Celebrating Women Everywhere at the Women’s Sports Film Festival

The Women’s Sports Film Festival is focused on “Celebrating female athletes and storytellers through the power of documentary film.” In its inaugural year, the Women’s Sports Film Festival screened 17 films and drew roughly 500 attendees. As it now enters its second year, the creator of this festival, Susan Sullivan, is thrilled to see the Women’s Sports Film Festival “satisfying a hunger people have,” she says.

Susan Sullivan grew up with one of the largest film festivals, Frameline Film Festival, right in her backyard of San Francisco. The inspiration for the Women’s Sports Film Festival came from Susan’s efforts to produce the documentary “First Clue” which dives into the first moment people knew they were lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer. She says, the film “serves sort of as a love letter to my community and I only made it to submit to that [Frameline] film festival.”

Her documentary went on to be shown at over 50 film festivals around the world. This enabled Susan to travel to a number of film festivals and learn more about the film industry and the role of documentary film. That’s when she started seeing more female focused documentaries and recognized that there was not a true space where all of these powerful female stories were being told together. Thus, the idea behind the Women’s Sports Film Festival was born.

However, even before Susan produced her first documentary, she was seeking a voice in the world. In her early twenties, Susan was a hospice volunteer before realizing that she wanted to work on the flip side of the coin to death and became a birth doula. “I remember the first time I went to a birth at the hospital I was working at,” recalls Susan. “I remember coming out of the hospital and standing at the intersection and I literally wanted to get a megaphone and be like, ‘Do you know what’s happening on the fourth floor in labor and delivery?!’ Like, why is this not headline news? Why is this not rolling on the news every day? But, that’s it; birth is this extraordinary and very ordinary thing.” Immediately, I can sense Susan’s committed and powerful energy to support and uplift those around her, especially women.

Through the Women’s Sports Film Festival, Susan hopes women can see a real and humanizing reflection of themselves alongside the women on the big screen. “Media is a construct and I want the media that we see to reflect us rather than vice versa,” Susan tells me. “It’s real life,” notes Susan of the films she screens at her festival. “I think that there’s something essentially healing in that. I want people to take away a deeper connection to themselves and I want women to see themselves reflected and to feel validated and affirmed.”

The festival is currently hosting a Kickstarter campaign to continue to grow its audience and to get to know its consumers better.

If you would like to support or to attend the second annual Women’s Sports Film Festival on September 28-30, 2017 in Oakland, California, click here.


Maegan Olmstead