mama.film is a 501(c)3 arts organization founded in the spring of 2019, in a microcinema in a shipping container in Wichita, Kansas. Since then, mama.film has grown exponentially, with an additional chapter in Cleveland, Ohio and a national presence.
Through mission-aligned, conversation-igniting screenings, film series/festivals and content production (both virtually and in limited capacity in-person) we create a destination for people to be inspired and connected around our shared human experience. When we see depictions of nurturehood, changemaking and women-driven stories on screen, it nourishes our connection to communities around the globe and feeds our context of the world around us- in both familiar and extraordinary ways.
An essential component of our mission is to spark robust dialogue around the media we present and support- when possible with storytellers, experts, advocates, and audiences. These often personal and intimate moments of exchange, and sometimes even silent reflections, allow us to empathize and sympathize with citizens around us.
mama.film is committed to elevating the voices of courageous storytellers, through fiscal sponsorship and other artists support services including fundraising, exhibition and strategy. Current projects include Season 2 of Nitzan Mager’s comedy web-series Quarantine: I Love You, a project supported by the Mothership Screenwriters Lab, which provides an immediate support circle for a female-identifying screenwriter, whose role as a caregiver has had an impact on her creative career. By helping pave a path for these storytellers, Mothership aims to ensure greater diversity in the portrayal of women’s lives and experiences— both on screen, and off.
In August of 2020, mama.film presented the first virtual rePRO Film Festival. Through various lenses – and by harnessing the power of cinema as a catalyst for connection and conversation – rePRO explores the past, present, and future of women*’s and AFAB people’s reproductive healthcare, awareness, advocacy and bodily integrity in America. In our first year, rePRO reached audiences in 29 states and Canada and bestowed our Luminous Uterus Award to actor and activist Martha Plimpton, co-founder of A is For… Sponsors and donors included the National Endowment for the Arts, the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission, the Dr. George R. Tiller Memorial Fund for the Advancement of Women’s Health and Bloomberg Philanthropies.
of our 24 films:
*nurturers’ (or mamas) come in many packages. They are not bound by gender or age, genetics or traditional roles.
mamafilm is committed to representing the realities and complexities of a diverse range of nurturers, across relationship, race, class, geography, sexual preference, ability and generation.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR + MOTHER/FOUNDER
In 2019, after a combined 25+ years experience – in the film exhibition field and as a mama of two – Lela decided to combine her passions (or the two things she spends most of her time doing) to create a platform that connects nurturers and caregivers around the world, through storytelling. In addition to serving as the Executive Director of mama.film, Lela currently serves as the Executive Director of Film Festival Alliance, a non-profit networking organization that supports more than 200 member film festivals from across North America. She is a founder of Wichita’s Tallgrass Film Association and consulted for various film festivals nationwide including Woods Hole Film Festival (MA) and Geena Davis’ Bentonville Film Festival (AR.) She is a recipient of both “40 Under 40” and “Women in Business” honours from the Wichita Business Journal, has served on many film festival juries and is a frequent panellist and speaker for industry organizations including IFP, The FilmmakeHERS and Film Fatales. She’s recently participated in both the Artist Inc. program through Mid-America Arts Alliance, and The Industry Academy, a program of Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Locarno Film Festival, and sits on the Board of Directors for the Vidiots Foundation.
Lela’s deeply passionate about nurturing the fundamental role that the arts play in the sustainability of contemporary society and future generations. Lela has two daughters, Edie & Margo.
Co-Founder mama.film Cleveland & rePRO Film Festival
In addition to being the Artistic Director for the Cleveland International Film Festival, Mallory Martin is also a co-founder of mama.filmCLE – the Cleveland branch of mama.film, Working within the film festival industry for over 10 years, Mallory has served on multiple juries, as well as participated in panels and pitch sessions. Most recently, she spearheaded CIFF’s first interactive exhibition, introducing the world of virtual reality and new media to the city of Cleveland. Mallory graduated from the film program at Ohio University and began her career by working for the Athens International Film and Video Festival, producing public media broadcasts, and writing and directing short films. Mallory has a son, Ollie.
Co-Founder mama.film Cleveland & rePRO Film Festival
During the day Debby Samples can be found at the Cleveland International Film Festival (CIFF) where she serves as the Marketing & Media Director. Over the past 17 years, she has led CIFF’s brand management, media and marketing relations, social content creation, and event series planning. In her personal time, Debby seeks out passion projects that feed her love of connecting people and communities. She is the co-founder of the Cleveland chapter of mama.film. Throughout her time in the film industry, Debby has served on industry panels, hosted roundtable discussions, and engaged with her film industry counterparts to indulge her passion for marketing. She is most at home in a high-paced work environment and attributes any and all success in life to her love of spreadsheets. Debby is mom to a daughter, Bernadette.