The festival gives aspiring female filmmakers a platform to share their work and fight injustice.
By Poonam Patel, Photos courtesy of Girls Impact the World Film Fest
April 14, aspiring filmmakers are coming together at St. Andrew’s Dell Fine Arts Center for the fifth annual Girls Impact the World Film Festival. Presented by Connecther, an organization that invests in women who are impacting their local community, GITW is an international film festival and scholarship program that offers young women a platform to highlight global women’s issues through filmmaking. In only three to six minutes, girls have the chance to showcase their work and wrestle with gritty topics such as violence against women and children, poverty, child marriage and sex trafficking.
“It’s girls from eighth grade through undergraduates in college,” film producer Elizabeth Avellán says. “Some of the films are so heart-wrenching because they’re [showcasing]situations that are hard in the world.”
Avellán, who has been a long-time supporter of the festival as a judge and donor, has seen GITW grow each year. From bringing awareness to global issues to providing funding, Avellán has worked alongside Connecther Founder Lila Igram to market the festival.
“This year, with 42 countries involved, it was awesome to see stuff from Brazil, Peru, Tanzania and South Africa. It was incredible. It’s become a polished gem we have all been working on,” Avellán says. “Lila had a vision very early on that this is what is going to come to fruition, and since, [it]
has become bigger and more polished in many ways. That’s why I’m involved.”
Igram launched GITW in 2012 with Eloise DeJoria and Harvard University students Kerry Hammond and Ara Parikh and moved the festival to Austin after its first year.
“One beautiful film last year by a woman who came back with a second film was about a young woman from my neighborhood that had been trafficked,” Avellán says. “[This was] human trafficking in our area of the world, in neighborhoods where I have friends. This happened in the Austin area.”
Each year, GITW receives more entries than the previous year and the list of countries represented continues to grow. This year, the festival received more than 200 film submissions from as far away as Vietnam.
This year’s festival will include a daytime program with screenings of the 35 finalists and panels with industry insiders. The winning filmmakers receive a prize of $1,000 to $5,000, and a grand total of $27,500 is awarded by the panel of judges. The winning films will also be distributed through various channels via Connecther.
The featured speakers include Avellán, Olympic fencing medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad, women’s health and education pioneer Edna Adan, film producer Effie T. Brown, wellness advocate Nioma Narissa Sadler and founder and CEO of Vida, Umaimah Mendhro.
The festival will end with a red-carpet event featuring the awards ceremony and performances from Morocco-born vocalist Abir and indie-folk band Much 2 Much.
Beyond empowering aspiring filmmakers, Avellán hopes GITW effects real change and inspires people to fight for the causes highlighted each year.
“Part of the beauty for me,” Avellán says, “is to see some projects that we may be able to help directly, and to make a real impact with donations that go directly to these situations.”