Actors Ian Somerhalder and Eloise DeJoria were among the crowd that filled Boylston Hall on Saturday afternoon to view the top films in the Girls Impact the World Film Festival, presented by the Harvard College Social Innovation Collaborative and Connecther.
In just its second year, the festival aims “to give young student filmmakers a platform to voice their views and solutions for issues affecting women worldwide,” said Kerry V. Hammond ’14, who partnered with Ara N. Parikh ’15 and Connecther founder Lila Igram to organize the film festival.
The festival featured the three top films submitted by high school and undergraduate students from around the world. The three-to-five minute short films document global women’s issues, spanning from domestic violence to poverty.
The event began with a red carpet reception, where the student filmmakers and guests mingled over desserts and refreshments. The crowd then entered the Fong Auditorium for the screening of the top three films and an awards ceremony.
Filmmaker Abigail E. Disney, the festival’s keynote speaker, spoke about her experience documenting the plight of Liberian women to bring peace to their war-torn nation in her film "Pray The Devil Back to Hell." Disney also discussed her personal experience of the barriers to women in society.
“My dreams all had lids on them,” she said.
She asked the audience to think of how society would differ if women felt that they were welcome in political processes.
“Women don’t feel invited to the public square,” she said.
Somerhalder, known for his role in the television series “Vampire Diaries,” served as one of the festival’s judges.
The grand prize winner, 17-year-old Kathryn Harhai, produced “Point B,” in which she broke her silence about the sexual abuse she suffered at the age of five.
In an interview, Harhai said that it was easier for her to express her feelings through a creative outlet.
“I’m hoping to share this film in the hopes that other girls will learn from my experience and have their voice be heard and not be a victim of the silence,” she said.
In her film “A Chance,” first runner-up Sarah Gale follows a 19-year-old woman from Colombia, who struggles with sexual abuse and drug addiction and fights to provide a safer future for her son.
Somerhalder stressed the increasing importance of female participation in society during a panel discussion, following the screening of the films.
“The 21st century is the century where things will shift,” Somerhalder said. “This will be the century of the chick.”