Pasadena Weekly columnist Ellen Snortland’s critically acclaimed documentary “Beauty Bites Beast” won the Best Feature Documentary award at the fourth annual Artemis Women in Action Film Festival.

The festival is the first event of its kind dedicated to honoring female action, activist and empowerment heroes.

Snortland’s documentary will be screened at 2:10 p.m. April 28 at the Laemmle Monica Film Center, 1332 2nd St, Santa Monica.

The documentary seeks to portray self-defense as a human need and right, “and to inspire those on the fence to see that the drive to protect oneself is not a gendered attribute.”

Other award winners in this year’s festival include, “Virgin Cheerleaders in Chains,” which won for Best Feature; Susan Cameron’s “Rebel” for Best Screenplay; and “88 Seoul” for Best Student Short.

Snortland said the award is a sign that more women are waking up to the need to learn how to defend themselves.

“The people who want to cement women’s ‘place’ assure them that they don’t need reading, voting or financial freedom. Someone else will provide that. Your father, brother, husband, son will protect you. Historically, that has not worked out well for women,” Snortland said.

The documentary came about in 2006 after Snortland met the American owner of a factory in Tijuana during turbulent political times that saw hundreds of women kidnapped, raped and killed in Ciudad Juarez.

After the factory owner read Snortland’s book “Beauty Bites Beast,” he asked the author to train his female workers in Tijuana on how to defend themselves. Snortland agreed, but only if she could film the sessions. Those scenes are among the most powerful in the film, showing impoverished women undergoing a remarkable transformation after realizing that they are not powerless to defend themselves. Dolores Huerta, co-founder of United Farm Workers (UFW), delivered their graduation speech at the end of the sessions.

Snortland published her book “Beauty Bites Beast: Awakening the Warrior within Women and Girls” in 1999. The book called on women to take charge of their own self-defense both verbally and physically when being attacked.

“What this means is that people are now considering self-defense for women as a tool rather than an anomaly,” Snortland said of her film’s popularity. “There’s not one other creature on the planet that is female that doesn’t employ self-protection when it’s needed, except of course, humans. That’s highly suspect, right?