Breaking Down Walls: Cinema Femme Short Film Festival Seeks Gender Equality through Mentorship | Festivals & Awards

Each edition of Cinema Femme Magazine was centered around a woman-made film, featuring interviews with filmmakers and film critiques penned by women from all over the world. “After the first few issues, I started hearing from tons of women on social media, thanking me for putting the interviews out there, grateful for the opportunity to learn from women filmmakers,” Martin says.  

The positive response reflected a need for community and educational resources, inspiring Martin to launch Cinema Femme’s short film festival to further support emerging women and non-binary filmmakers. Now in its third year, the festival offers the Breaking Down Walls Mentorship Program as the grand prize awarded to participating filmmakers.  

At the culmination of the four-day festival, a group of established filmmakers select their personal mentees from the festival’s showcase. “Allowing the mentors to individually choose their mentee based on shared thematic interests makes for a richer experience on both sides,” Martin says. 

The mentorship is a six-month commitment that mentors and mentees navigate on their own terms, with the requirement that they meet for one hour every month to establish a working relationship. “All of the selected mentors have a passion for supporting emerging artists,” Martin says. “Mentors are chosen based on their demonstrated passion for elevating women, non-binary, or underrepresented voices in the industry, either by their work onscreen or how they work their sets,” she explains. 

Mentors help their mentee develop a current project, build skills, and expand their network; in 2020, filmmaker Laura Moss mentored writer-director Gabriela Ortega while she worked on her short “Huella,” which screened at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival and is now being developed into a feature film. 

This year’s Cinema Femme Short Film Festival will showcase 23 short films covering a variety of topics, including a story of two stoner witches seeking revenge, a rogue AI virtual assistant, and a father who must give up his daughter to foster care, to name just a few. Each block of shorts will be followed by a live Q&A with a celebrity woman or non-binary filmmaker.

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