SHORTS PROGRAM 1: Let’s Chicago

Sunday, April 30 at 7pm at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago.

Program Description: For the first time ever Cinema Femme Short Film Fest is having in-person screenings in Chicago. We celebrate and kick-off our in-person festival by elevating Chicago women and non-binary filmmakers and their work. 



Q&A with Shorts Program 1 filmmakers on April 28, 2023, 8 PM Central on our YouTube Channel.

Swimming Through – dir. Samantha Sanders

Three women forge a friendship by swimming through the winter in Lake Michigan as a way to cope with the pandemic. Director Samantha Sanders and subjects of the documentary will be in attendance.

Samantha Sanders (she/her)

Samantha Sanders has written/produced/directed documentary programs for networks including National Geographic, The History Channel, MSNBC, A&E and PBS. Her films and screenplays have won awards internationally. She has directed Emmy-winning short documentaries including Purpose Over Pain, centered around families who have lost children to gun violence and Youth in Music Festival, a celebration of cross-cultural music-making. Sam co-produced the fiction feature film “American Folk.” Set against the backdrop of 9/11, this road movie musical, starring musicians Joe Purdy and Amber Rubarth, was nominated for the Panavision Spirit Award at the Santa Barbara Film Festival and won Best American Independent Film at the Cleveland International Film Festival. She also produced the feature film, Chicago Boricua, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and is distributed by Screen Media. In 2018, Sam directed “Ballhawks,” a short documentary about the community of Cubs fans who spend games outside the stadium trying to catch home run balls. She, along with her husband, editor John Farbrother, founded and runs Green River Films, an Emmy-award winning Chicago-based production company. Sam teaches film at Columbia College Chicago, where she received an MFA in filmmaking, and at DePaul University. She is a passionate landscape photographer whose love of shooting Lake Michigan (especially in the winter) drew her to this project.

Paper Planes – dirs. Michael Glover Smith (he/him) & Alyssa Thordarson (she/her)

A woman with agoraphobia and the AirBnB guest across the hall strike up a correspondence that becomes something more for the holidays. Star/Co-Director Alyssa Thordarson, Co-Director Michael Glover Smith (Relative), and star Shaina Schrooten will be in attendance. Chicago premiere! (trailer)

Michael Glover Smith, Alyssa Thordarson

Michael Glover Smith wrote and directed the feature films “Cool Apocalyse” (2015), “Mercury in Retrograde” (2017), “Rendezvous in Chicago” (2018), and “Relative” (2022), all of which won awards at festivals across the U.S. and were the subject of rave reviews. The Chicago Sun-Times’ Richard Roeper wrote that “Smith has a deft touch for creating characters who look and sound like people we know” and’s Matt Fagerholm has called him “one of the Windy City’s finest filmmakers.” His films have screened at the American Cinematheque and Rooftop Cinema Club in Los Angeles, Spectacle Theater and the Regal UA Midway in NYC and the Gene Siskel Film Center and Music Box Theater in Chicago. He was a recipient of the Siskel Center’s Star Filmmaker award in 2017 and made Newcity Chicago’s “Film 50” list in 2018 and 2020 for being one of fifty individuals who “shape Chicago’s film scene.” He teaches film history at several colleges and is the author of Flickering Empire (Columbia University Press, 2015), an acclaimed nonfiction book about film production in Chicago during the silent era.

Alyssa Thordarson is an actor and filmmaker whose screenwriting debut, the short film “After (A Love Story)”, played over twenty festivals including Academy Award qualifiers Cleveland International Film Festival and LA Shorts. The film received nearly twenty nominations and nine wins, including Best Drama (Short) at North Hollywood Cinefest and Sherman Oaks Film Festival, as well as Best Screenplay at Sherman Oaks. As an actor she has worked in commercials and on TV shows including Chicago Med, Empire, and The Chi. Alyssa is represented by DDO Artists Agency in Chicago and Los Angeles.

this is not the morning i thought i was going to have – dir. Margaret Kellas

Two estranged sisters reunite in a 2005 Honda Civic on a sweaty Chicago day. As the car comes to a boil so does their tolerance for one another. Director Margaret Kellas, and Sarah Ruggles (Paige), Jillian Warden (Lindsey), and Cara Ross (Assistant Camera, Production Sound) will be in attendance. Not their Chicago premiere. (trailer)

Margaret Kellas (she/her)

Margaret Kellas is an actor, writer, and director born and based in Chicago. She is grateful to be featured in this year’s Cinema Femme Short Film Fest. Her first film “this is not the morning i thought i was going to have” kicked off its festival run last fall, and has screened at Saugatuck Film Festival (1st Place, Shorts), Chicago REELS International Festival (Best Chicago Film, Audience Award), and Toronto International Women’s Festival. Her next film “The Stacks” will make its festival debut this year.

Dois Estágios (Two Stages of Blood) – dir. Lua Borges

A documentary that explores the beginning and end of a bloodline. Starting in the urban environment of São Paulo city where the filmmaker was raised and ending on her family’s country farm where her grandparents spend their golden years, the film delves into the personal and shared history of a Brazilian family, and the explorations of a longing memory. Director Lua Borges and DP, John Jadkowski will be in attendance. Not their Chicago premiere. (trailer)

Lua Borges (she/her)

Lua Borges is a director recently graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a Bachelors in Cinema Arts & Science. She was born in São Paulo, Brazil, and now lives in Chicago to pursue her artistic career in the independent and experimental cinema.

Caroline – dir. Juli Del Prete

A young woman’s audition for a major movie takes an unexpected turn. Director Juli Del Prete will be in attendance. Chicago premiere! (trailer)

Juli Del Prete (she/her)

Juli Del Prete is a writer, filmmaker, and photographer. She is the co- creator, -writer, and -star of The Right Swipe, an intersectional feminist romantic comedy web series (Austin Film Festival, Urbanworld, OTV | Open Television). Most recently, she co-produced the short films “Whole + Six Feet Apart” and is currently in post-production for her first short film, “Caroline.” Juli was the assistant director and assistant intimacy coordinator for the world premiere of Tracy Letts’s Linda Vista (Broadway, Steppenwolf, Mark Taper Forum). Juli’s plays have been read and produced in Chicago, New York, and Boston, and her full-length play The Art of Losing was a finalist for the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference. As a photographer, her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, and on MTV’s Catfish. Films she has written and produced have received Chicago’s DCASE Grant, the Voices With Impact Grant, and grants from Chicago Filmmakers’ Digital Media Production Fund (twice!). Learn more & see pics of her very cute dog at

LIVE Q&A moderated by Clare Cooney

Clare Cooney is a filmmaker and SAG actor currently living in Los Angeles, trained in Chicago. She recently made her feature directorial debut with the horror-comedy Departing Seniors. Previously she wrote, directed, edited, and starred in RUNNER, a short film that played at 15 film festivals, winning 6 awards and garnering Cooney a “Filmmaker to Watch” nomination from the Oscar-Qualifying Atlanta Film Festival. The latest short films she directed/edited, AFTER (A LOVE STORY) and PICK UP, both played at Oscar-Qualifying festivals, and all three shorts have gained popularity on the prestigious short film channel Omeleto. As a director she is known for grounded, character-driven stories filled with tension through naturalism. She made Newcity Magazine’s Film 50 list in 2020 and 2019 for being “one of 50 individuals who shaped Chicago’s film scene.” Acting credits include a recent guest star on NBC’s CHICAGO MED, a recurring role on CW’s 4400, lead roles in numerous independent features, and a supporting role in Steve McQueen’s WIDOWS. Cooney is a School at Steppenwolf graduate & is repped by DDO Artists Agency and Activist Artists Management.