The festival runs from February 9 – 12

New York, NY (January 10, 2017) – The Athena Film Festival (AFF) announced today its 2017 lineup, featuring a selection of narrative, documentary, and short films.  The festival also announced panel discussions and other programs that are included in the slate.  The Athena Film Festival showcases films about powerful and courageous women leaders in real life and the fictional world; it is a weekend dedicated to elevating female voices and stories that inspire and empower a new generation of filmmakers and individuals.  The seventh annual festival, co-founded by the Athena Center for Leadership Studies at Barnard College and Women and Hollywood, will take place February 9-12, 2017, at Barnard College in New York City.

The festival will close on Sunday, February 12th with the New York Premiere of documentary DOLORES, directed by Peter Bratt.  The film chronicles feminist union organizer Dolores Huerta who worked side-by-side with Cesar Chavez during their decades-long fight for workers’ rights.

The Centerpiece Film will be the documentary CITY OF JOY, directed and written by Madeleine Gavin.  City of Joy opened in 2011 as a place of hope and healing for the women of the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and is a community for women survivors of sexual violence.  The film chronicles the women working to process their trauma, heal, and give back to their communities.

Among the feature films included in this year’s lineup are QUEEN OF KATWE, starring ‘17 AFF Leading Man Awardee David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong’o and directed by ‘16 AFF Lifetime Achievement Awardee Mira Nair; THE FITS, starring Royalty Hightower and directed and written by Anna Rose Holmer; CUSTODY, starring Viola Davis, Hayden Panettiere and Ellen Burstyn and directed by James Lapine; STRANGE WEATHER, starring Holly Hunter and directed by Katherine Dieckmann; and DENIAL, starring Rachel Weisz and directed by Mick Jackson among others.

The documentary category includes HBO’s BRIGHT LIGHTS: STARRING CARRIE FISHER AND DEBBIE REYNOLDS, directed by Alexis Bloom & Fisher Stevens, with a post screening conversation with President of HBO Documentary Films Sheila Nevins (‘15 AFF Awardee); POLITICAL ANIMALS, directed and written by Jonah Markowitz and Tracy Wares; MAJOR!, directed by Annalise Ophelian; and SOUTHWEST OF SALEM: THE STORY OF THE SAN ANTONIO FOUR, directed by Deborah Esquenazi among others.

A wide variety of shorts will be featured, including the New York premiere of MOVING TARGET, directed by Tanja Wol Sorensen; the New York premiere of LITTLE DOLL, directed by Kate Dolan; and WHERE WE STAND, directed by Kristine Stolakis among others.

This year’s Athena Film Festival will feature a special television preview of the upcoming Hulu series THE HANDMAID’S TALE, starring Elisabeth Moss and directed by Reed Morano. Morano will be present at the festival to participate in a post screening conversation.

In partnership with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences the festival will screen the U.S. Premiere of THE WOMEN WHO RUN HOLLYWOOD, followed by a panel discussion on the often-forgotten pioneering female filmmakers in early Hollywood.  Award-winning film historian and documentary filmmaker Cari Beauchamp, who is featured in the film, will participate in the panel.  Additional programming will include an inaugural virtual reality program, panel discussions, a Master Class hosted by ‘16 AFF Awardee Patricia Riggen, as well as a reading of A NOBLE AFFAIR, a 2016 Athena List winner written by Anil Baral and Kathryn Maughan.
“It’s an honor to once again host this incredible festival that celebrates inspiring stories of courageous and bold women and the filmmakers who create them,” said Kathryn Kolbert, co-founder of the Festival and Constance Hess Williams ‘66 Director of the Athena Center for Leadership Studies at Barnard College.

“We are proud to announce a stellar line-up for the 2017 Athena Film Festival to showcase the narratives, documentaries and individuals breaking new ground for women in film.” said Melissa Silverstein, co-founder and Artistic Director of the Festival and founder of Women and Hollywood.  “Our continued goal at the festival is to highlight experienced voices in the industry while also exploring and exhibiting brand new talent.”

As previously announced, 2017 Athena Film Festival Awardees include Tony Award®-winning playwright, activist, performer and author Eve Ensler; director, producer and screenwriter Patricia Riggen; and Emmy Award®-winning producer, media activist and social entrepreneur Regina K. Scully.  Actor and producer David Oyelowo will receive the Athena Leading Man Award.

The 2017 festival co-chairs include Amma Asante, Julie Parker Benello, Debra Martin Chase, Dan Cogan, Ava DuVernay, Geralyn Dreyfous, Paul Feig, Sherry Lansing, Diane Levin, Jon Levin, Dylan McDermott, Pat Mitchell, Gina Prince-Bythewood, Susan Rovner, Regina K. Scully and Rachel Weisz.

The current lineup follows.  Additional screenings, panels and special events will be announced in the coming weeks.

Tickets and passes are now on sale. Please visit https://athenafilmfestival.com for regular updates and more information.



A Good Wife  [New York Premiere]
Directed by: Mirjana Karanovic
Written by: Mirjana Karanovic, Stevan Filipović, Darko Lungulov
Mirjana Karanović writes, directs and stars in this searing and unforgettable portrait of a wife and mother facing the undoing of her family. Set in contemporary, post-war Serbia, Karanović presents a woman forced to make brave decisions about the life she thought she had and the woman she wants to be.


Angry Indian Goddesses
Directed by: Pan Nalin
Written by: Pan Nalin, Subhadra Mahajan, Dilip Shankar, Arsala Qureishi
Pan Nalin’s drama gives a fresh portrait of modern women in contemporary India. Frieda, a fashion photographer, gathers her closest girlfriends for a surprise announcement which turns into a weekend full of adventure, discovery and the unexpected.


Directed and Written by: James Lapine
Featuring an all-star cast, Custody takes an in-depth look at the systemic problems in the NYC child welfare system. Children’s Services removes a single mother’s two children after an accident at home. Her young, inexperienced lawyer is keeping a horrible family secret, and the presiding judge is tough and compassionate, but reeling from her own personal crisis. Cast includes: Catalina Sandino Moreno, Hayden Panettiere and Viola Davis.


Cents  [New York Premiere]
Directed and Written by: Christopher Boone
Sammy, a young troublemaker with a knack for numbers, turns her school’s penny drive into a money-making scheme with some classmates. As their plan spins out of control, Sammy faces the scorn of her peers, the disgust of her mentor, and the fury of her mother.


Directed by: Mick Jackson
Written by: David Hare
This historical drama recounts the story of professor Deborah E. Lipstadt, played by Academy Award winner, Rachel Weisz, and her battle with historian and Holocaust denier, David Irving. When Lipstadt’s book references Irving’s Holocaust denials, he accuses her of libel, sparking a legal battle for historical truth. It is up to Lipstadt and her team to prove the essential truth: that the Holocaust occurred.


The Fits
Directed and Written by: Anna Rose Holmer
The Fits follows Toni, a tomboyish boxer, who lands a spot on an after-school drill team in Cincinnati’s West End. When a mysterious outbreak of fainting spells plagues the team soon after Toni joins, she gains a new and frightening perspective of herself. The Fits is a truly original and hypnotic portrait of a young girl taking her first powerful steps towards womanhood.


In Between (Bar Bahar)
Director and written by: Maysaloun Hamoud
Three Palestinian women sharing an apartment in the vibrant heart of Tel Aviv find themselves doing the same balancing act between tradition and modernity, citizenship and culture, fealty and freedom.


Long Way North
Directed by: Rémi Chayé, Ron Dyens and Henri Magalon
Written by: Claire Paoletti, Patricia Valeix
This French-Danish animated film tells the story of Sascha, a Russian teenager, who sets off on a voyage to find and recover the lost ship of her missing grandfather who disappeared on his way to the North Pole. We follow Sascha on her epic quest to find and her journey of self-discovery along the way.


Queen of Katwe
Directed by: Mira Nair
Written by: William Wheeler
The 2016 Athena Film Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award Winner, Director Mira Nair’s new film is the true story of a brilliant Ugandan girl whose life is transformed with the discovery of her gift for chess. David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong’o star in this inspirational and uplifting story of a young girl who sets out to pursue her dream of becoming an international chess champion.


Strange Weather
Directed and Written by: Katherine Dieckmann
Holly Hunter plays a mother suffering the loss of her adult son, who sets off on a journey to find answers to the questions surrounding his death. Strange Weather is a story of forgiveness as this grieving mother looks inward to find a way to move forward.


Directed by: Catherine Corsini
Written by: Catherine Corsini, Laurette Polmanss
Sensual and elegant, Summertime follows Carole and Delphine as they fall in love against the backdrop of early feminist activism in 1971, Paris. When Delphine is called back to the countryside to help her family, she is forced to choose between home and her life in Paris with Carole.


Urban Hymn [U.S. Premiere]
Directed by: Michael Caton-Jones
Written by: Nick Moorcroft
Set against the backdrop of the 2011 UK summer riots, Urban Hymn follows a young female offender, Jamie, who possesses a remarkable voice, and the determined social worker, herself struggling with loss, who inspires Jamie to use her talent as a path to rebuild her life.


The Women’s Balcony
Directed by: Emil Ben Shimon
Written by: Shlomit Nehama
Emil Ben Shimon’s drama unfolds in an Orthodox community in Jerusalem when an accident during a bar mitzvah celebration leads to a gendered rift in the congregation. This rousing, good-hearted tale illustrates the strength of women speaking truth to patriarchal power.


100 Years
Directed and Written by: Melinda Janko
100 Years is the underdog tale of the unrelenting activist and tribal elder, Elouise Cobell, who led a 30-year fight against the United States government to protect the rights of her people and their land. Filing the largest ever federal class action lawsuit on behalf of 300,000 Native Americans, Elouise prevailed in the face of unrepentant obstructions and tampering by officials determined to withhold justice from Native Americans.


HBO’s Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds
Directed by: Alexis Bloom and Fisher Stevens
The story of a family’s complicated love, this documentary is an intimate portrait of Hollywood royalty in all its eccentricity. Carrie Fisher and her mother, Debbie Reynolds, live in the same Beverly Hills compound. The 83-year-old grand dame still has a Las Vegas act, but performing is taking its toll. Carrie’s response is both hilarious and heart-rending. Featuring vintage family films that bring iconic old-world Hollywood to life, as well as extensive vérité footage, the film is directed by Alexis Bloom and Fisher Stevens.


Directed and Written by: Madeleine Gavin
Since its opening in 2011, City of Joy has been a place of hope and healing for the women of the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Founded by Christine Schuler Deschryver and Dr. Denis Mukwege in conjunction with feminist activist, Eve Ensler, it is a community for women survivors of sexual violence.  Madeleine Gavin’s documentary chronicles the institution’s participants working to process their trauma, heal, and give back to their communities.


Dolores – CLOSING FILM [New York Premiere]
Directed and Written by: Peter Bratt
Feminist union organizer Dolores Huerta worked side-by-side with Caesar Chavez during their decades-long fight for worker’s rights. Unfortunately, she’s been all but erased from most historic accounts of the effort. Writer/director Peter Bratt rights that wrong in this powerful documentary, featuring interviews with Dolores, her comrades in arms, and her children, who struggled with her absence during her activist career.


Girl Unbound
Directed by: Erin Heidenreich
At only 25, Maria Toorpakai Wazir is an internationally-celebrated squash player, but in her home country of Pakistan, she faces opposition for her rejection of customary gender roles and refusal to conform to tradition. Erin Heidenreich’s feature film debut is a portrait of a young woman raised as a free spirit within a restrictive society, and the opportunities gained through her boundless view of life’s possibilities.


Keepers of the Game
Directed by: Judd Ehrlich
Traditionally reserved for men, lacrosse was born as a sacred game in Mohawk Territory. At Salmon River High in Fort Covington, NY, an all-Native American girls lacrosse team seeks to bring home a championship. But first they must overcome their crosstown rivals, Massena High. With more than just a game on the line, Judd Ehrlich’s film depicts the girls’ fight to blaze a new path for the next generation of Native American women.


Directed by: Annalise Ophelian
A leader of the fight for LGBT equality from the days of Stonewall, black, trans activist, Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, has never received recognition for the impact of her contributions — until now. Annalise Ophelian’s documentary profiles Miss Major as a political pioneer whose contributions to the trans community stretch from organizing, to being a surrogate parent for those abandoned by their families.


Martha & Niki
Directed and Written by: Tora Mårtens
Reaching the top of the hip-hop dance world in 2010, sisters-in-dance, Martha and Niki, found themselves in the challenging position of being the only women in a male-dominated sport. In a story stretching from Stockholm to New York, and, ultimately Soweto, director Tora Martens documents their struggles and successes and how their friendship is tested.


Political Animals
Directed and Written by: Jonah Markowitz and Tracy Wares
Political Animals presents an exciting portrait of two stories — the history of the legislation that paved the way for marriage equality, and the first four openly gay female legislators who championed the movement. Confronted with fear, indifference and homophobia, these four women stared hate in the face and emerged triumphant.


Restless Creature: Wendy Whelan
Directed by: Linda Saffire and Adam Schlesinger
Restless Creature allows the audience extraordinary access to a behind the scenes world at the New York City Ballet with long-time principal dancer, Wendy Whelan, as she faces injury, retirement, and having to redefine herself as a dancer. Linda Saffire and Adam Schlesinger’s film is a beautiful tribute to a resilient and extraordinary artist.


The Revival: Women and the Word
Directed by: Sekiya Dorsett
Inspired by the Black Arts Movement of the 1970s, The Revival is a tour of queer women of color creating modern day spaces for art and resistance. Director Sekiya Dorsett brings viewers on the road with a group of five visionary poets who tour the country performing in seven states over nine days, and crafts an intimate look at a range of identities and experiences.


Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four
Directed by: Deborah Esquenazi
In 1998, the San Antonio Four, a group of Latina lesbians, were sent to prison after being found guilty of sexually assaulting two young girls. Director Deborah Esquenazi shows how the intersection of homophobia, racism, and class-bias contributed to their conviction, and how these four women successfully took on our flawed justice system, reclaiming their innocence.


Women Who Run Hollywood [U.S. Premiere]
Directed and Written by: Julia Kuperberg and Clara Kuperberg
French documentarians and sisters, Julia and Clara Kuperberg, uncover the forgotten  stories of women who were at the helm of Hollywood during its golden age.  From women directors to unheralded female studio executives, Women Who Run Hollywood shines a light on important women who’ve gone unheralded in history.  A panel following the film will address the question of why these remarkable women are often overlooked, and how that relates to the current conversations on gender inequity in the industry.



A Day On My Wheels
Directed by: Tiffany Kontoyiannis, Written by Sarah Kim
Barnard College student, Sarah Kim, has never let cerebral palsy stand in her way. A Day On My Wheels celebrates Sarah’s accomplishments, determination, and passion for life.


And Nothing Happened
Directed and Written by: Naima Ramos-Chapman
A young woman juggles between the mundane and the extraordinary in an attempt to leave her NYC apartment following a sexual assault.


Dangerous Curves
Directed by: Merete Mueller
What is confidence, really? On stage, online, and in everyday life, plus-sized pole dancer Roslyn Mays uncovers vulnerability and strength through public exposure.


I, Destini
Directed by: Destini Riley and Nicholas Pilarski
Destini Riley co-directs an animated documentary looking at the separate experiences of her family members in the wake of her brother’s incarceration.


La Cocinera
Directed by: Emily Harrold
An inspiring look at the rise of Daniela Soto-Innes, the 25-year-old Mexican-born Chef de Cuisine at Cosme — now hailed as one of the best chefs in New York City.


Directed and Written by: Payal Sethi
A surprising story of a sister’s sacrifice as 18-year-old Raisa hatches a dangerous and improbable plan to save her younger sister from becoming a one-day bride in Hyderabad.


Directed by: Nicole Opper
Mezzo celebrates the life and artistic endeavors of Breanna Sinclaire, an African-American opera singer and the first openly trans woman to study at a major conservatory.


Moving Target [New York Premiere]
Directed by: Tanja Wol Sorensen
The remarkable story of Colombian human rights advocate, Ruby, who fights for justice on behalf of victims of the conflict between government paramilitaries and FARC guerrillas.


The Rain Collector
Directed by: Isabella Wing-Davey
Based on true events, The Rain Collector is the story of a young female scientist in Victorian England who struggles to find her place in a discipline with strict expectations for women.


Directed by: Marvin Bryan Lemus, Written by: Moira Morel and Erick Castrillon
A gay Latina mourns the death of her butch girlfriend, Mac, and vows to bury her with dignity, despite resistance from Mac’s mother.


Where We Stand
Directed by: Kristine Stolakis
The powerful story of a controversial group of Mormon feminists fighting for women’s ordination in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


You Can Go
Directed by: Christine Turner, Written by: Daniel Solé
A startling portrayal of a high school administrator talking down a troubled teen in her school.



Directed by: Elizabeth Mizon
Through the experience of a historical, anonymous, female migrant, Borders tells a powerful story of one group of women who fell victim to racism and sexism in 1970’s Britain.


Incredible Machines
Directed by: Kathryn Ferguson
Contemporary notions of underwear and sexualized advertising imagery are worlds apart from the daily reality of dressing. This film explores the unseen relationship women have with their bodies and undergarments.


Little Doll [New York Premiere]
Directed and Written by: Kate Dolan
After a chance meeting, preteens Elenore and Alex have an instant connection. Amidst friends, frenemies, and sleepovers, they must face the confusion and uncertainty of developing a same-sex first crush.


Little Soldier[U.S. Premiere]
Directed and Written by: Stella Corradi
10 year-old Anya is devoted to her mother Amanda whose boyfriend Derek threatens to come between them. This darkly comic drama highlights the power of one girl’s desire to change her own world.


Murmur [New York Premiere]
Directed by: Aurora Fearnley
Written by: Simon James Cookson
A young woman passes the border safely, but can she convince another to join her break for freedom?

Offside[U.S. Premiere] 

Directed by: Jimmy Dean
Written by: Ellie Gocher
After learning she will soon lose her place on the local boy’s soccer team, eleven-year-old Kirsty struggles to come to terms with her developing identity as a young woman.

Directed and Written by: Nat Luurtsema
Inspired by Macbeth and The Everyday Sexism Project, this story follows three insulted and misunderstood women whose fortunes rise as Macbeth’s fall. Wyrdoes is a modern, 11th century comedy.

The Handmaid’s Tale
Directed by: Reed Morano
Based on the award-winning novel by Margaret Atwood, this story takes place in the dystopia of Gilead, a totalitarian society that treats women as state property. As one of the few remaining fertile women, Offred (Elisabeth Moss) is forced into sexual servitude as a Handmaid in the Commander’s household. In a terrifying and threatening society, Offred fights to survive and to find the daughter that was taken from her.


Across the Line
Directed by: Brad Lichtenstein, Jeff Fitzsimmons, and Nonny de la Peña
Across the Line is an immersive virtual reality experience to put viewers in the shoes of a patient entering a health center for a safe and legal abortion. Using real audio gathered at protests, scripted scenes, and documentary footage, the film is a powerful hybrid documentary-fiction depiction of the gauntlet that many abortion providers, health center staff, and patients must walk on a typical day in America.


Clouds of Sidra
Directed by: Gabo Arora & Chris Milk
Meet Sidra. This charming 12-year-old girl will guide you through her temporary home: The Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan. Zaatari is home to 130,000 Syrians fleeing violence and war, and children make up half the camp’s population. In this lyrical VR film, Sidra leads you through her daily life: Eating, sleeping, learning and playing in the vast desert city of tents.


Waves of Grace
Directed by: Gabo Arora & Chris Milk
This is the story of Decontee Davis, an Ebola survivor who uses her immunity to care for orphaned children in her Liberian village. Liberia has endured the largest Ebola outbreak in history. As communities rebuild, Decontee and others seek healing through faith.


How it Feels to Be Free
Directed by: Yoruba Richen
How it Feels to Be Free is a feature length documentary illustrating how trailblazing black female entertainers took control of their own image while fighting for civil rights, both through their artistic work and through political actions.


Directed by: Cynthia Lowen
Netizens exposes the proliferation of cyber harassment faced by women, spreading from the web to the most intimate corners of their lives. This feature documentary follows targets of harassment, along with lawyers, advocates, policymakers and others, as they confront digital abuse and strive for equality and justice online.


Untitled Women of the 1st Intifada Project
Directed by: Julia Bacha
In the spring of 1988, a clandestine network of Palestinian women emerged to lead a vibrant nonviolent social movement that put the Palestinian people on the map. Their identities have remained hidden… until now.

Indie Film Financing: How to Find Funding For Your Film
Film financing is widely acknowledged as one of the most challenging aspects of the filmmaking process. You can have the greatest story or cast — but without funding, you are just another aspiring filmmaker with a dream and a passion. This session will provide useful tips and strategies to find and pitch to investors and market your film for success.


Contract Landmines:  How to Navigate and Negotiate the Legal Side of Filmmaking Attorney Nicole Page will help participants understand the legal landscape of filmmaking, including when to engage counsel and how to “decode” legal contracts related to filmmaking and the industry. By reviewing important and standard contract clauses, participants will learn how to protect themselves from legal pitfalls and sticky situations in the future.


Female Gaze — Is There A Female Narrative?
When most all films are made from the white male perspective, it not only reinforces that perspective, it also reinforces the invisibility of other perspectives. What does this systemic problem mean for the stories we tell and for the stories we are told? Join us for a conversation on the female narrative. Does it exist? If yes, what is it?


Unconscious Bias Workshop
This panel discussion will focus on how to create systemic change for women in the entertainment industry. Panelists lead us in a conversation to explore unconscious bias, how it manifests within the entertainment industry, and what the industry can do to overcome these barriers and create more opportunities for women.


Conquering the Camera
This “Tools of the Trade” expo will give aspiring filmmakers the opportunity to get up close and personal with today’s top film cameras and equipment. This is a unique chance to participate in interactive workshops and training sessions with experts.


A Noble Affair Live Reading
Written by: Anil Baral and Kathryn Maughan
Join us for a reading from A Noble Affair, a 2016 Athena List winner. As Marie Curie is nominated for a Nobel Prize, her affair with a married man creates a scandal that ruins her reputation and becomes the obstacle to the prize that will prove her a scientist in her own right.


Master Class with Patricia Riggen
Patricia Riggen has directed films including the Chilean miners saga The 33, Girl in Progress, La Misma Luna (Under the Same Moon) which she also produced and Miracles from Heaven.  In 2016, Mexican born Riggen is the top grossing female director for a live action film for Miracles from Heaven. Riggen also wrote, directed and produced two multi-awarded short films, Gordon Parks’ documentary Family Portrait and narrative film The Cornfield. She is a graduate of Columbia University School of the Arts.


Now in its seventh year, The Athena Film Festival is four days of inspiring films that honor courageous and audacious women in real life and the fictional world. The curated program includes features, documentaries, and shorts directed by both women and men.  The four-day festival, which includes conversations with directors, producers and actors, as well as activities for filmmakers, will be held February 9 – 12, 2017 in NYC at Barnard College. The Founding Sponsor of the Athena Film Festival is The Artemis Rising Foundation, Regina K. Scully, Founder and CEO.   


Established at Barnard College in 2009, the Athena Center for Leadership Studies is a catalyst for the education, development and advancement of inspired and courageous women leaders worldwide. Renowned civil rights attorney, Kathryn Kolbert, is the Center’s Constance Hess Williams Director.


Women and Hollywood educates, advocates, and agitates for gender parity across the entertainment industry. Over the last nine years, it has grown to be one of the most respected sites focused on women’s issues and popular culture, and its founder, Melissa Silverstein, has become a well-respected leader on the subject.


The idea was bold for its time. Founded in 1889, Barnard was the only college in New York City, and one of the few in the nation, where women could receive the same rigorous and challenging education available to men. Today, as the world-renowned liberal arts college for women at Columbia University, Barnard remains devoted to empowering extraordinary women to become even more exceptional.



Artemis Rising Foundation is a philanthropic organization dedicated to developing and promoting media, education and the arts that transform our culture. Regina K. Scully is its founder and CEO.


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