By Special Contributor Rachael Fisher

‘Women in Film,’ shorts about and directed by women, was a highlight category of 2020 HollyShorts Film Festival. Premiering on November 10, each story did not only feature recognized talent, but delved into the challenges faced by women of all ages.

The featured films in the running by preview order are:

  • BFFs directed by Elia Urquiza
  • The Birth Of Valerie Venus directed by Sarah Clift
  • Second Team directed by Ria Pavia
  • Swim to Steven directed by Amy French
  • FREEZE directed by Maya Albanese
  • Virago directed by Kerli Kirch Schneider
  • Lip Service directed by Emily Tremaine
  • Phone Stack directed by Cami Delavigne
  • Sky West & Crooked directed by Heather Edwards

Director Urquiza’s BFFs was a powerful short reflecting on the story of friendship between two girls and the struggles a teen mom faces caring for her child. Through car breakdowns, the college party life, hotel stays and a long car-ride journey taking Luz to UCLA for her first semester, these girls attempt to juggle it all. Paloma brings along her eight-month old child. Pushing to keep afloat, the clever shorter shots of Paloma waking up early to feed her child, to her fear of losing him, provides a mere glimpse of the responsibilities a young mom faces and sacrifices for her child.


FREEZE, a dark and twisted horror, toys with audience members’ minds diving into the fears of the age of 30s “baby fever.” The parents plead and prod for their baby girl to settle down, find a nice man, and get them some grandchildren, and fast! It is a priority to make sure the eggs are still fertile. The constant clock ticking back and forth between unsequenced time jumps was a clear creative technique. This put the audience directly into the lens of a lost woman trying to find her partner and someone to put her fresh eggs to good use before they ‘spoil.’ Nora Zehenter (NatGeo’s The Right Stuff) as the lead Joy, is outstanding as Zehenter truly embraces every aspect of the character. She tampers with trying to hold in the building psychological breakdown happening all within her mind just about to burst. This short features other talent such as Adrian Grenier (Entourage) and Mindy Sterling (The Goldbergs, Disney’s Ant Farm). With performances such as these and director Albanese’s vision, this horror haunts all that comes with the pressure of a woman’s fertility.


Virago was another stand out, revealing a story based on true events about a town in southern Estonia. Virago was just the same as the other villages until the men started to die off. This short executed the illusion of magical and theological realism exposing the hidden dark features through the beautiful landscapes, elaborate portrayals of death, and the emotional trauma many of the women faced when their husbands were taken by the grim reaper’s shadows of death. Fighting to not only survive, but take over the heavy duties of the men, this story follows Olga and her perseverance to protect her husband Tõnu who has lived longer than any other male. The grief that actress Tiina Tauraite holds in her character’s physicality and her cold expressions expose Olga’s broken heart just waiting to happen.


Sky West & Crooked begins to set up a sequence about a young quirky girl sitting alone on a bus full of bullies. However, the bullies are only a problem on the surface for little Annie. While on a school field trip to the bowling alley, Annie catches the eye of her father who has been out of her life for years, after he supposedly left for a ‘business trip.’ Director and writer Heather Edwards tackles the home life and family issues of trust when consequences arise with the fear of losing a father yet again. Edwards utilizes bowling as such a strong motif to tackle the bigger dilemma happening in Annie’s life that it is even difficult for a girl as young as her to try and understand. Annie pleads with her father for answers asking him to ‘not go anywhere.’ This is the way only a young, hurting daughter can try to make him stay. He teaches Annie how to bowl, patiently wait for the ball that will ‘always return,’ and shows her how to stick up for herself against the bullies. He gives Annie everything a daughter needs from her dad in that short moment, until broken and searching, her father ultimately decides what to put first.

Sky West & Crooked

There were only a few of the many peaks of these films that left the audience in the depths of their feelings and imaginations. With more exciting genres to come, the “Women in Film” sequence represented only a snippet of another category filled with films to inspire.