The 2023 season of LUNAFEST® features seven short films with a total running time of 90 minutes.
We’re proud to amplify the inspiring short films by this year’s selection of women and gender nonconforming directors. Our featured filmmakers are from all walks of life and range from poets to conservationists, activists, and educators. These stories remind us that when we come together, we all move forward.
We invite you to #PlayAPart.
As a member of the Ebony Beach Club, Natasha Smith surfs, skates, and makes her own waves.
Faith E. Briggs is a documentary director, creative producer, and podcast host passionate about sharing contemporary stories that widen the spectrum of representation and help us all see our own possibilities. Her previous work includes Brotherhood of Skiing, This Land, Ascend: Reframing Disability in the Outdoors, and the four-part series Who Is A Runner. She is the co-host of The Trail Ahead podcast, a Jackson Wild Media Lab Fellow, and a grant recipient of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation’s Western Conservation Hub.
Faith is also a frequent collaborator with Camp4 Collective and recently founded her own production company, Tight Knit. Faith is a member of the Governing Council of The Wilderness Society and the REDI advisory council at REI.
As she paints a mural, artist Cita Sadeli aka Miss Chelove opens up about her life, her cultural heritage, and how she fell in love with graffiti in the 1980s.
Born in Lebanon, Sara T. Gama is an American of Arab heritage who has lived in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. After stints as a DJ in the alternative music scene and an assistant manager at a punk rock clothing boutique, Sara graduated magna cum laude from American University with a bachelor of arts in film and visual media and a minor in art history. She also earned a postgraduate diploma in 16mm and 35mm filmmaking from the London Film School, and a master of arts in film and video from American University.
Sara’s thesis film Drive is about a Muslim-American teenage punk, and has screened at film festivals in New York, Chicago, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Rome, and Amsterdam. In addition to being a screenwriter and filmmaker, Sara writes poetry and is a fine arts photographer.
The true story of Pete Barma explores gender identity, Little League Baseball, the people who inspire change by being themselves, and the superheroes who champion that change.
Bret Parker, co-founder of Artfarm Productions, is a veteran in the film industry with 26 years under her belt at Pixar Animation Studios. Bret started her career at Pixar in 1996 and has gone on to animate many films since, including the Oscar-winning Finding Nemo and The Incredibles. In 2012, with the development of the film Brave, Parker shifted her focus at work, becoming Animation Tools Lead and an integral part in the design and development of the current animation software used at Pixar, known as Presto. In 2018, Parker shifted focus again and took on the role of Animation Second Unit Supervisor for The Incredibles 2.
Outside the studio, she created and directed work for the groundbreaking dance troupe iLuminate. In 2019, along with her wife, Bret directed and produced her first feature-length documentary, Through The Windows, which premiered at the Frameline Film Festival.
Co-founder of Artfarm Productions, director Pete Barma is committed to creating and celebrating fresh stories from her perspective as a queer female. In her role as an award-winning educator, she has founded LGBTQ+ and ally student clubs to help support and educate young people in the Bay Area.
In 2019, she co-directed her first feature length documentary, Through The Windows, which premiered at the Frameline Film Festival in San Francisco to a sold-out audience. Her current focus is to continue to open the lens on the marginalized communities who have not typically appeared on screen. As such, she has written the autobiographical screenplay Pete, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2022.
As celebrated rock climber Beth Rodden grapples with her body image, she rediscovers the love of her sport...and herself.
Jen Randall is a director and editor who aims to empower, entertain, and challenge viewers with intricately woven, emotive narratives and a quiet sense of fun. Her work has been awarded more than 40 major prizes at international mountain film festivals, been sold for broadcast, gained large online followings, and has been distributed across international cinemas.
She often quests into the wilds on adventures inspired by her subjects, from long-distance walks to big walls.
After her southeastern Congo village is bombed, 14-year-old Mugeni sets out on a remarkable solo journey across the globe, determined to reunite with her lost loved ones and lift up the Banyamulenge people.
Amy Bench is a Texas-based filmmaker and visual artist who tells stories of community and resilience and is dedicated to serving as a conduit for marginalized voices. Trained as a cinematographer, Amy’s camera work has screened at festivals including Berlin, SXSW, Sundance, The New York Film Festival, and MOMA/PS1; in 2016 she was named a “DP on the Rise” by Paste magazine.
She was the cinematographer on Trans in America: Texas Strong, which won an Emmy for Best Original Short Documentary in 2019 and two Webby Awards. Amy’s animated documentary A Line Birds Cannot See won Special Jury Recognition at SXSW and is now available at the New Yorker, where it won the 2020 Ellie Award (video) for excellence in digital magazine journalism. She is a member of the art collective ICOSA and is a strong advocate for women behind and in front of the lens.
All cards are on the table when Noor, a queer Pakistani Muslim woman, brings her Puerto Rican girlfriend, Luz, home for the first time on the family’s annual game night.
Fawzia Mirza is a director, writer, performer, and creator who believes in the power of comedy to tackle divisive topics and break down stereotypes. An alum of Tribeca Film Institute’s All Access Program, Fawzia co-wrote, produced, and starred in her first feature, Signature Move, which world-premiered at SXSW, screened at 150+ film festivals globally, won 14 awards (Outfest Grand Jury Prize, Best US Narrative), and is available on Amazon/iTunes.
Co-founder of Baby Daal Productions, Fawzia recently shot the short film Noor & Layla, which was produced by her wife, Andria Wilson Mirza. She is one of five women writer-directors selected for Paul Feig’s Powderkeg Fuse 2 short film incubator program and is part of Starlight Media’s Stars Collective.
Kausar Mohammed is a South Asian writer, actress, and comedian who wrote and stars in the holiday romantic comedy The Syed Family Xmas Eve Game Night, which world-premiered at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival. Kausar recently starred as Dr. Meena Dhawan aka Fast Track on The CW series The Flash, and earlier as Soraya Abbas on the CW series 4400. She starred in Paul Feig’s series East of La Brea and voices Yaz, one of the fan favorite lead characters, on DreamWorks and Amblin’s hit show, Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous.
Mohammed is a writer-performer in the distinguished all-South Asian sketch comedy troupe The Get Brown and performed two seasons of continuously sold-out shows at Upright Citizen’s Brigade LA. Kausar is also the co-founder of SHIFT, a racial and gender equity consulting group created by women of color.
Amid a brutal Chicago winter and the global pandemic, Deirdre, Helen, and Jennefer’s friendship grows as they commit to a daily sunrise plunge together in Lake Michigan.
Samantha Sanders has written, produced, and directed documentary programs for networks including National Geographic, the History Channel, MSNBC, A&E, and PBS. She directed Emmy-winning short documentaries including Purpose Over Pain, centered around families who have lost children to gun violence.
Along with her husband, editor John Farbrother, Samantha founded and runs Green River Films, an Emmy-award-winning Chicago-based production company. Samantha 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 drew her to this project.