California Women’s Film Festival


January 2019 selections and Winners

Official Selections

About Bintou

Dir. Dezhou Li

Sunday  1/13/2019 Block 2

About Bintou is a short documentary about an African female Muslim student’s life in Guangzhou, China.

Actress Unseen

Dir. Jennica Schwartzman

Sunday  1/13/2019 Block 1

After the call is over, an actress continues to get ready for an audition that she suspects she could never book.

Ain’t Comin’ Back

Dir. Alissa Davis

Friday  1/11/2019 Block 2

In 1890, two women are dumped in the desert. They know a rescue isn't coming if they wait. They know they'll die in the wasteland if they move.


Dir. Mayumi Yoshida

Saturday  1/12/2019 Block 3

When her grandmother passes, Kana returns to Japan only to find her modern ways clash traditional values of her homeland.


Dir. Alya Michelson

Sunday  1/13/2019 Block 1

Official music video for single 'Animals' by LA-based independent artist ALYA

Apple Gargen

Dir. Irina Asonova

Friday  1/11/2019 Block 2

Not so long ago there have been two kids playing with toy guns. Children's games are turning into a harsh reality and now two young friends find themselves amidst the war, playing different kind of game and it cannot be ended so easily.

Back To The Wall

Dir. Brian Drillinger

Friday  1/11/2019 Block 1

In today's world, trying to move from place to place has become a battle to prove one's integrity. To find your place in this world is an even greater struggle. But it can also appear in an instant, as a magical gift of fate - As Mali struggles to flee her homeland and the abusive men in her life, she fights to be accepted into the land of the free, and serendipitously discovers the feelings she thought she'd never share.


Dir. AJ Berna

Saturday  1/12/2019 Block 2

When Erin’s best friend dies, she is heart broken. Rachel was the spirit of the group… but now Rachel's just a spirit with some unfinished business: taking her boyfriend’s virginity.

Danni & May

Dir. Julianne Dowler

Sunday  1/13/2019 Block 2

In this short drama, a daughter struggling to support her invalid mother finds a secret release from her unbearable burden.

Diary Of Bolanle

Dir. Virginia Blatter

Sunday  1/13/2019 Block 2

A Young Nigerian lady travels Abroad to study, experiences cultural shock within 24hrs.

Don’t Go!

Dir. Bader Al Shuaib & Mohit Panday

Friday  1/11/2019 Block 1

A young teenager, Anna, is willing to do anything to make her boyfriend, Nathan, stay and not to leave her and head off to a college in a different state.


Dir. Victoria Anne Greenwood

Friday  1/11/2019 Block 3

A feminist forward satire on millennial hookups.

English Lessons

Dir. Yimin Gu

Friday  1/11/2019 Block 2

An American woman haunted by the past has to overcome her trauma to save her 8-year-old Chinese student from the student's abusive father.

For The Love Of Hate

Dir. Djamel Bennecib

Friday  1/11/2019 Block 1

When an engaged, Muslim girl falls in love with a Christian girl, she then has to keep her secret at the risk of suffering the wrath of both families.

Friendly Neighborhood Coven

Dir. Michelle Bossy

Saturday  1/12/2019 Block 2

When a struggling single mother finds out her 15-year-old daughter is pregnant, she turns to help from an unlikely source - her long estranged friend's thoroughly modern coven.


Dir. Laurie Magers

Friday  1/11/2019 Block 2

A woman attends a grief group meeting to mourn the death of her husband and two sons. We learn however, that she attends in secret and disguise, and that her family is actually alive and well.

Hanna’s Homecoming

Dir. Esther Bialas

Sunday  1/13/2019 Block 3

Hanna only dreams of one thing: to be a normal teenager. But with the mysterious disappearance of her mother in the bog ten years ago and the new strange girl in the village things become wilder and more dangerous every day.


Dir. Gene Du Plessis

Sunday  1/13/2019 Block 2

A young imprisoned woman subjugated to unspeakable cruelty discovers the chilling truth that humanity is at the root of her suffering- and perhaps her salvation.


Dir. Lisa Ann Mayo

Saturday  1/12/2019 Block 1

When a mentally unstable man decides to stop taking antipsychotic medication his newlywed neighbors become the target of his fixation.

I’m Just Here

Dir. Lara Aslanian

Saturday  1/12/2019 Block 1

A suicide helpline operator finds herself in a personal crisis over a pivotal phone call from a young queer woman.

Inside This Peace

Dir. Linh Nga

Sunday  1/13/2019 Block 1

A film for my friend, a forgotten victim of Agent Orange in Vietnam after the war, living in darkness and no one cares about. Thoa and her younger brother are both victims of Agent Orange dioxin. Thoa got a scary skin with huge black patches, numerous lumps, and sprickly hair all over her body. The lumps are filled with fluid and can't drain. Her younger brother had a serious heart disease and passed away at the age of 7. For decades, Thoa's parents are seeking mercy from government and still fighting for benefits 3 decades after the war. 

Jesse’s Girl

Dir. M. Keegan Uhl

Saturday  1/12/2019 Block 2

All her life, Ashley has done what is expected of her. Marrying her high school sweetheart should be no different, but she has a nagging feeling that it's not right. At her picture-perfect bridal shower, her doubts come to a head and she attempts to call it off. Her situation is unexpectedly complicated when her fiancee shows up unannounced and everything quickly spirals out of control.


Dir. Dilara Senbilgin

Sunday  1/13/2019 Block 1

When an austere teacher gives her pregnant student advice about her future, she doesn't realize how close to home the consequences will be.


Dir. Sam Puefua

Friday  1/11/2019 Block 1

After being left for dead at the hands of her brother, a rogue assassin goes after his most trusted employee, 'The Gatekeeper', to stake information and leave his empire in ruins. Unbeknownst to our heroine, a third player joins the game and another enemy is added to her growing list.

ME 3.769

Dir. Elaine Del Valle

Saturday  1/12/2019 Block 1

A Pubescent Latina looks forward to her maturing body, but must soon cope with the sexual misconduct of someone she trusts. 

This project was supported by a grant from Sundance Institute with additional support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Morning Star

Dir. Arabella Anderson

Sunday  1/13/2019 Block 1

Cleo and Sadie have made a friendship pact to defy this boring world and existence. But can you really be best friends... forever? This short film is a meditation on satanic feminists, choice, and female expectations in a patriarchal society.


Dir. Aurora Ferlin

Saturday  1/12/2019 Block 1

When the teenage son of Denise Matthews is murdered, she struggles not to surrender to her grief. Despite her husbands’ concerns, Denise is determined to confront the accused killer in court. The morning of the arraignment she finds support in a chance encounter with an unlikely stranger.

Mr. Right Now

Dir. Carl Bartels

Friday  1/11/2019 Block 3

Of course a woman can get sex anytime she wants, right? Right?! Not Amy!

My Weird Asian Mother

Dir. Ann Truong

Friday  1/11/2019 Block 2

A newly engaged woman, Avery, reflects back on a quirky childhood in East Texas when her quirky Vietnamese mother comes to town unannounced.

Not Much Time

Dir. Neil Watson

Saturday  1/12/2019 Block 1

Two men at a crossroads in their life, meet on a desert road and end up helping each other in an unexpected way.


Dir. Ella May Sahlman

Sunday  1/13/2019 Block 2

"Occupied" is a short film that chronicles the various awkward and uncomfortable situations that can occur in a gender neutral bathroom over the course of a night. The scene is set during a punk-rock concert in Brooklyn, NY. As the night progresses, different people enter and exit the bathroom. We are introduced to a diverse group of characters in all walks of life and how they function in a bathroom occupied by both men, women, trans and non-binary people. There are definitely a lot of true, difficult issues that present themselves within this small space, but the film is layered with a comedic tone that keeps the excitement high...Well what do you think happens when all kinds of people come together in a completely vulnerable place? Do they act differently because of the other people involved or do they treat it as if it were any other restroom? You will have to wait and find out!

Orange Blossoms

Dir. Danica Dodds & Devin Schiro

Sunday  1/13/2019 Block 2

Emily suffers in a toxic relationship but things begin to change when a mysterious woman suddenly appears in her life.


Dir. Suzette Troche Stapp

Sunday  1/13/2019 Block 1

Trailer parks, evil cats, and a newfangled crime-fighting superhero, Planeman who solemnly vows to defend all modes of transportation under his mighty wing. Remember wearing a seat belt and eating your vegetables is important kids, but not as important as defending all things vehicular.

Pretty Pretty Prison

Dir. Amanda Spencer

Saturday  1/12/2019 Block 3

In preparation for her daughter's 10th birthday, an Orange County housewife confronts her own dreams and disappointments (and discovers that she's not alone) in a mini-musical set in suburban purgatory.

Puppet Strings

Dir. Ian Hotchkiss & Chris Lowe

Friday  1/11/2019 Block 1

Official music video for single 'Puppet Strings' by ALYA

Ready To Go

Dir. Lynda Reiss

Friday  1/11/2019 Block 1

Lance Mitchell is taking his cat to be put down. As he and Missy make their weary way to the vet, Lance is keen to work over the thoughts he has on the subject. Cornering an old woman on the bus, Lance relates a story he's read about a man who, fearing knowledge of impending death, has planned to kill himself impulsively by stashing a handgun in his kitchen cupboard. But you shouldn't believe everything you read in the paper. Having successfully had Missy put to sleep, Lance returns home, makes a cup of tea. A handgun lays next to his ginger snaps.


Dir. Laia Gil

Sunday  1/13/2019 Block 3

Megan is unable to feel the everything associated with the red color. One day, however, she discovers how. From that moment, she won’t be able to stop the thirst she has awaken.


Dir. Ryan Graff

Friday  1/11/2019 Block 3

A series of unfortunate encounters baffle, confuse, tempt, and harm Aidan by turns. The worst part is the ambiguity of fault. Out of it all, Aidan is left to build relationships based on self-preservation and fear.

Scar Tissue

Dir. JoAnne McGrath

Sunday  1/13/2019 Block 2

Scar Tissue is the story of Larissa and Alec, friends from work, who are checking out Alec's new apartment after happy hour one day. During a tit for tat comparison of childhood scars, Larissa shows Alec a scar below her waistband. He misinterprets it as an act of seduction. Larissa finds herself in a position all too many women have. Did she lead him on? Is this her fault? Is this one more scar she will have to live with? When one thing leads to another, sometimes it leaves a mark.

Second Acts

Dir. Anya Adams

Saturday  1/12/2019 Block 3

In spite of prejudices impressed on them growing up, Lee (70s, Caucasian) and Ben (70s, African American) strike up a charming love affair over the course of an evening to discover that love conquers all.

Sin Fronteras

Dir. Ricardo Perez-Selsky

Friday  1/11/2019 Block 2

A Mexican woman risks her life to save her son's, by forcing a white American woman to drive them across the border.


Dir. Austin Lauer

Saturday  1/12/2019 Block 2

A woman caught in an abusive marriage and a secret affair risks it all to free herself.


Dir. Sara Newton

Sunday  1/13/2019 Block 2

A bankrupt divorcee starts a senior dating business with her housemates, an Asian transgender and a Latina psychic chiropractor.

The Dinner Guest

Dir. Dale Griffiths Stamos

Saturday  1/12/2019 Block 3

Valerie Lambert arrives at the home of her boss's wife for dinner. But does the wife know her secret? And if so, why has she been invited there? As the evening progresses and tensions rise, the answer reveals itself.

The Gate

Dir. Kellie Madison

Friday  1/11/2019 Block 3

Superhero and master of Pencak Silat, Cassie Weston, uses her abilities to fight her arch rival and save her sister's soul.

The Way Things End

Dir. Anna Fredrikke Bjerke

Friday  1/11/2019 Block 3

Told from the perspective of Sofia, a queer woman discovering and asserting who she is as a young adult, THE WAY THINGS END is a poetic short film about two friends who are coming to terms with the painful truth that a shift in perspective can sometimes end a friendship. We hear Sofia's emotional response to the friendship breakup, as she reflects on the conflict that has come between her and Isabel, her former ride-or-die; this internal voice is filled with sadness, guilt and confusion. Gradually Sofia begins to remember parts of the friendship that were good and honest, as she finds a new perspective; forgiveness.


Dir. Karis Campbell

Sunday  1/13/2019 Block 1

How will we think of tomorrow, when it becomes yesterday?


Dir. Kathryn Elise Drexler

Friday  1/11/2019 Block 3

Austin is 'different.' On the cusp of his fourteenth birthday, he and his family might begin to understand why.


Dir. Nicole “Soul” Creary

Saturday  1/12/2019 Block 3

A compelling story about a School Social Worker and a School Community, coming together to save a student in an extremely abusive situation.


Dir. Courtney Lloyd

Saturday  1/12/2019 Block 2

Maya is struggling with a secret. Will it destroy her and her relationship or bring her closer to the one she loves?

Veins Of LIfe

Dir. Muslima Gulyamova

Saturday  1/12/2019 Block 1

'Veins of Life' is a poetic adaptation of a passage from Hermann Hesse’s Bäume: Betrachtungen und Gedichte (Trees: Reflections and Poems) that celebrates life and nature. At the center of the story is Sayuri, who yearns to reconnect with her inner self and that brings her back to the forest of her childhood memories and dreams. 


Dir. Rachel Econ

Friday  1/11/2019 Block 2

Set in the turn of the century west, a retired gunslinger learns treachery runs thicker than blood when she finds her husband murdered. Her brother-in-law mysteriously arrives after her husband's death, taking Sara down the rabbit hole of greed and betrayal as she tries to get justice for the man she loved.


Dir. Ace Thor

Friday  1/11/2019 Block 3

A tormented young woman haunted by a recurring dream is catapulted into a peculiar and deviant world where she is confronted by the duality of her existence.


Dir. Raquel Choy

Friday  1/11/2019 Block 1

Do you dare to immerse yourself in the mind of a psychopath? What if you like what you see…?


Dir. Jody Margolin Hahn

Saturday  1/12/2019 Block 1

A young woman uncovers a repressed memory over the course of a doctor's visit in a film that examines the nuanced grey area of consent.

Audience Award Winners

(Audience Winners will be posted by July 16th)

1st Place

For The Love Of Hate Dir. Djamel Bennecib

2nd Place

My Weird Asian Mother Dir. Ann Truong

3rd Place

Herringbone Dir. Gene Du Plessis 

Jury Category Winners

(Category Winners will be presented at the end of the film’s screening block)

Best Feature Film

Hanna’s Homecoming Dir. Esther Bialas

(Presented at the end of Block 3 on Sunday 1/13/2019)

Best Short Film

Widow Dir. Rachel Econ

(Presented at the end of Block 2 on Friday 1/11/2019)

Best Feature Documentary

Inside This Peace Dir. Linh Nga

(Presented at the end of Block 1 on Sunday 1/13/2019)

Best Short Documentary

About Bintou Dir. Dezhou Li

(Presented at the end of Block 2 on Sunday 1/13/2019)

Best Student Film

Treasure Dir. Kathryn Elise Drexler

(Presented at the end of Block 3 on Friday 1/11/2019)

Best Foreign Film

Akashi Dir. Mayumi Yoshida

(Presented at the end of Block 3 on Saturday 1/12/2019)

Best Animation

Planeman Dir. Suzette Troche Stapp

(Presented at the end of Block 1 on Sunday 1/13/2019)

Best Music Video

Animals Dir. Ayla Michelson

(Presented at the end of Block 1 on Sunday 1/13/2019)

Best Experimental Film

Veins Of Life Dir. Muslima Gulyamova

(Presented at the end of Block 1 on Saturday 1/12/2019)

Best Feature Script

Flying Bird’s Diary by Melissa Tantaquidgeon

(Presented at the end of Block 3 on Friday 7/13/2018)

Best Short Script

The Chocolate Kandisky by Suzanne Griffin

(Presented at the end of Block 3 on Friday 7/13/2018)


Feature Script Finalist

American Spy by Michael Dunker

Boundary Waters by Joann Buckley & Eric Olson

Death Whispers by John Martins III

Kayla by Kate Bohan

Skyfoxes by Marisa Forrest

Something Old Something New by Christina Babinsack

The Night Witches by Steven Prowse

Short Script Finalist

Don’t Write Me Off by Yuqing Chi

Exit Zero by Page Cooper Anderson

Eyeline by Colleen Durkin

Star Of David by Sydney Deeter

Starting Over by Carlos Perez

Jury Creative Winners

Best Director

Esther Bialas - Hanna’s Homecoming

Best Actress

Valerie Stoll - Hanna’s Homecoming

Best Supporting Actress

Milena Tscharntke - Hanna’s Homecoming

Best Actor

Jordan Jones - Widow