win, and just one more for the third in 2022. But this year’s list of director nominees is all male, stalling progress for women directors in the film industry.

Festivals such as the WVN Film Festival provide women with the opportunity to showcase their work in a community created to amplify women’s voices worldwide. Knowing women filmmakers face additional hurdles while securing funds to produce films, Women’s Voices Now awards cash prizes to festival winners to acknowledge the tremendous resources that are invested in filmmaking by women, without any guarantee of financial support when these projects get underway.

2023 Festival Line-Up.

Industry Networking Session
Thursday, March 9th at Noon PST

  • Selected filmmakers
  • Industry experts, representing financing, story development, production, and acquisition online
  • 1.5 hours
  • Equip our selected filmmakers with knowledge of specific areas of interest and foster connection to industry professionals

Meet the Filmmakers + Jury
Thursday, March 16th at Noon PST

  • Selected filmmakers and Jury Members
  • Foster connections among our filmmaking community
  • Create space for network and resource sharing among our community
  • Launch our ongoing digital filmmakers group space
  • Invite filmmakers to private Facebook group

Live Virtual Awards Ceremony
Thursday, March 23rd at Noon PST

  • Online, live stream
  • Keynote speaker
  • Women Making Waves Award Recipient
  • Presentation of Festival awards

Celebrate Women Filmmakers by attending the 2023 WVN Film Festival, get your tickets today! 

Meet last year’s WVN Film Festival grand prize winner, María Lobo.

The 2022 WVN Film Festival grand prize winner, María Lobo, spoke about the festival’s impact on her film, Indebted to All Women. “The recognition and cash prize will allow us [María Lobo and Roi Guitián] to keep working in advocacy and will allow us to keep working for human rights, especially women’s rights.”

Indebted to All Women (2019), directed by María Lobo and Roi Guitián, gives voice to women in El Salvador who have been sentenced 20-40 years in prison for abortions. In May 2022, Jacqueline, one of the two women speaking from prison in the film was released. She signed adoption papers for her daughter, who survived birth, and met her after the 10 years Jacqueline was in prison.

Learn more and watch the film here.

María Lobo and Roi Guitián created Indebted to All Women because they “identified the need for a communication tool to tell the world what is happening with sexual and reproductive rights of women and children.” (María Lobo)

Indebted to All Women and other prize-winning documentaries of the Women’s Voices Now Film Festival can be viewed on the Voices for Change, free online film collection.

Additional short films from the collection about women’s reproductive rights, including women’s right to abortion are featured in a selection called The War and Worship on Women’s Bodies. This is a three-part cinematic journey curated for people to work through the emotions and feelings surrounding women’s anatomy.

“Women and girls are misrepresented in filmmaking, so when we found a space like this one [Women’s Voices Now Film Festival] with work made by women and talking about women as a main role, we feel honored to be a part of it.” (María Lobo)

About the Author:
Erin Pedersen is a filmmaker, photographer, and journalist currently working as a Production Coordinator for Hammer Creative. She is also the film festival assistant for the 9th edition of the Women’s Voices Now Film Festival. Erin produces films around the world that advocate for women’s rights, education, and progression while her photography focuses on the personal challenges she has faced as a woman. Erin’s passion for creating art that promotes positive social change is the driving force behind each of her projects.


Festival Sponsors.

2024 Girls Voices Now Summer Media Training Program applications are now open