“Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “Women Aren’t Funny,” “Middle of Nowhere” and “Ginger and Rosa” will headline the third annual Athena Film Festival. The event, which highlights films that illustrate women’s leadership in real life and the fictional world, runs Feb. 7-10 on the Barnard College campus in Morningside Heights.
“The balanced mix of films represents the breadth and depth of the Festival’s mission,” said Melissa Silverstein, co-founder and artistic director of the festival and founder of Indiewire network blog Women and Hollywood. “Each year we strive to select films that inspire filmmakers and industry members. This year’s slate is our strongest yet and continues to convey this focus.”
“The Walking Dead” producer Gale Anne Hurd will be the recipient of this year’s Laura Ziskin Lifetime Achievement Award, while “Middle of Nowhere” director and AFFRM founder Ava DuVernay, critic-author Molly Haskell, Film Society of Lincoln Center executive director Rose Kuo and Paley Center for Media president and CEO Pat Mitchell will also be honored.
The complete lineup follows.
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Director: Benh Zeitlin; Run Time: 93 minutes; Language: English
In a forgotten but defiant bayou community cut off from the rest of the world by a sprawling levee, a six-year-old girl is in balance with the universe, until a fierce storm changes her reality. Buoyed by her childish optimism and extraordinary imagination, and desperate to save her ailing father and sinking home, this tiny hero must learn to survive unstoppable catastrophes. Hailed as one of 2012’s most original films, Beasts of the Southern Wild appeared on many critics year-end top 10 lists.
Director: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman ; Run Time: 100 minutes; Language: English
Determined to make her own path in life, Princess Merida defies a custom that brings chaos to her kingdom. Granted one wish, Merida must rely on her bravery and her archery skills to undo a beastly curse.
Director: Regan Hall ; Run Time: 91 minutes; Language: English
When a sassy streetwise runner meets an ambitious, wealthy competitor, their two worlds collide with explosive results. As the fast girls strive to qualify for the World Championships, they battle adversity and rivalry on a dramatic, heartwarming and inspirational journey.
Director: Jenny Deller; Run Time: 100 minutes ; Language: English
Abandoned by her single mom, a teenaged girl becomes obsessed with ecological disaster, forcing her and her grandmother, a functioning alcoholic, to rethink their futures. Inspired by a New Yorker article on global warming, Future Weather uses the refuge of science and the environment as a backdrop as the two women learn to trust each other and leap into the unknown.
Ginger and Rosa
Director: Sally Potter; Run Time: 90 minutes; Language: English
London, 1962. Two teenage girls – Ginger and Rosa – are inseparable. They discuss religion, politics, and hairstyles, and dream of lives bigger than their mothers’. But, as the Cold War meets the sexual revolution, and the threat of nuclear holocaust escalates, the lifelong friendship of the two girls is shattered — by a clash of desire and the determination to survive.
Director: David Riker; Run Time: 90 minutes; Language: English, Spanish with English subtitles
Emotionally distraught from losing custody of her son and running out of options to earn a living to win him back, single mother Ashley (Abbie Cornish) becomes desperate when she loses her job at a local Austin megastore. So when the risky opportunity arises to become a coyote—smuggling illegal immigrants over the Texas border—she takes it. The harrowing experience results in unforeseen rewards and consequences, as Ashley forges an intense bond with a young Mexican girl who forces her to confront her past, accept the mistakes she’s made, and look to the future.
Director: Margarethe von Trotta; Run Time: 113 minutes; Language: English, German with English subtitles
Hannah Arendt is a portrait of the genius that shook the world with her discovery of “the banality of evil.” After she attends the Nazi Adolf Eichmann’s trial in Jerusalem, Arendt dares to write about the Holocaust in terms no one has ever heard before. Her work instantly provokes a furious scandal, and Arendt stands strong as she is attacked by friends and foes alike. But as the German-Jewish émigré also struggles to suppress her own painful associations with the past, the film exposes her beguiling blend of arrogance and vulnerability — revealing a soul defined and derailed by exile.
Middle of Nowhere
Director: Ava DuVernay ; Run Time: 97 minutes; Language: English
When her husband, Derek, is sentenced to eight years in a California prison, Ruby drops out of medical school to focus on ensuring Derek’s survival in his violent new environment. Driven by love, loyalty, and hope, Ruby learns to sustain the shame, separation, guilt, and grief that a prison wife must bear. Her new life challenges her identity, and propels her in new, often frightening directions of self-discovery. Winner of Best Director Award at 2012 Sundance Film Festival and Best Actor at the 2012 Gotham Awards.
Director: Roselyn Bosch; Run Time: 115 minutes; Language: French, German, Yiddish with English subtitles
This film is the story of the infamous Vel’ d’Hiv roundup in 1942 when French police carried out an extensive raid on Jews in greater Paris, resulting in the arrest of more than 13,000 people — including 4,000 children. Told from the perspective of the children and the nurse who cared for them, this is an emotionally astute and sensitive exploration of a long taboo subject in France — one that caused former French President Jacques Chirac to issue a public apology in 1995.
Violeta Went to Heaven (Violeta Se Fue A Los Cielos)
Director: Andrés Wood ; Run Time: 110 minutes ; Language: Spanish and French with English subtitles
This is the extraordinary story of the poet and folksinger Violeta Parra, whose songs have become hymns for Chileans and Latin Americans alike. Director Andrés Wood traces the intensity and explosive vitality of her life, from humble origins to international fame, her defense of indigenous cultures, and devotion to her art.
Band of Sisters
Director: Mary Fishman; Run Time: 88 minutes; Language: English
The work of two nuns outside a Chicago-area deportation center introduces us to the tumultuous and engaged world of U.S. Catholic nuns in the fifty years following Vatican II. From sheltered “daughters of the church” once swathed in medieval dress to activists for social justice, Band of Sisters follows the journey of these religious women as they work for civil rights, and immigration reform, and become increasingly relevant and visible in aid of the poor and disenfranchised.
Birth Story: Ina May Gaskin and The Farm Midwives
Director: Sara Lamm and Mary Wigmore; Run Time: 95 minutes ; Language: English
Birth Story: Ina May Gaskin and The Farm Midwives captures a spirited group of women who taught themselves how to deliver babies on a 1970s hippie commune. They grew their own food, built their own houses, published their own books, and, as word of their social experiment spread, created a model of care for women and babies that changed a generation’s approach to childbirth. Today, as nearly one-third of all U.S. babies are born via C-section, they labor on, fighting to preserve their knowledge and pushing, once again, for the rebirth of birth.
Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel
Director: Lisa Immordino Vreeland; Run Time: 86 minutes; Language: English
The legendary Diana Vreeland was the arbiter of the fashion world for four decades. From her early days as a columnist at Harper’s Bazaar to her eight-year reign as Editor-in-Chief at Vogue beginning in 1963, Vreeland’s larger-than-life personality and flair for the slightly outrageous gave her the final word in pushing fashion forward.
Granny’s Got Game
Director: Angela Alford; Run Time: 74 minutes; Langauge: English
Granny’s Got Game tells the story of six fiercely competitive women in their seventies who battle physical limitations and skepticism to keep doing what they love. The film follows the inspiring women for a year as they compete for another National Senior Basketball Games Championship.
Director: Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine; Run Time: 40 minutes; Language: English and Spanish with English subtitles
At 15, Inocente refuses to let her dream of becoming an artist be thwarted by her life as an undocumented, homeless immigrant. The extraordinary sweep of color on her canvases creates a world that looks nothing like her own dark past — punctuated by a father deported for domestic abuse, an alcoholic and defeated mother of four, an endless shuffle through San Diego’s homeless shelters, and the constant threat of deportation. Neither sentimental nor sensational, Inocente will immerse you in the very real, day-to-day existence of a young girl who is battling staggering challenges. But the hope in Inocente’s story proves that the hand she has been dealt does not define her, her dreams do.
I Stand Corrected
Director: Andrea Meyerson; Run Time: 84 minutes; Language: English
Watch Jennifer Leitham perform and it’s obvious the striking redhead is an original. When this world-famous jazz bassist takes center-stage, she’s a special talent made all the more unique because Jennifer Leitham began her life and career as John Leitham. I Stand Corrected explores Leitham’s enlightening story of success and survival, of betrayal and compassion, and the risks she takes to embrace who she truly is.
Director: Lise Birk Pedersen; Run Time: 85 minutes; Language: Russian with English subtitles
Putin’s Kiss portrays contemporary life in Russia through the story of Masha, a 19-year-old girl who is a member of Nashi, a political youth organization connected with the Kremlin. Extremely ambitious, the young Masha quickly rises to the top of Nashi, but begins to question her involvement when a dissident journalist whom she has befriended is savagely attacked.
Women Aren’t Funny
Director(s): Bonnie McFarlane; Running Time (in minutes): 78 mins; Language: English
Female comedian Bonnie McFarlane sets out along with fellow comedian and husband Rich Vos (and their adorable 3 year old) to find out once and for all if women are funny and report her unbiased findings in this important documentary film. Working around stand up gigs, quarrelling with her husband and parenting their daughter, Bonnie manages to squeeze in interviews with a wide range of comedians, club owners, talent bookers and writers about why there remains such a pervasive, negative stereotype about women in comedy.
WONDER WOMEN! The Untold Story of American Superheroines
Director: Kristy Guevera-Flanagan; Run Time: 62 minutes; Language: English
Tracing the fascinating evolution and legacy of Wonder Woman and superheroines in film from the birth of the comic book superheroine in the 1940s to the blockbusters of today, WONDER WOMEN! examines how popular representations of women reflect society’s anxieties about women’s power and liberation. Goes behind the scenes with Lynda Carter, Lindsay Wagner, comic writers and artists, and real life superheroines as well.
Director: Co Hoedeman Run Time: 8 minutes Language: English Based on a poem by Marie Jacobs, 55 Socks, pays tribute to the ingenuity of the Dutch people during a dark period of their history — the winter of hunger in 1944-45. During the closing months of the war in occupied Holland, enterprising women unravel a beautiful bedspread to knit 55 socks and then barter them for food.
Director: Madli Lääne Run Time: 12 minutes Language: Loma/Liberian with English subtitles All 17-year old Vele wants is to learn how to read and write – to keep up with her seven-year-old daughter. After endless years of the Liberian civil war, her ability to sign her own name is her next big step towards independence — away from the painful past, into a brighter future.
Director: Diana Neille and Sana Gulzar Run Time: 37 minutes Language: English DEVOUT follows the lives of women in New York and New Jersey who are trying to reconcile their lesbian sexuality with their commitment to Orthodox Judaism, which condemns homosexuality in the harshest terms. Meet Chani, Pam, Elissa, Hayley, Lina and Miriam as they deal with being shunned, while still remaining devoted to their strict faith and community.
Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend
Director: Sarah Knight Run Time: 26 minutes Language: English
A stirring portrait of Nicole Sherry, head groundskeeper for the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards, one of the only two women to hold this job in Major League Baseball.
Free Kick (Libre Director)
Director: Bernabé Rico Run Time: 13 minutes Language: Spanish Having turned 60, Adela is living a life she never wanted — no children, a husband who walks all over her and, worst of all, nothing to look forward to. But one day, Adela has the chance to win €300,000 and leave her old life behind. All she has to do is kick a ball from mid-field into an open goal during the half-time of a Spanish League football match. Accepting the challenge, Adela starts training for the big day.
Director: Amanda Zackem Run time: 6 minutes Language: English Georgena Terry, founder of Terry Bicycles, revolutionized the women’s biking industry by creating a frame specifically for a woman’s body. This is the story of how she got her start and the challenges she faced within the women’s biking movement.
Director: Phil Cox Run Time: 3 minutes Language: English Record-breaking English sailor Hilary Lister, a quadriplegic since age 15, and her friends smash up and cannibalize a wheel chair, some metal pipes and a few electric circuit boards. The result is a unique, technical invention that leads her to conquer the oceans of the world and set her spirit free.
In A Heartbeat
Director: Karolina Lewicka Run Time: 7 minutes Language: Silent A nine-year old girl, often scared of the world around her and no friends, finds the courage to stand up against bullies when she sees a classmate picked on by two older boys. The only one who takes a stand, she enlists her classmates to join her, and in turn, overcomes her own shyness and fear.
Jasad & The Queen of Contradictions
Director: Amanda Homsi-Ottosson Run Time: 40 minutes Language: English and Arabic with English subtitles Meet the Lebanese poet and writer Joumana Haddad, the passionate woman behind Jasad (the Body), an erotic Arabic-language magazine. Controversial not only for its erotic articles and essays on sex in Arabic but also for the fact that an Arab woman is behind it all, Jasad has created both obstacles and challenges for its courageous Editor-in-Chief.
Director: Faren Humes Run Time: 16 minutes Language: German with English subtitles During the Third Reich, many Germans of mixed race were located, identified and forcibly sterilized. Our Rhineland follows two sisters as they fight back and confront what it means to be a part of the resistance.
Director: Angela Wong Run Time: 24 minutes Language: English The 2012 Olympics was the premier of women’s boxing. Women were finally able to fight and represent their countries on international television. But even before the Olympics legitimized women’s boxing, amateur fighters like Heather “the Heat” Hardy were steadily paving their own roads towards boxing gold. This is Heather’s story.
Self-Portrait with Cows Going Home and Other Works: A Portrait of Sylvia Plachy
Director: Rebecca Dreyfus Run Time: 10 minutes Language: English A film portrait of photographer Sylvia Plachy, perhaps best known for her weekly pictures in the Village Voice, explores her celebrated work that spans more than four decades and includes publication in numerous magazines and books. Plachy’s son, actor Adrien Brody, contributes a delightful score.
She, Who Excels in Solitude
Director: Mako Kamitsuna Run Time: 20 minutes Language: English In 1960, during the Space Race, a woman vying to become the first female astronaut meets a nurse ready to give up on a dream of her own. Inspired by a true event.
Stella is 95!
Director: Robin Baker Leacock Run Time: 24 minutes Language: English Although most of her peers are happily retired, Stella at age 95, is still pursuing her dreams. In her early years, she had an eclectic career as entrepreneur, inventor, and program director. In her 90’s, she revived a neighborhood park and most recently, at 95, became a playwright and director. Stella is 95! reminds us that we are never too old to make a difference.
Who is Pauline Park?
Director: Jamerry Kim Run Time: 12 minutes Language: English Pauline Park is a Korean-American adoptee, a transgendered woman, and a human rights activist. Yearning to belong, she has been tracing the genealogical roots of her adoptive parents, helping her, and us as well, better understand how our identities can both define and betray us at the same time.