As part of our Creative Development Program to support women filmmakers, the Athena Film Festival at Barnard College conducts a Works-in-Progress Program. It is an intensive pitch training and storytelling strengthening opportunity, that in addition to the training includes a live pitch in front of a panel of esteemed industry representatives, introductions to a network of potential supporters and partners, peer mentorship, and a cohort to grow with, all wrapped into a festival event. Each filmmaker participates in intensive pitch training with Peabody Award-winning filmmaker, Judith Helfand who is the co-producer of the program. This program is underwritten by Secret Sauce Media whose Founder Julie Parker Benello is a Barnard Alumna.
Coexistence My Ass!
Amber Fares, Director/Producer; Rachel Leah-Jones, Producer
COEXISTENCE MY ASS follows Noam Shuster, a bilingual Hebrew- and Arabic- speaking Israeli comedian who crafts a daring act out of the wild and wonderful identity politics she embodies. When #BLM-inspired protests reach Israel, Noam realizes it’s time to push her compatriots to unlearn their racism, one joke at a time.
It is a feature-length documentary that explores how humor can be used to challenge inequality and injustice from within. From a Harvard fellowship to pop-up stand- up shows, the film chronicles the journey of comedian Noam Shuster from somebody to somebody-even-bigger. Blending cinema verite and live performance with an intimate character study, this is a story about a woman who not only finds her own unique voice, but gives voice to other multicultural, multidimensional, multilingual and transnational women of color as political allies and agents of social change.
Bridget Besaw, Director; Adetoro Makinde, Co-Director & Producer
Germaine Jenkins—urban farmer, activist, and a Black mother—is dismantling power structure norms in North Charleston, SC, to save her cooperative venture, Fresh Future Farm (FFF), and end the food apartheid that has ravaged communities like hers for decades. The farm blossoms from a radical idea to garnering national attention thanks to a dynamic mélange of mostly young, gifted and Black team members. ROOTED tracks Germaine’s coming-to-power journey as she learns the survival strategies necessary to sustain herself and grow more leaders.
In 2014, Germaine Jenkins convinced the North Charleston City Council to lease her a .8 acre vacant lot to grow shiny food and open a small grocery store for a community that hadn’t had access to a traditional grocery store in over a decade. She garnered a five-year lease on Success Street to create the farm, and now that lease is up. Yet despite raising funds to buy the farmland, a clean deed is evasive, forcing her to confront the harsh realities Black women leaders face in America.
The Untitled 19th* News Film
Chelsea Hernandez, Director; Heather Courtney, Director; Diane Quon, Producer
n 2020, a fearless group of journalists, including founder Emily Ramshaw and reporter Errin Haines, seek to upend the status quo by launching an all-women news start-up. Building a diverse newsroom that reflects the women, BIPOC and LGBTQ+ people they’re writing about, The 19th* News could be a model in these changing times – IF they can survive their tumultuous first year.
THE UNTITLED 19TH* NEWS FILM, is an observational feature which follows The 19th*’s first 18 months. With exclusive access to The 19th*’s team, we embed with Emily and Errin and the team of their reporters located across the country as they set out to tell stories of the women, BIPOC and LGBTQ+ people who are ignored by legacy newsrooms. Some of the more groundbreaking stories will form the spine of our film, showing how this newsroom is changing the narrative of our country one story at a time.
They Tried To Bury Us
Bree Newsome Bass, Director; Jacqueline Olive, Executive Producer
THEY TRIED TO BURY US picks up where news coverage left off when artist and activist Bree Newsome Bass made headlines with a historic act of protest in 2015, scaling a 30-foot flagpole at the South Carolina capital to lower the confederate flag following the racially-motivated shootings at Mother Emanuel AME Church. In her feature directorial debut, Bree shows how that event permanently altered her life, giving audiences a nuanced and intimate view of what it’s like to be a grassroots organizer on the frontlines of change where individuals must constantly weigh their desire to challenge power against the risks it poses to their safety.
Bree quickly learned that the fame and notoriety that comes with making history had altered her life forever, creating new dynamics she now has to carefully navigate as she continues grassroots organizing in her local community. THEY TRIED TO BURY US picks up this revolutionary story where the news left off. As she returns home to Charlotte, North Carolina to organize locally, this first person documentary tells the story of Bree’s leadership in building movements for long-term systemic change. Newly married to another movement organizer and now mother to an infant son, she strives to find balance between her obligations to family and her commitment to the modern civil rights movement.
Rough Cut Stage
Set in the cutthroat, male-dominated world of high school debate, where tomorrow’s leaders are groomed, GIRL TALK tells the compelling and timely story of five girls on a diverse, top-ranked Massachusetts high school debate team as they strive to become the best debaters in the United States.
In LITTLE SALLIE WALKER, four Black women from across the generations recount how they once discovered pleasure, refuge, and power in childhood play. As they continue to navigate a less than idyllic American landscape, each contemplates if play is magical enough to save them now.
I of the Water (The Unwritten Life of Sia Figiel)
Acclaimed Pacific writer Sia Figiel is heralded for her groundbreaking work exposing violence against women, yet she struggles to find peace in her own life. It’s not until she embarks on a walk across America that she begins to uncover the true source of her pain.
Women of Valor
At first glance Esty Shushan seems like a regular Ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) woman: a daughter of a Rabbi, an elder sister in a family of 12 siblings, whose children grew up in Ultra-Orthodox schools. For years, she wrote articles for Haredi newspapers under a pseudonym of a man, and kept silent in the face of a society that doesn’t allow Haredi women to run for the Israeli parliament. However, one day she realizes she has to speak up and act, and along with her fellow Haredi sisters goes to raise the flag of their struggle.
UPRISING follows three women in three different countries, telling the stories of revolution, change and empowerment through their own singular lens. The viewer is immersed into their lives of protest, planning and campaigning for better futures for themselves, their families, and their countries.
WHEEL QUEENS is a docuseries that examines the intersection of disability, race and socioeconomic status through the lens of 6 women in wheelchairs who are Disability Rights Activists and beauty pageant queens.