Athena Film Festival Programming Recommendations


Clueless – VOD
This film is in my top ten list of greatest films of all time. Amy Heckerling made one of the greatest films of the 1990s and till this day, she doesn’t get enough credit for it. Hmmm, I wonder why? Loosely based on Jane Austen’s Emma, the film is set in Beverly Hills and we follow Cher (the incomparable Alicia Silverstone) and her friends as they navigate high school, popularity, and all matters of the heart. The film also stars the ageless Paul Rudd, what more could you ask for? One small note, I never returned my Blockbuster copy of Clueless, it sits in all of its glory at my moms house. Long live rental stores! – KM

Easy A – Netflix
Emma Stone absolutely kills it in this film. I mean the premise is strong: a teenage girl becomes her high school’s Hester Prynne when she pretends to have sex with a bunch of guys for money, but Emma Stone really makes it. Yes, Emma Stone’s character, Olive, is having fake sex for money (or Bath & Body Works gift cards) but the whole scheme starts out with Olive trying to help out her recently out gay friend from getting constantly bullied. Then, this movie becomes all the fun of a teen comedy while also having a real discussion about slut-shaming and how teenage girls are perceived when they have sex. – KL

Juno – VOD
This is one of my all time favorite movies. In fact, it’s possible that my orange Tic Tac obsession originates from this very film. Juno MacGuff is a tough, odd teenage girl who has basically created her own language with her best friend, Leah. After having sex with her other friend, Bleaker (Michael Cera), Juno learns that she is “for shizz up the spout” (pregnant). Juno decides to put the baby up for adoption and that’s when she meets a seemingly perfect married couple (Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman). I love this film because it has a voice all its own. Diablo Cody’s script just shines the entire film and if you’re not quoting this film for the rest of your life, I’m shocked. – KL

Mean Girls – Hulu
If Clueless is considered the Old Testament of teen girl films, Mean Girls in the New Testament. I mean the film was written by Tina Fey, what more do you need to know? Ok so you may need more. Teenage Cady (Lindsay Lohan) grew up in Africa with her Scientist parents. When they lose funding they return to America and Cady soon realizes that the jungles of Africa and High School are very similar. – KM

Bring it On – VOD
I feel lucky that I get to say that I saw this film in theaters. How fortunate was I to get to see the Rancho Carne High Schoolers and the East Compton Clovers compete on the big screen! Shout out to the amazing Kirsten Dunst and Gabrielle Union who carry the film. Remember, don’t drop the spirit stick. – KM

Gotta Kick it Up – Disney+
We can’t make this list without a Disney Channel Original Movie on here. “We’re gonna watch a Disney Channel movieeee.” And then one girl plays with a glow stick and another does a gravity-defying toe touch in the background. Miss those commercials. Gotta Kick it Up was my favorite Disney Channel movie as a kid and let me tell you, it holds up. I love a story about a dance team with a lot of heart but not a lot of know-how. Gotta Kick it Up is a great movie about a group of girls coming together and supporting each other. – KL

Selah and the Spades – Amazon Prime
Writer/Director Tayarisha Poe’s debut feature film is an equally bizarre and terrifying film about the high stakes underground world of a prestigious boarding school. There are five factions that run Haldwell and Selah is head of arguably the most powerful faction, the Spades, but, in her senior year of high school, she is looking at the end of her reign. Selah takes on a protegge, Paloma, but as graduation gets closer and Selah gets closer to stepping down, she realizes she may not be able to pass on the throne. Tayarisha Poe’s dark and bizarre stylization of this high school story makes for a surprisingly chilling movie that gets at those profound high school fears that we try to forget. – KL

Seventeen Again – Amazon Prime
No no, we’re not talking about the movie where Zac Efron plays a young Matthew Perry, effectively living out two dream scenarios: one where Zac Efron was cool in high school and one where a young Matthew Perry looked like Zac Efron. No, we’re talking about the Mowry family classic. Tia, Tahj and Tamara Mowry all star in this bizarre comedy where little boy genius, Willie (Tahj Mowry), accidentally turns his grandparents into the 17-year-old versions of themselves. Now with two youthful grandparents who are ready to relive the glory days, Willie and his older sister, Sydney (Tia Mowry) are in way over their heads. If you like Sister Sister or Smart Guy, you’ll love this movie. Tia and Tamara are such a natural comedy duo. Actually, this is making me want to go watch some Sister Sister right now. I think I’m gonna do that. – KL



Never Have I Ever – Netflix
Mindy Kaling did it again. This show has it all: secret crushes, high school deception, teen bravery, interactions so awkward you’ll need to hide under your shirt to watch, and most importantly real honest relationships between women that make us laugh and cry…and also an adamant tuba player who swears there’s poop in the orchestra room. Devi and her friends Eleanor and Fabiola, go through the usual high school shenanigans that make us laugh and then immediately embarrassed as we remember something we did that was all too similar. But this show really shines with its compassionate portrayal of a teenager struggling with grief and trauma from losing her father. – KL

The Half of It – Netflix
Full disclosure, I haven’t watched this yet. I’m emotionally preparing myself. The other programmer, Kristin, sent me this trailer and I had to take a break. A reserved queer teen helps the cool guy get the attention of the pretty girl in class but then she falls in love with the pretty girl instead? Forget it, I’m done. AND it looks like the cool guy becomes an ally instead of being the worst? I can’t. I am for sure watching this movie this weekend but I can’t find anyone to Netflix party with. Hit me up?- KL

How to Build a Girl – Amazon Prime
This film is MAGIC! Beanie Feldstein absolutely shines as Johanna Morrigan, a brilliant outcast who becomes the  infamous (dare we say, feared) rock critic, Dolly Wilde. When Johanna gets a job writing for a prominent rock and roll magazine in London, she realizes that her newfound love and passion for rock and roll does not make for interesting reviews so she makes the pen her knife, cutting down any act that stands in her way. But, even when it seems like she’s lost her way, her exuberance that made her first articles too boring comes gushing through, giving the audience a chance to live in Johanna’s magical world of discovery. – KL

High Fidelity – Hulu
Zoë Kravitz absolutely kills it in this new series based on the famous novel by Nick Hornby. I’m loving the new life this show is giving to this story that has now been a novel, a feature film, a Broadway show and a TV series. Like in previous iterations of the story, Rob (Zoë Kravitz) has just broken up with her partner, and in an effort to find out why her romances don’t work out, she decides to reconnect with her exes. As the season goes one, the series diverges more and more from the source material and takes on its own life. It’s definitely worth checking out. – KL

Normal People – Hulu
Based on Sally Rooney’s best-selling, critically-acclaimed novel, Normal People is a show that most people will say is binge-worthy. Dear reader, I urge you to savor each episode and spread them out! Normal People follows the complicated relationship between Connell and Marianne, two people who meet in secondary school and then later in college. This show is equal parks beautiful and heartbreak, but I cannot stress this enough you will become obsessed. – KM

Creator Vicky Jones has answered the question many folks have. What happens when two people who made a pact years ago, actually follow through with it? In Run, Ruby (the incredible Merritt Weaver) meets up with her college boyfriend Billy (the talented Domhnall Gleeson) after she responds to his text of “RUN” with “RUN” thus fulfilling the pact they made 17 years ago, in which if the other replied to the text with the same, they would drop everything and meet in NYC to travel across American together. The show is a mix of comedy and thriller. – KM

Insecure – HBO
When I realized Season 4 was coming out in April I thought “thank you HBO for the perfect quarantine present.” If you haven’t seen the first three seasons of this show, I’m jealous of you because you have three great seasons of TV ahead of you. Issa Rae’s HBO comedy/drama is quick, hilarious, and honest. If you watch this show, I know you’ve rapped to yourself in the mirror at some point and if you’re me you’ve searched Spotify for a playlist of just Issa’s mirror raps. Season 4 does not disappoint and I’m loving seeing these characters I love. It is a bit ironic though that Issa’s big move this season is throwing a massive Block Party for her neighborhood and I’m like oh yeah when are we going to be able to do that again? – KL



Alien – Hulu
It seems timely to suggest a film that centers around a smart, capable woman who sees danger and gets sh*t done. Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is a true badass and a character that many idolize. Alien is canon for any horror/sci-fi lover. The film focuses on crew members who are attacked by a mysterious life form (AN ALIEN) after they answer unknown transmission. This movie is so good, and features some of the best jump scares. It also has the best tagline of all time: “In Space no one can hear you scream.” CHILLING! – KM

US – Hulu
Lupita Nyong’o delivers one of the best performances of 2019 in Jordan Peele’s US. A family’s annual beach trip turns into utter chaos when their doppelgangers show up and seek revenge. US is filled with jump scares, and one of the best twists of all time. It will make you do a double take next time you see a person wearing a red jumpsuit, which you see a lot of in Brooklyn. – KM

Under the Shadow – Netflix
This film gives monsters in the closet and under the bed a whole new meaning. During the Iran-Iraq conflict, a Tehran woman (a former medical student, who is barred from resuming her studies due to involvement in her student leftit group), must care for her daughter while her husband is called to war. Over time, the woman slowly begins to believe evil forces and spirits are after her daughter. I watched this film and ended up holding a blanket under my face awaiting the next terrifying moment. – KM

The Babadook – Hulu
In recent years, The Babadook monster has become a sort of queer icon, but I urge you to not be fooled into thinking that the movie is some fun delighting romp. I can tell you it is not. I personally believe there is nothing scarier than children actors in horror films, and the kid in this film is number 1 on my list of terrifying children. The film, directed by Jennifer Kent, revolves around a single mother, who is haunted by the death of her husband, while she tries to help her son’s fear of a monster lurking in their home, but soon she realizes that the monster is real. Prepare to be Baba-Shook. – KM



Someone Great – Netflix
We were honored to present writer/director Jennifer Kaytin Robinson with an Athena Award this year! If you haven’t seen her movie, Someone Great, you’re missing out. Starring Gina Rodriguez, Lakeith Stanfield, Brittany Snow, and DeWanda Wise, this is a cast you can’t beat. This may be a break up story but it is full of love in all of the best ways. Also this movie will make you fall in love with “Truth Hurts” and Lizzo all over again. Not like you fell out of love with Lizzo. If you fell out of love with Lizzo, I’m not sure we can be friends but still, watch this movie. – KL

Rafiki – VOD
We loved sharing this incredible film with our audience at the 2019 Athena Film Festival. This film tells the story of two young girls from Nairobi, Kenya who initially meet because their fathers are running against each other in a local election. But Kena and Ziki are drawn to each other and they find a way to be together despite their surroundings. This film is truly beautiful. This story is so powerful that the film was banned in Kenya. – KL

Portrait of a Lady on Fire – Hulu
A huge hit on the festival circuit, and then nominated for Best Foreign Film at the 2019 Oscars, this is a must-see film from this past year. Everything about this film is striking: the setting, the shots, the looks. This is a period piece that is firmly rooted in realness and desire. The women in this film have the fire and desire of the women in my life and it’s wonderful. Also, if you’re into Greek mythology (or the musical Hadestown) this film has a beautiful rewrite of the Orpheus and Eurydice love story. – KL

Love & Basketball
This film was writer/director Gina Prince-Bythewood’s debut, and it is a SLAM DUNK (see what I did there), it is everything you want in a romantic drama. There is young love, heartbreak, love triangles and more. If you haven’t seen this film WATCH IT NOW, and if you have seen it, I know you’re already queuing it up. – KM

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before PARTS I and II – Netflix

I am not ashamed to express my love of YA Novels and Films, as of late many seem to be way too dark for my tastes, looking at you 13 Reasons Why and Euphoria…. When To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before appeared on Netflix in 2017, I fell in LOVE with Laura Jean and the film. They are the films I wish I had as a teenager. So when the sequel came out earlier this year, you bet I sat down the night it came out and watched it, and then watched it again a few days later.

Kory, the other programmer, and I have an ongoing debate on which guy is better suited for Laura Jean, I love Peter, and he is the perfect High School boyfriend, but John Ambrose is better suited for Laura Jean in the long run. That being said I am still rooting for Peter, because hello it’s Peter!! – KM

Shelter – VOD
Okay so we don’t do this very often, but this film is special and so is the director. This film is about MEN! What?! But it’s great. You might know the director, Jonah Markowitz, from the incredible documentary about four openly gay women California politicians, Political Animals, which he co-directed with Tracey Wares. We showed Political Animals at the 2017 Athena Film Festival (available for free on Tubi and available to rent on VOD) and it’s amazing but this week is about love stories and you just have to see his 2007 film, Shelter. Zach is a talented artist and surfer who is selfless to a fault, taking on the paternal role in his nephew, Cody’s, life. I fell in love with this character and I know you will too. I reveal nothing else about the film, just go watch! – KL



Don’t Talk to Irene – VOD
We showed this awesome film at the 2019 Athena Film Festival and it was one of my favorites from that year. Irene is such a cool, inspiring teenager and so are the people she works with at the retirement home. Not only does this movie have a big dance number that will make you cry, it has a cameo performance by the one and only Geena Davis! – KL

A League of Their Own – VOD
This movie has so many memorable moments and quotes but I think my favorite is when Doris (Rosie O’Donnell) says “I think we’re all alright.” This was the one thing a weird girl on a boy’s baseball team needed to hear. Every time I go back to this movie, I’m amazed all over again. The writing, the directing, the performances, it’s all incredible. Also, what better way to celebrate Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson recovering from COVID-19 than an A League of Their Own movie night? – KL

Fast Color – Hulu
This film opened the 2019 Athena Film Festival and it’s great! It stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Lorraine Toussaint and was written and directed by Columbia alum, Julia Hart. This movie is about a new kind of superhero whose powers are rooted in creation, not destruction. At the festival, Hart talked about how she wanted to create a superhero that had true feminine energy and she realized that women create, they don’t destroy. It’s a really interesting story and yes there is a dramatic scene in the rain so you’re welcome. – KL

Real Women Have Curves – Hulu
Take about a feel good film that will also bring some tears. America Ferrera in her acting debut stars as Ana Garcia, a first generation Mexican-American. Ana dreams of going away to college, but her parents believe she should stay at home and provide for her family. Ana trying to compromise with her parents, ends up spending a summer working with her mother at a sewing factory, where she learns more about life than sewing. This film will have you laughing and crying, which is a thing I think we all need right now. – KM

Lilo & Stitch – VOD and Disney+
Elvis songs, surf montages, an alien-dog, and a young girl who does nothing but be her beautiful weird self? Yeah, I don’t think you can get a better feel-good movie. I loved this movie when I was a kid but I actually think I love it even more now as an adult. This story is just bursting with imagination and love and I’m sure you’ve seen it, but really you gotta watch it again. Trust me, Pleakley has zingers that you don’t remember.- KL

Frances Ha – Netflix

“I’m so embarrassed. I’m not a real person yet.” – Frances

Easily one of my favorite films, the first time I saw it I was immediately smittened, you cannot help but fall in love with Frances (Greta Gerwig). For me, Frances Ha shows us that it’s ok to be lost in life, and that just because we are a little lost, it doesn’t mean we can’t have joy and be happy. In addition to great performances, the soundtrack always has me dancing in the street – which I can’t wait to do when this is all over. – KM

Bend it Like Beckham – Hulu
GOALLLLLLLLLLLL! This is me pretending I am a sports announcer, even in my wildest dreams I know that I am not athletic and would never be good enough to play professional sports! With that said, this film made me believe that maybe with enough hard work I could kick a ball into a goal. Jess Bhamra comes from a strict Indian family, and is not permitted to play organized sports, the thing is – Jess is VERY good at soccer. She defies her parents, and joins a semi-pro team. The film has so much heart, but is also hilarious, with Jess having to find so many different excuses so that she can make her matches. – KM



Tuca and Bertie – Netflix
I love Tuce and Bertie. It brings that same best friend love and energy as the beloved Broad City and somehow it’s even weirder but in the best way. Tiffany Haddish and Ali Wong are so hilarious together and honestly I am so here for the bird puns. – KL

Leslie Jones: Time Machine – Netflix
It was sad to see Leslie Jones leave SNL but if she needed to do that in order to make this masterpiece, it is a very welcome transition. There is no one who does comedy quite like Leslie Jones. From PSA’s about male undercarriage hygiene to a timeless tale about Leslie, Prince and a ponytail, this special has vital information you won’t want to miss. – KL

Derry Girls – Netflix
A lot of great shows have come out of the UK, but Derry Girls is by far my favorite of them all. We follow 4 friends, Erin, Orla, Clare, Michelle, and Michelle’s cousin James as they navigate life as teenagers in Derry, during the last years of the Northern Ireland conflict. The show is hilarious, heartfelt, and just a real joy to watch. – KM

Shrill – Hulu
Thank the Hulu gods that Shrill (based on Lindy West’s best selling novel) is back for a second season. Aidy Bryant’s Annie is making changes, taking risks, and standing up for herself. I don’t want to spoil anything so I’ll just say this: it’s just as amazing as the first season, and if you haven’t watched any of it yet, here’s your chance. We are happy to report that Shrill has already been picked up for a third season. – KL

Pen15 – Hulu
This is my favorite Hulu original series out right now. Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle have created something really special. Watching the two creators (in their 30s) play fictionalized versions of their middle school selves (in the early 2000s) alongside actors who are actually in middle school is alarming and hilarious. It just adds the extra layer of weird that is perfectly true to the middle school experience. -KL

Obvious Child – Netflix
During tough times, I love going back to this movie. In this movie Jenny Slate proves what we knew already: she’s a force. Director Gillian Robespierre crafts the funny, inventive, feminist romantic comedy we want. I’m honestly jealous of people who haven’t seen this yet because they get to experience it for the first time. But like that doesn’t stop me from watching it over and over. – KL

Sister Aimee – VOD
We were lucky enough to have this play at the 2020 Athena Film Festival and now it’s available for all to see. This is a fundamentally weird story and the film lets you know that from the very beginning. Not only is it a fascinating examination of truth and fact in a time where those concepts feel intangible, it is also a great exploration of the female gaze. – KL

Buffaloed – VOD
If you’re looking for a great indie comedy to watch, this is it. Director, Tanya Wexler does an incredible job of telling a very unique story with an original style and voice. If you’re tired of watching movies about white men breaking banking laws but you still love a good hustle story, this is the perfect movie for you. Lead actress Zoey Deutch absolutely kills it and as an added bonus for any Schitt’s Creek fans the lovely Noah Reid gives a heartwarming performance as well. – KL



Atlantics – Netflix
A breakout film from the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, this story does not hold back. It is visually stunning and is an exciting debut for director, Mati Diop. With a masterful blend of a supernatural style that delivers real world commentary, you will want to watch this film again.

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) – VOD
Easily when of my favorite films of the year, a fun action film. Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) has recently broken up with the Joker, which has made her public enemy number 1 for Gotham Crime bosses. With no one else to turn to, Harley teams up with three badass women to take on the worst of Gotham. I laughed and cheered the whole way through. – KM .

Frozen II – VOD and Disney+
This film exceeded all of my expectations and let’s be real, they were already pretty high. Going into a sequel I always get nervous but this film did a great job of making a story very relevant to our time and not gonna lie, I’m following Anna’s “do the next right thing advice” and by that I mean staying inside. – KL

Lost Girls – Netflix
Not exactly a happy escape kinda film but this is such a well-told story that needs to be heard. Liz Garbus does an incredible job of telling this story with compassion and empathy, eluding the true crime trap that sensationalizes a story and turns every audience member into a detective. When I watched this film I felt like a strong mother who wouldn’t be stopped. – KL

Toni Morrison- The Pieces I AM -Hulu
During tough times, I always try to look to wise women who came before me and for most of this year I’ve been looking to Toni Morrison. This film lets Dr. Morrison tell her story and you just sit there and listen to all she has to offer and then you realize she’s really funny and you love her even more.

The Farewell – VOD
Lulu Wang’s award-winning film The Farewell was on everyone’s best of lists last year, and for good reason. Billi (Awkwafina in an incredible performance) and her family return to China under the guise of a family wedding, but in reality is so they can say goodbye to their beloved matriarch – the only person unaware that she has a few weeks left to live. The film is based on an actual lie Wang’s family told her grandmother. This film is a must see. – KM

Booksmart – Hulu
This film is so fun. Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Devers are rising comedy stars and we can’t wait to see more films directed by Olivia Wilde. Honestly just hearing the music for the trailer of this movie makes me happy and want to watch it. Wilde creates this hilarious bizarre high school world that is apparently full of geniuses. – KL

Emma – VOD
Based on one of Jane Austen’s 1815 novel, we follow Emma Woodhouse who occupies herself with matchmaking – in sometimes misguided, often meddling fashion- in the lives of her friends and family. This is one of Austen’s funnier novels, and it’s great to see it come alive on screen. And if you plan on making it a movie night, why not add the 1995 classic Clueless (which is based on Emma) to your list. – KM