Breaking Down Walls at the Cinema Femme Short Film Festival

Cinema Femme Magazine is just about to kick off its third annual “Cinema Femme Short Film Festival.”

This year’s CFSFF will run from April 30th through May 4th, showcasing emerging female and non-binary filmmakers not just from Chicago, but internationally.

The goal is to stress the importance of supporting up-and-coming filmmakers by connecting them with seasoned professionals in the industry through the “Breaking Down Walls” mentorship program. Twenty-six filmmakers will be featured this year, and four of them will receive a six-month mentorship at the end.

2023 will be the first hybrid festival, combining in-person events with online streaming opportunities. The in-person events are scheduled on April 30th (Sunday) and May 3rd (Wednesday) at Chicago’s Music Box Theater on Southport. The four programs include Q&As, internal workshops, and panels.

Online streaming—20 short films in total—will be available via Eventive from April 28th through May 4th.

Opening night will include a VIP event with filmmaker Q&As moderated by Rebecca Martin Fagerholm (Managing Editor of Cinema Femme Magazine as well as the director of the CFSFF).

Here are some of the thoughts Rebecca shared with me on how her Cinema Femme mission began.

“I started out as a film lover.”

“I started out as a film lover,” said Rebecca. “The first filmmaker that I ever fell in love with, and was really my gateway into independent film, was Sofia Coppola. I remember seeing her movie Lost in Translation (2003) and being so in awe of this magic that can be on screen. I’m really passionate about Sofia Coppola’s work.”

Feeling inspired, Rebecca became increasingly interested in independent films, so, in 2018, Rebecca started a small community for female cinephiles called “The Chicago Film Lovers Exchange.” She wanted to start a group for people who were just as eager to talk about film as she was.

“I met so many cool people that had all of these cool opinions about films. I was looking at the media to see if it reflected that and it didn’t. The majority [of media representatives] were middle-aged white men. It made me sad because the film-lover community in Chicago is so diverse.”

This made Rebecca want to start a platform where underrepresented voices could write about film and related topics. For the first issue of Cinema Femme Magazine, Rebecca asked people to write personal essays. Eventually, she added interviews with filmmakers. Cinema Femme Magazine’s first published interview featured Laura Moss, director of the film birth/rebirth (2018). Once started, this evolved into interviews with female and non-binary people who had a variety of positions in the film industry.

The name “Breaking Down Walls” came from a 2019 interview with Oscar-winner Hannah Beachler.

Analyzing her social media feedback, Rebecca realized most of Cinema Femme Magazine’s followers were emerging women filmmakers and non-binary filmmakers. She felt the two should connect somehow. Thus began the mentorship program “Breaking Down Walls.” The name came from a 2019 interview Rebecca did with Hannah Beachler. Hannah was the first Black woman to win an Oscar for production design. (She won for 2018’s first Black Panther film.)

Hannah used the metaphor of breaking down an old building and starting anew to describe the progress of underrepresented people in the film industry. This image resonated with Rebecca: “We [Cinema Femme] are not trying to reach a certain level in the industry; we’re trying to redesign it.” Rebecca credits producer Rhianon Jones, head of Neon Heart Productions, for encouraging her to start the CFSFF.

So, why is Cinema Femme sponsoring a film festival exclusively focused on shorts? Rebecca says it’s a way of showcasing talent from emerging filmmakers. Shorts are easily accessible. Potential mentors can view a set of short films and then choose their mentees.

The first festival year—in August 2020—was during the peak of COVID, so everything was online. And although this is the third annual event, there were two smaller showcases in 2021 in February and April. This year’s hybrid CFSFF is sponsored by the Neon Heart Productions, Prysm Studios, Independent Film Alliance (IFA), Noisefloor, and Hike Creative.

© Stephanie A. Taylor (4/22/23) — Special for FF2 Media ®


Tickets are already sold out for the April 30th shows at the Music Box, but seats are still available for May 3rd. Click here for more details.

To view the fest’s livestream go to eventive.

Go to Cinema Femme’s website for more information.

Visit Cinema Femme’s YouTube Channel.


Images were pulled from the Cinema Femme website by Jan Lisa Huttner—FF2 Media’s Editor-in-Chief—on 4/28/23.

Follow link to learn how Hannah Beachler (seen in bottom photo) gave a name to the “Breaking Down Walls” mentorship concept.

Tags: Black Panther (2018), Cinema Femme Magazine, Cinema Femme Short Film Festival, COVID, Hannah Beachler, Laura Moss, Lost in Translation (2003), Music Box Theatre, Rebecca Martin, Rebecca Martin Fagerholm, Rhianon Jones, Sofia Coppola, Stephanie A. Taylor, Stephanie Taylor

Related Posts

Stephanie A. Taylor is a multi-award-winning journalist whose accolades span three publications including FF2. Some of her favorite articles she's written are Emma Cooper’s ‘The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Lost Tapes, FACETS Honors Chaz Ebert F2F at Screen Gems 2022 Benefit, and Dorothy Arzner’s ‘Merrily We Go to Hell’ Discusses Modern Day Problems. She currently lives in Chicago. Reading, writing, and watching old films are some of her many passions.
Previous Post Next Post