Athena Film Festival, celebrating women, announces its lineup
Movies about country singer Chely Wright ("Wish Me Away"), Burmese activist Aung San Suu Kyi ("The Lady") and former Texas Gov. Ann Richards ("Ann Richards' Texas") will be among those screening at the Athena Film Festival next month, organizers announced Monday.
Described as a "celebration of women and leadership," the festival of narrative, documentary and short films is scheduled to take place Feb. 9-12 on the New York campus of Barnard College.
"Our goal is to be a center that focuses on developing and sustaining women leaders in a wide range of fields," said Kathryn Kolbert, director of the Athena Center for Leadership Studies at Barnard and co-founder of the film festival. "In my view, changing the culture is a critical part of that mission. The failure of Hollywood to showcase women in leadership roles is one that can be corrected."
The lineup of films also includes "Gloria: In Her Own Words," a documentary about feminist activist Gloria Steinem; "Apache 8," about a female Native American firefighting crew; and "The Whistleblower," a thriller starring Rachel Weisz as a policewoman who exposes a sex-trafficking scandal in Bosnia.
"Unlike most traditional women's film festivals, our festival accepts films directed by both men and women," Kolbert said. "The key component is that they have to have a woman in a leadership position. Right now, when you think leadership, you think white men. We want to change that."
In addition to showing films focused around the theme of women's leadership, the festival, which is in its second year, is to confer awards on various women working in Hollywood, such as "Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark" director Julie Taymor; "Pariah" director Dee Rees and producer Nekisa Cooper; "Moneyball" producer Rachael Horovitz; playwright Theresa Rebeck; and "The Fempire," an informal posse of female screenwriters including Diablo Cody ("Young Adult"), Dana Fox ("What Happens in Vegas"), Liz Meriwether ("New Girl") and Lorene Scafaria ("Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist").
"One of the myths we buy into quickly is that women fight with each other," said Melissa Silverstein, festival co-founder and head of the blog Women & Hollywood. "[The Fempire] award shows that you can be a success and be supportive of other women."
This year the festival is also creating the Laura Ziskin Lifetime Achievement Award, in memory of the Hollywood producer who died of cancer in 2011. In future years, the award will be given to a female trailblazer in the film industry, officials said. This year, Ziskin's daughter, Julia Barry, is to accept the award.
"I was really excited about the idea of this sorority," Horovitz said about being honored. "It sounds old-fashioned. But the idea of giving women not only the spotlight, but also the conservatory setting in which to stand up and show their work is really valuable. ... It cannot do anything but help."
The full lineup, as provided by the festival, is below. Additional information is available at athenafilmfestival.com
FILMS AND PANELS
ALL SHE CAN Director: Amy Wendel
APACHE 8 Director: Sande Zeig
BLACK BUTTERFLIES Director: Paula van der Oest
BORGEN Series Creators: Adam Price, Tobias Lindholm and Jeppe Gjervig Gram
Sneak Preview of a Work in Progress on Governor Ann Richards BACKWARDS AND IN HIGH HEELS Directors: Keith Patterson and Jack Lofton
DAISY BATES: FIRST LADY OF LITTLE ROCK Director: Sharon La Cruise
THE EDUCATION OF DEE DEE RICKS Director: Perri Peltz
GLORIA: IN HER OWN WORDS Director: Peter Kunhardt
Sneak Peek of A Work in Progress and Discussion HALF THE SKY Director: Maro Chermayeff
A HOLLYWOOD CONVERSATION: WINNIE HOLZMAN AND SAVANNAH DOOLEY
THE LADY Director: Luc Besson
THE LEGEND OF PANCHO BARNES Director: Amanda Pope
A MARINE STORY Director: Ned Farr
THE NAKED OPTION Director: Candace Schermerhorn
OFF THE REZ Director: Jonathan Hock
ORANGES AND SUNSHINE Director: Jim Loach
THE RESCUERS Director: Michael King
TOMBOY Director: Celine Sciamma
WHO TOOK THE BOMP? LE TIGRE ON TOUR Director: Kerthy Fix
WISH ME AWAY Directors: Bobbie Birleffi and Beverly Kopf
THE WHISTLEBLOWER Director: Larysa Kondracki
WOMEN, WAR & PEACE: WAR REDEFINED Executive Producers of the Series: Abigail Disney, Pamela Hogan and Gini Reticker
SHORTS COLLECTION I
THE DIRECTOR, Director: Destri Martino; EQUALITY, I AM WOMAN, Director: Al Sutton; SLAYING THE DRAGON RELOADED, Director: Elaine Kim; TASNIM, Director: Elite Zexer; UMOJA: NO MEN ALLOWED, Director: Elizabeth Tadic
SHORTS COLLECTION II
ABUELAS, Director: Afarin Eghbal; HARRIET RETURNS, Director: Tamu Favorite; JUNKO’S SHAMISEN, Director: Sol Friedman; NURSES FOR AFRICA, Directors: Benjamin and Robert Clyde; T’AIN’T NOBODY’S BIZNESS: QUEER BLUES DIVAS OF THE 1920s, Director: Robert Phillpson; UNCHASTENED, Director: Brynmore Williams
-- Rebecca Keegan
Photo: Michelle Yeoh as Aung San Suu Kyi in "The Lady." Credit: Magali Bragard / Cohen Media Group