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 nine years, the Festival has welcomed more than 30,000 people from all over the world to 200+ screenings of narratives, documentaries, and shorts that feature diverse stories of ambition, courage, and resilience. This past year we screened 46 films including 17 features, 13 documentaries, and 16 shorts. We welcomed guests including Billie Jean King, J.J. Abrams, Lena Dunham, Amma Asante, Barbara Kopple, and Bridget Everett among many others.
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.
One signature program is the Athena List. Now in its 5th year, the Athena List is an annual slate of between 3-5 screenplays with female leaders that have yet to be made into films. Several Athena List scripts have been produced. Athena List finalist, Little Pink House written and directed Courtney Balaker starring Catherine Keener was released in the spring of 2018, and Athena List winner, On the Basis of Sex based on the life of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be released in the fall of 2018.
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 ninth annual Athena Film Festival will be held Feb. 28- March 3, 2019.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE 2018 FESTIVAL
With more than 6500 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 screened 46 films including 17 features, 13 documentaries, and 16 shorts, which received great reviews from packed audiences. Many of the screenings included Q&A sessions with filmmakers or the subjects of the films, including the unforgettable standing ovation received by former Prime Minister of New Zealand, Helen Clark, following the international premiere screening of My Year With Helen.
● On Thursday afternoon, we were thrilled to host a screening of the premiere of the first episode of season three of UnReal, the critically acclaimed series from Lifetime’s A+E Studios. We were delighted to share this sneak peek with our audiences and welcome Shiri Appleby, Craig Bierko, Stacy Rukeyser and Sarah Gertrude Shapiro for a lively Q&A following the screening.
● The festival opened on Thursday evening with a standing room–only screening of Battle of the Sexes, which tells the story of tennis legend Billie Jean King’s famous 1973 match against Bobby Riggs. King hosted a Q & A session following the film, and together with six-time national champion fencer Margaret Lu CC’17 discussed the impact of Title IX, the importance of representation and equality in sports, and King’s hopes for a new generation of activists.
● The Athena Film Festival Awards Reception sponsored by Amazon Studios took place on Friday night. We honored two-time Academy Award®-winning documentary filmmaker Barbara Kopple with the Laura Ziskin Lifetime Achievement Award. BAFTA winning writer and director Amma Asante received the Athena Award, and cabaret artist and actress Bridget Everett was honored with the Inaugural Breakthrough Award. Director, producer, and screenwriter J. J. Abrams received the 2018 Athena Leading Man Award. We also surprised our very own Kathryn (Kitty) Kolbert with an award in recognition of her leadership of the Festival. It was a wonderful and inspiring evening in celebration of women leaders.
● Saturday evening featured a packed screening of our Centerpiece film, MANKILLER. The film was followed by a conversation with director Valerie Red-Horse Mohl, executive producer Gale Anne Hurd, and journalist and activist Gloria Steinem. Ann Hornaday from the Washington Post moderated the lively conversation.
● As part of our efforts to advance and promote the stories of women leaders in STEM, we hosted a sold-out screening of Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story in partnership with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Following the screening, we were delighted to welcome filmmakers Cherien Dabis, Alexandra Dean, Lydia Dean Pilcher, Jenny Halper, and Ginny Mohler to the festival for a fruitful conversation on how we can do more to bring these often untold stories of women in STEM to life.
● In this moment of #TimesUp and #MeToo, we took the opportunity to bring together an esteemed panel of women to discuss what’s next in this moment of activism: our second annual Town Hall — From Outrage To Power. Women for Women International founder Zainab Salbi moderated the session, which centered on being an ally and staying accountable on important issues across all industries, especially low-paying, entry-level, and service jobs that are typically staffed by marginalized and vulnerable populations of mostly women. Salbi noted that while the #MeToo movement has seen many men removed from their positions of power, the culture that enables harassment and assault remains. Athena Distinguished Fellows Saru Jayaraman and Jehmu Greene participated alongside Gillian Thomas from the ACLU and Mallika Dutt the founder of Breakthrough.
Please save the date for the 2019 Athena Film Festival: February 28- March 3, 2019. We look forward to keeping in touch and seeing you all again next year.