The Athena Film Festival at Barnard College in New York City, is a weekend of inspiring films that tell the extraordinary stories of fierce and fearless women leaders. Over the last ten years, the Festival has welcomed more than 35,000 people from all over the world to 200+ screenings of narratives, documentaries, and shorts that feature diverse stories of ambition, courage, and resilience.
Additionally, as part of our work we offer writing labs for TV and film writers, masterclasses and works in progress programs for female filmmakers, and other skill-building panels and opportunities for women who are breaking into film.
A signature program is the Athena List an annual slate of between 3-5 screenplays with female leaders that have yet to be made into films. Now in its 6th year, three Athena List films have been produced. Two films have been released: Little Pink House, written and directed Courtney Balaker starring Catherine Keener and On the Basis of Sex, written by Daniel Stiepleman and starring Felicity Jones. Additionally, Athena List winner Clemency premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Grand Jury Prize and The Burning Season which will go into production this year.
The festival is a project of the Athena Center for Leadership Studies at Barnard and Women and Hollywood, a leading voice for women in the entertainment industry. The Artemis Rising Foundation and its CEO Regina K. Scully is the festival’s founding sponsor. The tenth annual Athena Film Festival will be held Feb. 27- March 1, 2020.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE 2019 FESTIVAL
With more than 6700 attendees, 100+ community partners, student delegations from around the country, and world-class awardees, filmmakers, and panelists, I am sure you will agree that this was our best festival yet.
A special thank you to our Sponsors, Honorary Host Committee, Festival Co-Chairs, Friends of the Festival, and partnering organizations. Our work and this festival would not be possible without your generous support. A particular thanks to our Founding Sponsor, the Artemis Rising Foundation, and Regina K. Scully, Founder and CEO, to whom we extend our most heartfelt gratitude for your unwavering and generous support.
Photos from the weekend are now up on our Facebook page (facebook.com/athenafilmfestival) so please visit, like, and tag away. Additionally, videos of our panels and workshops are now available at athenafilmfestival.com.
Here are some highlights from the weekend:
● We are proud to say that 75% of films screened at the 2019 Athena Film Festival were directed by women, 32% directed by people of color and 20% directed by women of color. Thank you for supporting our mission to celebrate stories of women leaders from diverse walks of life and the creators who make them possible.
● On Thursday afternoon, we were happy to host the World Premiere of I Am Somebody’s Child: The Regina Louise Story, followed by a panel with subject of the film, Regina Louise, actresses Angela Fairley and Sherri Saum, and activists Mary Keane and Rosie Williams. It was a great conversation to kickstart a festival filled with challenging stories and stimulating conversations.
● Our Opening Night Film this year, Fast Color, written and directed by Columbia alumna Julia Hart who said “all the cool girls went to Barnard,” is a captivating and imaginative film about a legacy of women who have hid their superhuman abilities and traditions until now. Hart wanted to tell a story about a female superhero who saves the world through creation rather than destruction. In the post-screening Q&A, actress Lorraine Toussaint told our packed house how special it is for black women to have a voice in this genre.
● The Athena Film Festival Awards Reception, sponsored by Amazon Studios, took place on Friday night. This year we honored founding member of Time’s Up and Barnard alumna, Nina Shaw, and director of the Academy Award nominated film Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Marielle Heller, with the Athena Award; director and brave voice for queer youth, Desiree Akhavan, with the Athena Breakthrough Award; and artistic director of the Toronto International Film Festival and fierce feminist ally, Cameron Bailey, with our Athena Leading Man Award.
● Attendance was overflowing/above capacity for our free panel discussion about the groundbreaking movement, Time’s Up, and the next steps for the organization in their fight for gender equity. This insightful conversation with Nina Shaw, Nithya Raman, Amber Tamblyn, and Alyssa Reiner, moderated by Chloe Melas, was live-streamed and currently exists on our Facebook page so that all may participate in the discussion
● Our Spotlight on STEM Shorts Program, a selection of seven short films which included Academy Award-winning short Period. End of Sentence, screened to a sold out audience. Following the screening, we had an extended panel discussion on how we as storytellers can empower, support and celebrate women in STEM. Thank you to filmmakers A. Sayeeda Moreno, Hazuki Aikawa, and Lauren Orme, and neuroscientist and journalist Heather Berlin for joining this conversation.
● This year’s closing night film was the hottest ticket at the festival, selling out more than a month before the festival began. This documentary, directed by Rachel Lears and recently purchased by Netlfix for a record-setting $10 million, follows four insurgent female candidates who challenged entrenched incumbents in the 2018 midterm primaries. We welcomed more than 400 people into the Event Oval for the screening and the post-screening Q&A with Rachel Lears, producer Sarah Olson, editor Robin Blotnick and Congresswoman and subject of the film Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Please save the date for the 2020 Athena Film Festival: February 27- March 1, 2020. We look forward to keeping in touch and seeing you all again next year.