10 Brilliant Films by Women Now Free to Stream on The Pendance Library

While Hollywood still has a gender disparity problem with women behind the camera, film festivals have usually been marginally better at celebrating female voices. These are some of those voices. Whether it’s Goya-winner Carlota Pereda, Sundance-favourite Eliza Hittman, or a filmmaker you’ve never heard of, this list features some of the best female directors working in the world today. And now you can stream 10 of their films, totally free through the Pendance Library.


Piggy | Carlota Pereda | Spain

Winner of the Best Short Film Jury Award at Pendance 2019, and the recipient of the Goya Award for Best Short film in 2019, Piggy follows an overweight teen, Sara, as she’s bullied by 3 classmates. One part horror, one part social commentary, all parts great cinema, ‘Piggy’ packs a lot of punch into its 15 minute runtime.

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Emma | Clara Lezama | Uruguay

Winner of the Best Short Film Prize at Pendance 2017, Emma is a Lynchian nightmare in which a young woman must battle forces beyond her control to stay safe from a series of men at a strange hotel. ‘Emma’ uses sharp cinematography and set design to paint a story far larger than its paltry $2000 budget.

Aria | Myrsini Aristidou | Cyprus/France

Myrsini Aristidou’s ‘Aria’ was a hit at Sundance and Venice before rocking audiences at Pendance in 2019 as part of the Deep Impact Shorts Showcase. On the surface, the story is ridiculously simple. A girl named Aria wishes for her dad to give her driving lessons. Instead, he pawns off a Chinese migrant seeking fake papers for her to look after. Aria isn’t a surface film. There are layers to this story that are captured through the lens choices, frantic movement, brilliant editing and compelling performances from all 3 principal actors.

Forever’s Gonna Start Tonight | Eliza Hittman | United States of America

‘Beach Rats’ director Eliza Hittman has gone on to become one of the most prominent female directors in the world. With multiple features sweeping the ranks at Sundance, it’s hard to remember that one of our first introductions to Hittman was in this humanistic short film about a girl going out for a night on the town with her friends, and encountering a strange and ultimately relatable situation.

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Maja | Marijana Jankovic | Serbia

This Tribeca 2019 selection follows a Serbian girl struggling to assimilate in her new Dutch school, battling the constant language barrier and the general awkwardness of being 6-years-old. How does she deal with her isolation from her classmates? She cleans. She cleans the table, mirror, and floors. And no one, including her teachers, can understand why.

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Now Streaming on The Pendance Library



Brotherhood | Meryam Joobeur | Canada

When his son returns from an extended absence abroad with a new wife, a father becomes increasingly paranoid that his son has become radicalized by Islamic terrorists in Syria. An Oscar-nominated Canadian film, and arguably one of the three best Canadian short films of the last decade, ‘Brotherhood’ is a double entendre, and a massive showcase of filmmaking superpowers for Meryam Joobeur.

Ambi | Marija Apcevska | Macedonia

This deeply humanistic Hollyshorts and Tallgrass Film Festival selection screened at Pendance 2019. It’s a slow-burning story about Sara and her older brother Deno, and the hellish existence they lead taking care of their alcoholic father. Simplicity lies in the smallest of things, and it’s obvious that whatever they lack in parental guidance, Deno and Sara make up for in the bond they share with one another.

Space Girls | Carys Watford | United Kingdom

Originally made as part of the NASA short film challenge, ‘Space Girls’ went on to have a brilliant run on the festival circuit, playing at almost every festival in the continental United States before being picked up by online streaming giant Dust. The appeal is every bit as simple as the story itself. 4 little girls planning a secret mission to outer space. It’s a tightly edited, touching short about childhood dreams, brought to life by an adult who managed to retain all of her childhood wonder.

Under Darkness | Caroline Friend | United States of America

Under Darkness is based on the true story of a Jewish woman who became a photographer to document the horrific atrocities of the Nazi movement and subsequent occupation. Joining with the Soviet resistance, she finds a way to document the present while speaking to future generations. That old statement rings true. Those who don’t remember the past are doomed to repeat it.

Catastrophe | Jamille van Wijngaarden | The Netherlands

Catastrophe is the shortest film in Pendance history. But if you ask the people who watched it 3 years ago, they still remember it. All 2 minutes of it. There’s a reason cats and birds should never be friends.



4 Tips for Programming Better Film Festivals

When we launched Pendance in 2017, we had one thing going for us—great mentors. As filmmakers ourselves, we’d had so many opportunities to talk to and connect with programmers at film festivals we respected in order to understand the day-to-day grind of putting on a great festival.

And while there’s so much that we’re still learning in our fourth year about the larger elements of festival productions—press, film market, publicity, distributors, etc, we think we know a thing or two about programming great films.


We see programming holistically as a 4-stage-process; getting submissions, watching submissions, choosing submissions, and finally putting those submissions together in a carefully curated program which maximizes the potential impact and reach of each film. For the sake of keeping this brief, we’ll hone in on one critical stage which we’ve always felt is the most overlooked—watching submissions.

It is becoming increasingly rare that a festival director or programmer watches every film submission. At Pendance, we had over 257 hours worth of submissions last year and it took 4 programmers months of dedicated viewing to get through them twice. We can only imagine how many hours of films larger festivals like TIFF or Sundance receive. It’s not realistic to expect head programmers to watch every film. But whoever is watching these films has a great deal of responsibility.

Whether they’re recent film school graduates or outright random volunteers, here are four things that will help provide more accurate reviewing, and subsequently, better programming. Naturally, anyone being tasked with screening films should have at least an intermediate understanding of film and film theory. Let’s just pretend that one’s a given.

How you Watch

Watch early, watch consistently, watch by genre, and always give a 5 minute break between films. There’s so much psychological research to back this up from studying how people grade tests in college. You’re not you when you’re hungry. You’re also not you when you’ve just had a fight with your partner, are sleep-deprived, or after a long flight. It’s not enough to just watch the films. You have to watch them in the right state of mind.

You’re a part of this film. What happened that day, or five minutes before you sat down impacts how you see the film. The third toxic masculinity film is going to rate differently than the first. So whenever possible, clear your mind and meditate for five minutes before viewing. If you find yourself emotionally impacted, give a longer break before viewing the next submission.

Till the End

Sometimes, it’s obvious that a film is bad. Like really bad. Sound’s off, color’s off, performances are bad. We’ve all seen these. Still, watch it to completion. Because frankly, you don’t have an accurate read two minutes in. And we can prove it.

In 2019, we asked screeners to rate the first 2 minutes of films, and then asked them to rate the full films on a separate viewing. The average deviation between the two scores was 1.3 grade points out of 10. Being 13% inaccurate is probably a bad solution long-term. In fact, one film dropped from a 7.6 to a 3.4, and another rose from 4.5 to 7.9. If it’s a 16 minute film, it’s likely 16 minutes for a reason.

Address Your Biases

Who you are, your experiences, shape what you see on the screen. Whenever possible, try to pick diverse programming teams and pair programmers and screeners from opposite ends. You can address for gender, socio-economic background, cultural backgrounds, political leanings, and even age.

Can 4 22-year-old Caucasian cis men from Vancouver, who attended the same film school, all voted Liberal, and grew up in the same neighbourhood program a great film festival? Yes.

Will they? Likely not.

Keep an Open Mind

Film is subjective. There’s a way to do things, and then someone changes the way to do things and the way we do things becomes the way we used to do things. So dare to imagine. You’re holding people’s work and if you’re programming at a bigger festival, you may even hold the keys to a big career boost. Don’t waste it by picking the same types of films by the same people over and over because it’s safe.

Following these four tips is not going to help you program a lineup of films that rivals Sundance or Berlinale. But that should never be the goal anyway.

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