Mira Nair to receive 2016 Laura Ziskin Lifetime Achievement Award

SUFFRAGETTE to receive first ever Athena Ensemble Award

Additional awardees include Geralyn Dreyfous, Karyn Kusama  
and Jeanine Tesori



New York, NY (December 16, 2015) – Prolific filmmaker and activist Mira Nair will receive The Laura Ziskin Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2016 Athena Film Festival at Barnard CollegeAdditional awardees announced today include producer Geralyn Dreyfous, director Karyn Kusama, and composer Jeanine Tesori (BC ’83). This year the Athena Film Festival is also thrilled to honor the cast and crew of SUFFRAGETTE with the inaugural Athena Ensemble Award. The sixth annual festival will take place February 18-21, 2016.

The Athena Film Festival recognizes noted actors, directors, producers and other members of the film industry for their leadership and creative accomplishments, and honors extraordinary women in the film industry, and showcases films about powerful and courageous women leaders in real life and the fictional world.

Mira Nair’s debut film SALAAM BOMBAY was nominated for an Academy Award. Nair also directed MISSISSIPI MASALA, VANITY FAIR, THE NAMESAKE, Golden Globe® and Emmy Award- winning HYSTERICAL BLINDNESS, MONSOON WEDDING, and THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST. She recently completed QUEEN OF KATWE for Disney Studios.

“It is an honor to receive this award, to be in the august company of several splendid women who have paved the path before me. “No words – action” was the lesson my mother taught me: as artists, we have the privilege of holding a mirror to the world, to engage, to question, to bring beauty to a complex universe.”

The story of SUFFRAGETTE and the incredible team of women who brought it to the screen epitomize the mission of the Athena Film Festival, and these accomplishments will be celebrated with the first ever Athena Ensemble Award presented to the cast and crew. Inspired by true events, SUFFRAGETTE movingly explores the passion and heartbreak of those who risked all they had for women’s right to vote—their jobs, their homes, their children, and even their lives. Produced by Alison Owen and Faye Ward, SUFFRAGETTE is directed by Sarah Gavron from an original screenplay by Abi Morgan. The cast includes Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Cartier, Brendan Gleeson, Anne-Marie Duff, Ben Whishaw, Romola Garai, Natalie Press and Meryl Streep.

Honoree Geralyn Dreyfous has executive produced films such as Academy Award®- winning BORN INTO BROTHELS, THE DAY MY GOD DIED, THE INVISIBLE WAR and THE SQUARE. Dreyfous is also the co-founder of Impact Partners and is the Utah Film Center founder and board chair.

Honoree Karyn Kusama has directed films including ÆON FLUX and JENNIFER’S BODY and wrote and directed GIRLFIGHT.  Her latest film, THE INVITATION, will be released in 2016.

Honoree, Tony Award winning composer and musical arranger, and Barnard College alumna Jeanine Tesori (BC ’83) has scored films and plays including FUN HOME, TWELFTH NIGHT, THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE, CAROLINE OR CHANGE and SHREK THE THIRD. She is the most prolific and honored female theatrical composer in history.

“We are honored to be recognizing the remarkable accomplishments of these outstanding women,” said Kathryn Kolbert, co-founder of the Athena Film Festival and the Constance Hess Williams Director of the Barnard College Athena Center. “Each woman has had an extraordinary impact on entertainment, and their careers exemplify the power of female leadership in film.”

“The push for gender parity in Hollywood has gained momentum this year. We are proud to recognize women who through their work and their voices are changing the industry,” said Melissa Silverstein, Athena Film Festival co-founder and artistic director and founder of Women and Hollywood.  “Celebrating an inspiring cross-section of filmmakers and artists for the sixth year continues the Athena Film Festival’s mission of highlighting the remarkable people forging a path for women in the industry.”

“We couldn’t be more proud of the program the Athena Festival builds every year,” said Regina K. Scully. “As the founding sponsor we are thrilled to be part of such a unique event that elevates and celebrates women in entertainment.”

Previous honorees have included Jodie Foster, Ava DuVernay, Diablo Cody, Kasi Lemmons, Callie Khouri, Gina Prince-Bythewood, Sheila Nevins, Julie Taymor, Sherry Lansing and Gale Anne Hurd, among others.

As previously announced, the AFF is partnering with The Black List for the inaugural Athena Film Festival Black List Mini-Lab.  Four female writers with scripts focusing on women’s leadership will be selected to participate in the Mini-Lab at the festival.

The 2016 festival co-chairs include Amma Asante, Julie Parker Benello, Debra Martin Chase, Dan Cogan, Diane Levin, Jon Levin, Regina K. Scully, Rachel Weisz, Sherry Lansing, Gina Prince- Bythewood, Sheila Nevins, Dylan McDermott, Ava DuVernay, Susan Rovner, Lisa Garcia Quiroz and Susan Fales-Hill.

Passes, individual ticket sales and the announcement of the lineup will take place in early January 2016. Please visit the Athena Film Festival’s website for regular updates, announcements and to purchase passes.



Now in its sixth year, the Athena Film Festival — a celebration of women and leadership—is an engaging weekend of feature films, documentaries and shorts that highlight women’s leadership in real life and the fictional world. It will be held February 18-21 in NYC at Barnard College.  The Festival also created the Athena List, an annual slate of between 3-5 screenplays with female leaders or strong female protagonists that have yet to be made into films. The Founding Sponsor of the Athena Film Festival is The Artemis Rising Foundation, Regina K. Scully, Founder and CEO.


Women and Hollywood educates, advocates, and agitates for gender parity across the entertainment industry. Over the last eight 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.


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.


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. For more information, visit

Athena Film Festival Founding Sponsor- Regina K. Scully – Founder and CEO of Artemis Rising Foundation

“New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.”


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