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2016 Athena Film Festival Unveils Lineup, Including ‘Mustang,’ ‘Suffragette’ and More

2016 Athena Film Festival Unveils Lineup, Including 'Mustang,' 'Suffragette' and More

READ MORE: Attention, Female Screenwriters: Athena Film Festival to Partner with Black List for Writing Lab

The Athena Film Festival, which celebrates all things women and leadership, has announced its full 2016 slate, including narratives, documentaries and short films. The festival “honors extraordinary women in the entertainment industry and spotlights films that showcase women’s courage, power and influence in real life and the fictional world.” This year’s festival takes place February 18-21 at Barnard College in New York. 

“This unique festival showcases the stories of courageous and audacious women who are making a difference in their lives and communities,” said Kathryn Kolbert, co-founder of the Festival, and Constance Hess Williams, Director of the Athena Center for Leadership Studies at Barnard College. “By celebrating women from across the globe, we offer a new, more inclusive vision of leadership and help young women see who they can be.”

The 2016 festival will highlight some of the year’s most impactful women-centric features, including Centerpiece film “Suffragette,” closing film “Codegirl” and festival entries “Freeheld,” “Testament of Youth,” “Mustang” and “He Named Me Malala,” among many others. The event will open with the New York premiere of the reproductive rights documentary “Trapped,” directed by Dawn Porter. 

As previously announced, prolific filmmaker and activist Mira Nair will receive this year’s Laura Ziskin Lifetime Achievement Award. Additional awardees include producer Karyn Kusama, composer Jeanine Tesori and the ensemble of “Suffragette.”

Visit Athena Film Festival for tickets and passes. Below is the full lineup. Synopses provided by the Athena Film Festival.


Director: Boo Ji-young
Sun-hee, a diligent cashier and divorced mother, works at a retail superstore dreaming of a better life for her children. When the store’s corporate honchos suddenly lay off all temporary employees, Sun-hee and her co-workers organize a strike and discover their courage and inner strength.

Director: Daryl Wein
This dramatic thriller tells the story of Sophie, a single mom, who searches relentlessly to uncover the cause of her son’s mysterious illness. When she suspects that the new biotech company in town might be responsible, she sets out on a mission to discover the truth.

“Far From the Madding Crowd”
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Based on the literary classic by Thomas Hardy, this film tells the story of fiercely independent Bathsheba Everdene as she manages her newly inherited estate and chooses among three suitors: a humble sheep farmer, an alluring soldier, and a wealthy older man.

Director: Peter Sollett
Based on a true story, this film depicts New Jersey police lieutenant, Laurel Hester who has terminal cancer and her domestic partner, Stacie Andree, as they battle to ensure that Stacie can collect Hester’s pension benefits after her death.

“Inside Out”
Director: Pete Docter and Ronnie Del Carmen
In this animated feature made by Pixar, young Riley is uprooted from her Midwest life and moves to San Francisco. Her emotions—Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness— conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house, and school.

“La Loi”
Director: Christian Faure
With edge-of-your seat tension, the struggle for reproductive rights unfolds in this story of France in 1975. The film follows groundbreaking health minister Simone Veil during the fight for the legalization of abortion.

Director: Deniz Gamze Ergüven
Five Turkish sisters are punished for playing innocently with boys on their way home from school. Imprisoned in the family home, where instruction in homemaking replaces school and talk of arranged marriages begins, the girls share their passion for freedom and find ways to resist.

“Suffragette” – CENTERPIECE FILM
Director: Sarah Gavron
An intense drama that tracks the story of working women fighting for the right to vote in early twentieth century Britain. Finding that their peaceful protests achieved little and galvanized by political activist Emmeline Pankhurst, they turn to violence, sacrificing their jobs, their homes, and their children as they fight for a just cause.

“Testament of Youth”
Director: James Kent
Based on the autobiography of Vera Brittain, this story of young love and the futility of war, stars Alicia Vikander as a British woman who comes of age during World War I when she postpones her studies at Oxford to serve as a nurse in London and abroad.

Director: James Vanderbilt
This is a newsroom drama detailing the 2004 CBS 60 Minutes report that investigated then President George W. Bush’s military service and the subsequent firestorm of criticism that cost anchor Dan Rather and producer Mary Mapes their careers.


“A Ballerina’s Tale”
Director: Nelson George
Few dancers make it to the highest levels of classical ballet. Of that already small number only a fraction of them are black women. Misty Copeland has pulled herself up the ladder at American Ballet Theater (ABT) from the studio company to the corps de ballet to soloist. Copeland’s career shines a light on the absence of women of color at major companies. A Ballerina’s Tale is the story of how a great talent and a powerful will combined can open doors within a very cloistered world.

“Codegirl” – CLOSING FILM
Director: Lesley Chilcott
The Technovation Challenge, an international competition for girls ages 10-18, aims to inspire girls to learn coding and other technological skills. From rural Moldova to urban Brazil to suburban Massachusetts, Codegirl follows teams who dream of holding their own in the world’s fastest-growing industry.

“He Named Me Malala”
Director: Davis Guggenheim
Now a household name, Malala Yousafzai is both an extraordinary leader and an ordinary teen. After the Taliban’s attack on the young Pakistani school girl, she became an outspoken advocate for education and girls’ rights, as well as the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

“Makers: Once and For All”
Director: Dyllan McGee, Michael Epstein
Once and For All takes us behind the scenes of the 1995 Beijing Women’s Conference as representatives from 189 countries including 17,000 participants and 30,000 advocates hammered out the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the most progressive blueprint ever for advancing women’s rights.

Director: Jessica Edwards
Mavis! chronicles the inspiring career of gospel/soul music legend and civil rights icon Mavis Staples and her family group, The Staple Singers. From the freedom songs of the ’60s to funked-up collaborations with Prince and Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, Mavis has stayed true to her roots and inspired millions along the way. At 75, she’s making the most vital music of her career, winning Grammy awards, and reaching a new generation of fans with her message of love and equality.

“Now En Español”
Director: Andrea Meller
Now En Español is an entertaining portrait of the five dynamic Latina actresses who dub Desperate Housewives for Spanish language audiences in the US as they fight for a more diverse and visible portrayal of themselves and their community.

“Radical Grace” – NEW YORK PREMIERE
Director: Rebecca Parrish
When the Vatican publicly admonished a group of American nuns for their “radical feminism”, they find themselves and their work at the center of a long overdue debate that straddles issues of social justice, women’s rights, and the future of the Catholic Church.

“Right Footed”
Director: Nick Spark
Jessica Cox was born without arms but manages to overcome many challenges to live independently. She types, drives a car and, amazingly, flies an airplane with her feet. Right Footed follows Jessica as she becomes a mentor and advocate for persons with disabilities.

“Speed Sisters”
Director: Amber Fares
The Speed Sisters are the first all-women race car driving team in the Middle East. They’re bold. They’re fearless. And they’re tearing up tracks all over Palestine.

Director: Dawn Porter
American abortion clinics are in a fight for survival. Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws, like those recently passed in Texas and Alabama are increasingly being passed by states that insist they are for women’s safety and health. But as clinics are forced to shut their doors, supporters of abortion rights believe the real purpose of these laws is to outlaw abortion.

“The Trials of Spring”
Director: Gini Reticker
21-year-old Hend Nafea travels to Cairo to join the popular protests in Egypt, she is beaten, arrested, and tortured. Unbreakable and buoyed by her fellow activists, she sets out on a search for freedom and justice in a country gripped by a dangerous power struggle.

Directors: Drea Cooper and Zackary Canepari
Seventeen-year-old Claressa “T-Rex” Shields from Flint, Michigan dreams of becoming the first woman in history to win the gold medal in Olympic boxing. To succeed, she will need to stand her ground both inside and outside the ring.

Short Films

“Beach Flags”
”Day One”
”Eternal Princess”
“Feminist High”
”Giving Birth in America: New York”
“Marie’s Dictionary”
”Queen Vee”
”The 100 Years Show”
”The Trials of Constance Baker Motley”

Master Classes, Programs and Panels

Sponsored by HBO
In the first of a three-part Master class series on documentary filmmaking sponsored by HBO, Sheila Nevins, President, HBO Documentary Films, brings her extensive experience to the Festival.

Jeanine Tesori, the most prolific and honored female theatrical composer in history, won the Tony Award for Best Original Score with Lisa Kron for the musical Fun Home, which is currently playing on Broadway. She will discuss her experience composing music for Broadway and film in this intimate session.

A determined primatologist brings her teenage daughter to a remote region of Madagascar intent on proving her theory on endangered lemurs. But as complications arise their relationship and safety are soon at risk. Based on Laura Van Den Berg’s short story, What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us, the film will be directed by award-winning Australian filmmaker Claire McCarthy (The Waiting City, The Turning). Emmy-nominated producer Kate Sharp (Behind the Mask, Madame Bovary, The Hallow) is producing with Jenny Halper, who adapted the story.

Sponsored by Google
This panel discussion will focus on how to create systemic change for women in the entertainment industry. Panelists will share their personal experiences and explore evidence of unconscious bias, how it manifests within the entertainment industry, and what the industry can do to overcome its effects and create more opportunities for women.

The only proven path to independence as an artist is a direct connection to your audience. Crowdfunding is becoming a fundamental piece of most financing plans for independent film. However, many filmmakers miss the opportunity to turn their funding campaigns into audience-building opportunities that can last an entire career—and provide the groundwork for distribution that the filmmaker controls. This class for film-related projects will create a crowdfunding action plan to foster a lasting, flourishing, direct relationship with your audience.

Sponsored by Lunafest
A look at the research on women directors conducted by the Media, Diversity, and Social Change Initiative at USC’s Annenberg School for Communications. Drawing on more than 3,200 short and mid-length films screened at the 10 top film festivals worldwide, the research also highlights the occupational paths and career impediments of female directors.

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