Eve Ensler, Patricia Riggen and Regina K. Scully to be honored
David Oyelowo to receive the 2017 Athena Leading Man Award

 Festival returns to Barnard College February 9 – February 12, 2017

New York, NY (December 20, 2016) –The Athena Film Festival (AFF) announced today its 2017 awardees, celebrating female leaders in the entertainment industry and those who support them.  The festival will honor 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 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 Athena Film Festival celebrates the leadership and creative accomplishments of trailblazers in the entertainment industry who continue to break boundaries.  The 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 to inspire and empower a new generation of filmmakers and individuals.

Previous Athena Film Festival awardees include Jodie Foster, Ava DuVernay, Mira Nair, Diablo Cody, Kasi Lemmons, Karyn Kusama, Callie Khouri, Gina Prince-Bythewood, Sheila Nevins, Julie Taymor, Sherry Lansing and Gale Anne Hurd, among others.

“Our 2017 Athena Film Festival honorees celebrate an incredible group of people whose work promotes the advancement of women in film,” said Kathryn Kolbert, co-founder of the Athena Film Festival and the Constance Hess Williams ‘66 Director of the Athena Center for Leadership Studies at Barnard College. “We are grateful to be giving our second Athena Leading Man Award to David Oyelowo.  We feel it is crucial to highlight the men who support women in the industry.”

“We are thrilled to highlight four individuals who are shining examples of empowering women in the industry and are role models in their fields,” said Melissa Silverstein, Athena Film Festival artistic director co-founder and and founder of Women and Hollywood.  “We are delighted to add these names to the festival’s prestigious list of honorees, which shines a spotlight on the remarkable progress, and the ongoing battles of women in the entertainment industry.”

About the awardees:
Eve Ensler is the Tony Award®-winning playwright, activist, performer and author of the theatrical phenomenon and Obie Award®-winning play The Vagina Monologues, which has been published in 48 languages and performed in over 140 countries. Eve’s plays include Necessary Targets, O.P.C., The Good Body, and Emotional Creature. Her books include Insecure At Last: A Political Memoir and the New York Times bestseller I Am An Emotional Creature.  Her latest critically-acclaimed memoir is In the Body of the World, which she adapted, debuted and performed at American Repertory Theatre to rave reviews.  Her play Fruit Trilogy was performed at the Women of the World Festival in London and The West Yorkshire Playhouse in March 2016. Eve is founder of V-Day, an almost 20-year-old global movement to end violence against women and girls, which has raised over $100 million, and One Billion Rising, a global mass action campaign in over 200 countries. She was named one of Newsweek’s “150 Women Who Changed the World” and The Guardian’s “100 Most Influential Women.”

Patricia Riggen has directed films including the Chilean miners saga The 33Girl in ProgressLa Misma Luna (Under the Same Moon) which she also produced and Miracles from Heaven.  In 2016, Mexican-born Riggen was 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.

Regina K. Scully has executive produced over 100 social justice films and is the Emmy Award®-winning and Academy Award®-nominated executive producer of The Invisible War. She has also executive produced films including The Eagle Huntress, Anita Hill: Speaking Truth to Power, The Hunting Ground, Newtown, Fed Up, Miss Representation and Dreamcatcher among many others.  She is the Founder and CEO of Artemis Rising Foundation, a philanthropic organization dedicated to developing and promoting media, education and the arts that transform our culture. She is also the founding sponsor of The Athena Film Festival.

David Oyelowo is the 2017 Athena Leading Man Award recipient.  He has consistently worked with and championed female directors throughout his career.  His work with Ava DuVernay in Selma earned him Golden Globe® and Critics’ Choice Award® nominations and the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture. Last year he starred in Mira Nair’s Queen of Katwe, and in February 2017 will be seen starring opposite Rosamund Pike in A United Kingdom for director Amma Asante.  His additional credits include Nightingale (for which he won the Critics’ Choice Award® for Best Actor), A Most Violent Year, Lee Daniels’ The Butler and Middle of Nowhere. Oyelowo is currently appearing in the New York Theater Workshop’s production of Othello along with Daniel Craig.

The inaugural Athena Leading Man Award was given to director, producer and screenwriter Paul Feig in 2016.

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.

Passes, individual ticket sales and the announcement of the lineup will take place in early January 2017. Please visit the Athena Film Festival’s website for regular updates, announcements and to purchase passes.

For more information on the Athena Film Festival and the Athena List visit athenafilmfestival.com.


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 festival also created the Athena List, an annual slate of 3-5 screenplays with female leaders or strong female protagonists that have yet to be made into films. 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.