The inaugural Women's Film Festival was born in an odd place: a ladies room.

Co-founder Layne Marie Williams met Phuong Nguyen while chatting in the bathroom of West Philly restaurant Landmark Americana. Nguyen, a veteran of the Asian American Film Festival, and Williams, a University of the Arts grad, exchanged cards, leading to the birth of the female-geared film festival.

Starting Friday at the Ethical Society, the fest seeks to "encourage women to embrace leading roles in the film world and to inspire men and women to work side by side in the arts," Williams said.

The three-day festival includes screening of films by men and women (Williams said they received 50 submissions in only three weeks), panel discussions on women in the industry, lunch and dinner, a free masquerade party (11 p.m. Saturday at the Bards, 2013 Walnut St.) a wrap party (wear purple) with music by Behind the Deadline (7 p.m. Sunday), and even a self-defense class at 12th Street Gym ($5; 10 a.m. Saturday).

Films, ranging from eight to 98 minutes, include documentaries, dramas, and music videos.

Among the highlights: Williams' The Stonebirds, an atmospheric epic using found footage and dance (5:15 p.m. Friday); Matthew Pillischer's A Dark Souvenir, a horror thriller about haunted honeymooners (7 p.m. Saturday); and Josef Steiff's The Other One, about a woman who survives a school shooting only to see her life unravel (4 p.m. Sunday).

"I've always surrounded myself with these incredible women in Philadelphia, and we wanted more opportunity to showcase our work in Philadelphia," Williams said. "It's important for us to create our own opportunities because I don't think anyone will do it for us."

The Women's Film Festival at the Ethical Society, 1906 Rittenhouse Square, 5 to 10 p.m. Friday; 9:15 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday; 2:15 to 7 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $10 for a day, $25 for a three-day pass. Information: 610-428-5930, thewomensfilmfestival.org

215-854-5909

@mollyeichel