Last year, only 24 percent of directors, writers, producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 250 grossing films were women. Only 33 percent of films featured women protagonists, and 80 percent featured more men characters than women. If you think those statistics are bad, the ones accounting for women of color are worse: 22 percent of major female characters were Black, seven percent were Latina, and less than seven percent were Asian and Asian American. And, at this year’s Oscars, women only won 15 percent of the coveted golden trophies.

But when Barbara Bridges first started Denver Film’s Women+Film program in 2006, those statistics were even more dismal; In fact, a woman had yet to win the Academy Award for best director, whereas three have achieved the title since. At the time, Bridges was serving on Denver Film’s board of directors, and Women+Film began as a panel during the annual Denver Film Festival.

In 2011, Women+Film became its own standalone festival dedicated to screening films written, directed, and produced by women—and Bridges was at the reins of it all. Today, the weekend-long festival put on by Denver Film remains the Mile High City’s only year-round programming and event tailored to spotlighting women in the industry. “This is all due to Barbara’s commitment and dedication to supporting women in the arts and in film,” says Ambriehl Turrentine, Denver Film’s programming manager.

After two decades of working with Denver Film, Bridges retired from her role last month, meaning this is the first year the Women+Film festival will continue without her leadership.

“We’re excited to continue her work,” Turrentine says. “She laid the groundwork for us, but the essence of the festival is definitely going to remain the same.”

This year’s Women+Film festival will take place April 13 to 16 at the Sie FilmCenter, featuring 17 documentaries, shorts, and other motion pictures by and about women—plus a lineup of post-film discussions and other events throughout the weekend, including a new shoppable marketplace of women-owned small businesses on Saturday, April 15. Ahead of the 14th annual celebration, we asked Turrentine for her recommendations on films that can’t be missed.

Photo courtesy of Plan C

Plan C

Directed by Emmy-nominated filmmaker Tracy Droz Tragos, Plan C is a documentary-style film which follows a grassroots organization’s work to expand education and access to the abortion pill throughout the United States. Viewers accompany public health specialist Francine Coeytaux as she raises awareness for the pill and also witness the criticism her and her team face. “Tracy Droz Tragos will be joining us for a Q&A during the screening, we’re very excited for that,” Turrentine says. Friday, April 14, 4 pm

Photo courtesy of Blue Jean

Blue Jean

Georgia Oakley’s BAFTA-nominated directorial debut is set in England 1988, where the government is about to pass an anti-LGBTQ+ bill. Jean, a closeted lesbian gym teacher, lives a double life because of this, hiding her sexuality from those around her. When a new student arrives at school, though, Jean is faced with a crisis that could upend all of her relationships. “We’re partnering with Blush & Blu, one of the few remaining lesbian bars in the United States, and they’ll be hosting an after party after the screening,” Turrentine says. Friday, April 14, 7 pm

Photo still from Monica. Photo courtesy of IFC Films

Monica

The family drama directed by Andrea Pallaoro stars Trace Lysette as a transgender woman returning home to reconnect with her mother and family after leaving the Midwest as a teenager. Their journey explores themes of abandonment, forgiveness, and emotional healing, and to top it all off: Actress Trace Lysette will hold an in-person Q&A to talk about the film. Saturday, April 15, 4:15 pm

Photo still from The Disappearance Of Shere Hite. Photo courtesy of Iris Brosch

The Disappearance of Shere Hite

Dakota Johnson narrates this documentary following the life and work of feminist activist and sex education pioneer Shere Hite. Director Nicole Newnham explores Hite’s 1976 bestselling book The Hite Report, a groundbreaking, first-of-its-kind report in which the scholar surveyed 100,000 women across the country about their sexual preferences and published the results. Stay after the screening for a Q&A with Nicole Newnham about the film. Saturday, April 15, 7 pm

Photo courtesy of Girl Talk

Girl Talk

Being talked over in a male-dominated space is just part of the experience of being a woman, which is why Lucia Small directed and produced Girl Talk, a documentary film focused on five Massachusetts girls competing on their top-ranked high school debate team. Facing gender biases and unfair judging as they attempt to win a national championship, the film follows the group of teenagers over four years as they find their voice and with it, their confidence. Sunday, April 16, 11:30 am

Photo courtesy of The Eternal Memory

The Eternal Memory

Chilean journalist Augosto Góngora and Chilean actress Paulina Urrutia have been a loving couple for over two decades, but when Góngora was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease eight years ago, the duo is forced to face his mental and physical decline together. The documentary is directed by Maite Alberdi and won the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Sunday, April 16, 5 pm

If you go: All access festival passes can be purchased for $85 each, individual film tickets are $18 each. For more information and to buy tickets, visit the Women+Film website.

Barbara Urzua
Barbara Urzua
Barbara is one of 5280's assistant editors and writes stories for 5280 and 5280.com.