ConnectHER Film Festival

Features female empowerment

Megan Gerold, Staffer

Spanning 62 countries with topics ranging from street harassment to saving the bees, the ConnectHER film festival takes the chance to lay groundwork for female filmmakers. The woman-founded organization supports female filmmakers by highlighting critical issues in the media, and giving high school and college students the chance to share their opinions with the help of a film lens. 

The ConnectHER film festival takes place once a year on Nov. 5 at St. Andrew’s Dell Fine Arts Theater in Austin, Texas. The ConnectHER film festival is an organization that was created by Lila Igram to give filmmakers a chance to come together and share self made films that showcase issues not commonly talked about. Filmmakers present their creations in front of a panel of judges, and winners receive a range of scholarships ranging from 1,000 to 5,000 dollars.  The festival is an opportunity for women to have a voice and raise awareness about topics in the form of short films, according to the ConnectHER website. Filmmaker Britney Bautista is a 2021 finalist and is a fan of the way ConnectHER makes a space for women in the film industry.

“It’s challenging to succeed as a woman in the film industry, a lot of the time,” Bautista said. “It’s a good collective where people are just constantly supporting you and believe in you.”

ConnectHER gives filmmakers a chance to hone their skills and present their films in front of judges. These opportunities extend to being able to give disadvantaged people an opportunity to voice their struggles and hardships. 2022 finalist Autumn Rhodes believes that ConnectHER gives women the chance to speak up when they otherwise would not. 

 “They’re getting viewpoints from girls who would never be able to get their points across otherwise,” Rhodes said. “As the film industry is dominated by men, if you look at any film, for the most part, men are a large portion of the film industry, and they do a great job of trying to even the playing field.”

Along with making a space for women in an industry dominated by men, ConnectHER gives filmmakers the opportunity to voice common struggles. Beyond ConnectHER and into the industry, marginalized communities have often not been given proper opportunity in film, according to the Society of Audiovisual Authors. This sentiment is echoed by Austin Film Critic Elizabeth Stoddard, and because of this she makes a point to see and review films made by diminished communities.

“Marginalized filmmakers and performers have been involved since the early days of film,” Stoddard said. “But due to institutional racism, they had a hard time finding funding for their work and/or were limited to stereotypical/racist roles in major studios, and they’re paid much less than their counterparts.” 

ConnectHER seizes these chances to promote these topics. Bautista’s film “Give me a Smile” is about street harassment that may not have changed laws, according to Bautista, but it and other flicks like it still bring buzz to the issues. 

“It’s so important to bring awareness to these things,” Bautista said. “[It’s important to] show that, “hey, this is still going on, we need to do something about this,”” 

All films presented at the festival  highlight serious conversations and are divided up into different types of awards. According to Rhodes, ConnectHER films are a way to communicate important conversations.

“ConnectHER is a great way of getting young filmmakers’ voices across about topics that are beyond important,” Rhodes said. “… they’re getting viewpoints from girls who would never be able to get their points across otherwise.”

ConnectHER is an organization that supplies filmmakers with the chance to give each other feedback and raise each other up. The true impact of ConnectHER is one that also arrives at a personal level.

“It’s just comforting to know that this collective cares so much about women,” Bautista said. “Some women don’t have support from their families, their support from their friends.” 

ConnectHER films are available to watch at The flicks range across all different genres. 

“All the films are amazing,” Rhodes said. “I hope everybody gets a chance to view some of them as the topics are heartbreaking, inspiring, and all sorts of emotions.”