WIFF WOMEN IN FILM
As a female founded and operated film festival in a primarily male-dominated industry, we are dedicated to showcasing an equal ratio of films by female and male filmmakers in keeping with equality.
Westfield International Film Festival (formerly Rahway International Film Festival) also presents the “Woman in Film Award” to honor and celebrate women in the film industry who exemplify our definition of success.
RIFF 2018 Woman in Film Honoree:
Our 2018 Woman In Film Award goes to Ms. Persia White of Florida.
Persia White is an actress best known for the TV series GIRLFRIENDS, and THE VAMPIRE DIARIES.
Persia is also a passionate filmmaker and musician. Co-producer of the award- winning documentary “EARTHLINGS” narrated by Joaquin Phoenix. Persia has directed and performed in the music video “Strange Fruit,” as well as the short film “Emotional Landscapes” for Ovation and Russell Simmons.
She is the co-founder of Night Owl Productions where she co-wrote, produced and starred in the short films 'Revelation' and 'Carousel' and is currently in post-production for Danny Strong’s new FOX TV show ‘PROVEN INNOCENT.’
See more of Ms. White's work here.
RIFF 2017 Woman in Film Honoree:
Our 2017 Woman In Film Award goes to Ms. Ferne Pearlstein of New York.
Ferne Pearlstein is an award-winning filmmaker boasting a Cinematography Award from the world renowned Sundance Film Festival and a nomination for "Best Documentary Feature" at the equally impressive Tribeca Film Festival, among others.
A Stanford graduate, she is an experienced director, editor, and cinematographer navigating the film industry since the early 1990s. She is a force to be reckoned with and with a body of work like hers, it is easy to see why she has been selected as Big Dreams & Silver Screens (RIFF) Woman in Film for 2017.
Pearlstein's latest work, "The Last Laugh", is an exploration into the world of humor and taboos as they relate to traumatic instances, namely the Holocaust. Does humor help or hurt those affected? When all is said and done, who gets the last laugh?
Pearlstein offers this simple yet poignant piece of advice to fellow female filmmakers: "Persistence. Persistence. Persistence! And don’t hear “No!”
See more of Ms. Pearlstein's work here.
RIFF 2016 Woman in Film Honoree:
Our 2016 Woman In Film Award goes to Ms. Dena Seidel of New Jersey.
Dena Seidel is an award-winning documentary filmmaker, published short story author, as well as the creator and designer of the first film major at Rutgers University. From 2011-2015, she served as the Founding Director of the Rutgers Center for Digital Filmmaking, offering the university's first film production programs including 22 credit film certificate available to undergraduates of all majors - and newly designed inter-disciplinary Bachelor of Fine Arts in Digital Filmmaking. She was also Founding Director of the Rutgers Film Bureau, the university's professional documentary office.
With a grant from the National Science Foundation, Dena spent six weeks in Antarctica directing and filming the feature length documentary Antarctic Edge: 70° South that was completed with the participation of 14 Rutgers undergraduate students. The film will screen at Rahway International Film Festival 2016 on Sunday, October 23, 2016 at 5:30pm where Dena Seidel will be in attendance to accept this year's "Woman in Film: Lifetime Achievement Award". Click here for more info and tickets for the film!
As of March 2016, Dena is the director (US and Pacific regions) for Okeanos-Foundation for the Sea devoted to the development, funding and implementation of projects that inspire and initiate positive change for people and the environment. Okeanos’ most significant projects to date include support for fossil fuel free inter-island transportation in the South Pacific as well as production of documentary films with strong environmental messages such as Racing Extinction and Our Blue Canoe.
Dena Seidel is as much an inspiration to her former students and collaborators as she is to the women behind Rahway International Film Festival. We are proud to introduce her as this year's Woman in Film Honoree.
RIFF 2015 Woman in Film
Lifetime Achievement Award Honoree:
Our 2015 Woman In Film: Lifetime Achievement Award goes to Ms. Susan Sarandon of Edison, New Jersey.
Susan Sarandon is an Academy Award winning actress, producer, activist, humanitarian and force to be reckoned with. A UNICEF ambassador, board member for the Yéle Haiti Foundation, Advisory Committee Member of FilmAid International, among numerous other charitable organizations, Sarandon proves that there is more to success than a trophy, though she has many.
Oscar, BAFTA, and SAG are only a handful of the 54+ awards lining her shelves with successful roles in films such as “”Dead Man Walking,” “The Client,” and “Thelma and Louise.” Ms. Sarandon has selflessly used her fame and success to benefit others and she has become widely known for her efforts as an activist.
In her own words, “Sometimes I don’t even understand the ramifications of what I say; all I know is that I just can’t live with myself if I don’t say something. [...] I come from a generation where, growing up, if you had half a brain in your head and half a heart, you were automatically active.”
Ms. Sarandon, we humbly thank you for your contributions, not only to the film industry, but to the charitable endeavors which you seek to sustain every day. We thank you for exemplifying the epitome of a female role model. We hope to follow in your footsteps.
RIFF 2014 Woman in Film
Lifetime Achievement Award Honoree:
Our 2014 inaugural honoree is Toms River, New Jersey’s very own Piper Perabo.
You may recognize her from her work in “Coyote Ugly”, “Cheaper by the Dozen”, “The Prestige” and most recently as Detective Annie Walker in USA Network’s “Covert Affairs.” Show business, film especially, is a difficult field in which to survive and it takes a strong individual to pursue and persevere. We tip our hats to the talented Ms. Perabo who has not only had the courage to pursue her dream but has succeeded in her efforts.
Ms. Perabo has long been an inspiration to the ladies behind Rahway International Film Festival. While her talent is admirable, it is her kind nature and confidence that reminds us what a strong woman is.
Thank you, Ms. Perabo for being a role model to so many young women like ourselves, who need a reminder that they too can follow their dreams.