The first weekend of May, Catherine (Catee) Delaloye, Founder and Executive Director of Female Voices Rock, hosted her annual film festival that upholds womxn’s voices within the film space. This eclectic festival is the first of many for this year’s film fest season, but this one has to be one of our favorites.

What Is The Female Voices Rock Film Festival?

The sold-out three day event featured blocks of short films from different genres, including horror. From eerie horror shorts to tearjerking love stories the film fest attendees witnessed a wide variety of inspiring and intriguing stories. Many of the films hailed from winners of participants of competitions like the NALIP's Women of Color Incubator sponsored by Netflix and Spike Lee’s Film Production Fund.

Filmmakers, actors, screenwriters, and film lovers gathered at the quaint Williamsburg staple, the Wythe Hotel. And on Sunday everyone headed to the after party at Isla & Co. What a better way to finish up the fest than some bubbly and sliders?

But if you missed this festival, don’t worry, many other film fests are showing these great films later this year. Some of the films will hit streaming services, so you can watch from home. But for now, we’ll give you a recap on what you missed—talking vaginas, rebellious Catholic students, and all.

Here’s our favorite films from the 2023 Female Voices Rock Film Festival:

Her Horror: Our favorite films from the “What Happens After Dark” Film Block

Five Star Review, 13 min

Directed by: Vivien Vitolo

Imagine settling in a cozy Air BnB for a quick work trip, but things turn more sinister. Jenn is greeted by Alex, her five-star-host, and as the film carries on, Jenn realizes things are off. She continues to go about her trip until the end. After all, wouldn’t you trust someone if they had five-star reviews?

With the score and simple set design, we’re taken into a seemingly comfortable home that has secrets. With a small cast and an intriguing storyline, the film’s creator personifies false trust through the voyeuristic host who puts Jenn through some weird situations.  This film also explores the comfort of women and how it is common to trust them more than men—especially as a woman.

Girls Night In, 10 min

Directed by: Alison Roberto

In Girls Night In, screenwriter Landon LaRue uses the dialogue of the two women centered around the killer that comes to attack them in a kitschy way—very Scream-esque. The two women react as always in horror films, answer the phone, scream, then run up the stairs— not out the door. However, once they are tasked with describing the killer to the 911 operator they find that he’s cute. Sounds crazy, right? Well, the drama and flashing colorful lights paint this picture of the hypocrisy of films that don’t pass the Bechdel test.

It’s a simple test to determine whether a film or piece of fiction stereotypes women in a sexist manner. To pass the Bechdel test a work must feature at least two women, who talk to each other about something other than a man. All the two characters do is talk about their boyfriends and then the killer. With all of the sarcasm and fun lighting and FX, this playful horror film was such fun to watch. We can’t wait to see where this film goes next!

The Blue Drum, 16 min

Directed by: Angelita Mendoza

Part of NALIP's Women of Color Incubator sponsored by Netflix, this film displayed a bone chilling story. A woman is mourning her father’s passing while staying in his home. She’s tormented by memories of a mother she never knew as she finds belongings of hers. The woman starts hearing things and seeing that things have moved. She goes to investigate and realizes there’s something in the basement.

Inspired by a Forensic Files episode, this short was creepy, even for a horror fan. (I had nightmares about it that night) The silence and suspense in the film reflected in the theater as well. It was as if everyone was on the edge of their seats waiting to see what the woman would find. After the secrets were revealed, gasps filled the room—we were all in shock. If you like suspense and murder stories, this one is for you.

Who? How? and Where?, 11 min

Directed by: Victoria Garza

This film opens up to a cozy house with women surrounding a table drinking wine and playing a game. They’re playing a peculiar board game where you have to guess who is the killer, what was the murder weapon and where he did it, but when one of them thinks she won the game, the other friends let her know this game (called living as a woman) never ends, and they have been playing it forever, but hoping one day it will be done for good.

We are transported to each “murder scene” in the game; the visuals allow us to see what the women see in their heads. The dialogue was clever, using sarcasm about one of the women physically “losing her virginity.” Objectifying her virginity served as a facet of the commentary on negative stereotypes of women based on sexism, and misogyny. This film was fun to watch while showing the horror that being a woman can be in an androcentric society.

Leaving Yellowstone, 22min

Directed by: Kayla Arend

This film by far was my favorite from the weekend. If you like romance turned sour by murder or you’ve been binging Yellowjackets, like I have, you’ll love this film. Based in Yellowstone National Park, we’re taken to a beautiful snowy forest where we see Tessa (Angela Wong Carbone) and her boyfriend, Mark (Sean Ricciardi), visiting his uncle’s cabin—how cute right?

What starts as a romantic trip in the wilderness turns ugly. Mark changes and his aggression builds as Tessa starts finding disturbing artifacts around his cabin. Writer and Director Kaya Arend shares with the audience afterward that her film was inspired by a true story that happened to her friend in college—people were shocked, to say the least.

Aside from the story itself, the stills from the film are just beautiful. They show so much pain and regret without words. Like the close-up of Tessa smoking a cigarette with blood all over her. Due to the beauty of the film and the amazing actors Leaving Yellowstone won two awards—best actor (Angela Wong Carbone) and Best Cinematography (Shiyu Li). This horror short is definitely one to keep an eye on.

Romance and Drama: Our favorite films from the “Love Is…” Film Block

Anniversary, 15 min
Directed by: Lain Kienzle

Sisterhood and friendship are some of the most important relationships to a woman. We all love our best friends right? Anniversary is about a middle-aged woman and her best friend who race to make her over for the anniversary dinner that she’s sure her husband is surprising her with.

Writer and Director Lain Kienzle wanted to create a story that would transcend the common love story and show the true platonic love of best friends. In the end, there is a beautiful shot of them sitting on a couch sharing bites out of a huge tub of Neapolitan ice cream—they’re laughing. Despite the loneliness they may feel from others, they always have each other. This film won Best Short Film, and it deserves it!

In Sickness & In Health, 10 min
Directed by: Sarah Smick

This film focuses on a married couple struggling to accommodate one another in the lead-up to a high-stakes business lunch. We are taken to a beautiful, expensive-looking beach house. The glass walls and waves crashing in the distance have nothing on their bickering. It seems like the couple is going through it, and it’s simply a slippery slope from there.

In Sickness & In Health was a satirical take on a marriage story. We see how people can be all-consumed by impressing others and that they avoid taking care of the people right before them. From the comedic dialogue to the FX it was a fun watch—but, warning there is some blood.

Hummingbird, 15 min
Directed by: Lindsey E. Gary

Over one disorienting evening, Rosa discovers that her daughter has developed unusual abilities that threaten the harmony of her perfect family, and the world at large. This short hones in on the mother and daughter relationship and how they can feel more connected to each other than to their male counterparts.

The first scene was one of my favorites because we see Rosa’s daughter playing outside in the little fort that she built—how nostalgic. The sun is dripping in through the white sheet and her stuffed animal is perfectly placed on a pillow. She makes the entrance’s secret password… hummingbird, as one flew to the branch above her. This scene sets the tone for the film to be somewhat innocent rather than anxiety-inducing, while there are some strange things that happen to Rosa and her daughter.

Firecracker, 14 min
Directed by: Caroline Guo

Writer and Director Caroline Guo created a queer love story that highlights how traditional family values might contradict one’s true self. On the night of their first anniversary in Beijing, a young Chinese woman is confronted with a life-changing decision. She must decide whether to hide her and her Asian-American girlfriend from her traditional family.

Set in Beijing during Chinese New Year we have intimate shots of the two women in a comfy apartment and outside shots of sparklers or firecrackers. Guo reveals at the festival how Firecracker was actually shot in Los Angeles, yet Chinese New Year is in winter. So while the actors are in sweaters and blankets, it's actually a cool 80 degrees. You can see the passion on screen and behind the scenes.

Counting, 15 min
Directed by: Sarah Young

Writer Tori Ernst and Director Sarah Young saw a hole to fill in coming-of-age (30-somethings) films. We normally see mental health tear relationships apart or isolate people completely. This film explores how mental health issues like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can affect someone’s everyday life, career, and love life.

Em, a budding actress with a bright future ahead, faces an imminent obstacle as her battle with OCD jeopardizes her aspirations. As her acting career gains momentum and a new love interest enters the picture, Em finds herself grappling with increasingly intrusive thoughts that hinder both her professional success and her fulfilling relationship. Fearing rejection, she resolves to conceal her symptoms instead of seeking assistance. With genuine happiness within her grasp, will she find the courage to conquer her fears and seize the opportunities that lie before her?

Resurrection, 22 min
Directed by: Luiza Budejko

Beware everyone, this one is a tearjerker. 10-year-old Magda loses her younger brother. Her father gets immersed in deep despair, while her mother is cold and distant. Magda decides to revive Marcel and already knows how to accomplish this goal.

As awarded Best International Short Film, Budejko takes us into the world of Magda and how she, as a child, goes through grieving death. She tries to help her family and when she can’t she grows angry. While no one could bring her brother back the film shows ways a family can come together in times of struggle.

Womxn’s Voices in Film: Our favorite films from the “Embracing My Voice” Film Block

Americanized, 17 min
Directed by: Erica Eng

Just in time to celebrate Asian-American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we have this phenomenal film. Awarded Best Director, Erica Eng shares a story about belonging. Raised amidst Oakland's vibrant hip-hop scene, Eng grapples with the challenges of embracing her Chinese American heritage. Within her high school basketball team, she remains sidelined, seen merely as "that girl" who never gets a chance to shine. Meanwhile, among her fellow Asian peers, she is labeled as "Americanized." As Eng's sophomore year draws to a close, she embarks on a quest to discover a place of acceptance and belonging, navigating the complex terrain of two worlds that seem reluctant to embrace her.

From the nostalgia of the 2000s cars and music, we are taken right into the scene. The hair and costume design was imperative alongside dialogue to show how Eng has parts of her that are Chinese and American. However, when she’s in each space, she feels left out. This film can be relatable for anyone, who’s felt left out for their race, religion, ethnicity, gender, or sexuality.

Jesus Would Have Loved Punk Rock, 12 min
Directed by: Abbey George

If you’ve got catholic school trauma this one is for you. Veronica and Annie are fed up with the oppressive and corrupt nature of their Catholic high school, determined to make authoritarian teachers answer for their crimes and right the moral compass of the student body.

Writer Charlotte Martin and Director Abbey George say a big F-You to overbearing catholic administrations with this film. George focused on researching women of the Riot Grrl era to inspire every aspect of the film. From Sleater-Kenny to Bikini Kill, Martin absorbed all of that female rage into this film.

Unattached, 3 min
Directed by: Fanny Texier

A young French woman on the precipice of youth and adulthood releases her long hair as a symbol of her femininity.

While this film is only three minutes, it's three minutes of colorful fashion-editorial-inspired shots. Texier was intrigued by her young sister Celia’s decision to shave her head and she came into a new chapter of her life. And yes, this is a true story. Texier decided to film the process of her sister cutting her hair through various outfits, scenes, and hairstyles as more hair gets chopped off. This French short might make you want to chop all your hair off too—in a good way.

Her and I, 12 min
Directed by: Stephanie Marin

Another one of my personal favorites, and of course the moment you’ve all been waiting for—the talking vagina. Her and I is an innovative coming-of-age film that blends elements of feminism and absurdity, born out of frustration with the misrepresentation of women in the media. This groundbreaking project is spearheaded by a diverse team comprising women, LGBTQ+ individuals, and people of color, all committed to sharing an authentic narrative reflective of the female experience.

In this comedic tale, college sophomore Angela finds herself both repulsed and shocked when she discovers that her own vagina can speak! Her, as Angela's personified vagina, becomes a catalyst for Angela to confront the negative influences that have contributed to her toxic sexual encounters. Together, they embark on a journey to foster a healthier relationship with herself while navigating the isolating landscape of college hookups. Their quest ultimately redefines love and emphasizes the importance of breaking boundaries, embracing self-love, and encouraging open discussions about sexuality for young women in their twenties.

Writer, Ana Chevez, opens up about her experience in college inspiring this film, and how she wants young girls to be educated and empowered about sex—not disgusted. She shares that this project was like talking to herself.  And not only is it funny, but the animation and personification of Angela’s vagina are also reminiscent of Lizzie McGuire’s cartoon mini-me. Chevez even mentions that was her inspiration for the story and the humor is inspired by PEN15. This film is one all young girls and women should watch, to have a laugh, and feel seen.

Wannabe, 13 min
Directed by: Josie Andrews

Teetering on the brink of their long-awaited breakthrough, a girl group from the 90s embarks on a relentless pursuit of stardom. However, their dreams take an unexpected turn when a haunting figure from the past resurfaces under the spotlight during a pivotal audition, causing Jada, the group's lead vocalist, to freeze in her tracks. With the unwavering support of Sky, a fellow survivor, and bandmate, Jada summons the courage to confront her assailant, only to be met with a startling revelation—he claims no recollection of the fateful night etched deeply into her memory. Or does he? As Jada finds herself presented with a second chance, she grapples with the decision of whether to seize it. Would you?

This film has colorful 90’s pop costuming and a bar with neon allure, set to be the iconic Viper Room. While this story explores some deeper topics, like sexual abuse, it highlights how women come together to support each other.

Daddy, 20 min
Directed by: Jo Steinhart

In the scorching summer of 1980, a hopeful young woman yearns to make her mark as a pornographic actress. Throughout the season, she engages in intimate encounters with a string of transient men who visit her family's rundown desert motel. However, everything takes a fateful turn on one unforgettable summer night when she becomes unexpectedly confronted with her father's deepest and most unsettling secret.

Writer and Director Jo Steinhart (aka @desertslut) wanted to share the good, bad, and ugly that comes with the porn industry—especially in the 80s. She was drawn to this era as this is when porn tapes were coming out and people could have the porn experience without having to go to a theatre as seen decades before. This film was also one of my top favorites because the outfits and the desert-motel aesthetic are just so cute.

The Female Voices Rock Film Festival’s Award Winners

After the showings concluded, Catee Delaloye and her team announced the winners in various categories.

Best International Short Film:

Resurrection Directed by Luiza Budejko

Best Short Film:

Anniversary Directed by Lain Kienzle

Best Director:

Americanized Directed by Erica Eng

Best Cinematographer:

Leaving Yellowstone Cinematography by Shiyu Li

Best Orginal Score:

Ro & the Stardust, Rolando Gori

Best Lead Actor:

Leaving Yellowstone, Angela Wong

Rebel Award:

Mama Retreat Directed by Eileen Álvarez

Audience Award:

Resurrection Directed by Luiza Budejko

Best Short Script:

Dust by Kareline Castor

Best Pilot:

Northport Nannies by Brittany Worthington

Grand Jury Prize Winner (Screen Play):

About Face by Robin Cloud

The Party Never Ends When You’re in Williamsburg, Brooklyn: Female Voices Rock Afterparty With Isla & Co.

In the spirit of celebrating all of the films and everyone who made the festival possible, we headed down the street to Isla & Co. The modern yet cozy bar was decked out in pink neon lights and colorful boutiques. Everyone from the festival was invited to chat, connect, and clink champagne glasses. We drank some film-inspired drinks and ate appetizers—both were SO good.

While you might’ve missed out on the after-party, you can always hit up this fun cocktail spot for a drink with friends or even brunch.

What’s Next for Female Voices Rock?

Sadly, yes the festival is over, but no worries there is more to come! And to check out the full lineup from the festival check out our article. All of the filmmakers will be either working on distribution, turning their shorts into features, or new projects altogether. These women created significant stories to not only entertain but instill passion in others—and we thank them for that. Hey, female voices rock, don’t they?

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Catherine Delaloye

Wythe Hotel

Kayla Arend

Eileen Alvarez

Kally Compton