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Athena Film Festival Honors Women in Entertainment with ‘Suffragette,’ ‘Mustang,’ and Mira Nair

Athena Film Festival Honors Women in Entertainment with 'Suffragette,' 'Mustang,' and Mira Nair

The sixth edition of the Athena Film Festival, created to celebrate women in entertainment and highlight films that focus on stories of women’s courage, power, and influence, will feature Sarah Gavron’s “Suffragette” as its Centerpiece Film. Two documentaries directed by women, Dawn Porter’s “Trapped” and Lesley Chilcott’s “Codegirl,” will open and close the festival, respectively. 

Among the other notable inclusions are Oscar-shortlisted foreign-language title “Mustang,” “Testament of Youth,” starring Alicia Vikander, and Davis Guggenheim’s “He Named Me Malala.” In addition, the festival will include a master class on documentary filmmaking led by HBO’s Sheila Nevins, and present the Laura Ziskin Lifetime Achievement Award to filmmaker Mira Nair. The festival takes place February 18 – 21 on the Barnard College campus in New York. Read the full list of features, shorts, and panels below. 

READ MORE: “First Look: Lupita Nyong’o in Mira Nair’s ‘The Queen of Katwe'”


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.


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.


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

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.


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 challengesto 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

When 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.


Beach Flags

Director: Sarah Saidan

Vida is a young Iranian lifeguard determined to participate
in an international competition with her teammates but the arrival of talented
newcomer Sareh threatens to alter her plans.


Director: Kristina Sorge

Art world pioneer Bernice Steinbaum spent her life working
to help female artists and artists of color gain recognition when such artists were
largely disregarded in America.

Day One

Director: Henry Hughes

Inspired by a true story, Day One depicts a new translator’s
first day accompanying a US Army unit as it searches for a local

Eternal Princess
Director: Katie Holmes
An intimate look at the inner struggles, personal
dedication, and greatest success of Nadia Comăneci, the first female gymnast in history to
score a perfect 10.

Feminist High
Producer: Kelley Lord
Ileana Jiménez, most notably known as “Feminist Teacher,” has
created a course at a progressive New York City school that teaches
high school students about feminism.

Giving Birth in America: New York

Director: Clancy McCarty

An examination into maternal healthcare in NYC through the
stories of expecting women and those that care for them, focusing on the final
weeks of their pregnancies.


Director: Zak Razvi

The story of paralympic tennis player Jordanne Whiley who
attempts to make history by becoming the first British athlete to win all 4
grand slams in one year.

Marie’s Dictionary

Director: Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee

The story of Marie Wilcox, the last fluent speaker of the
Wukchumni language, and the dictionary she created in an effort to keep her
language alive.


Director: Saralyn Armer

Set in 1972, an ambitious computer programmer finds herself
maneuvering the minefield of a man’s world. When a crappy day gets worse,
Karen is pushed to the brink.

Queen Vee

Director: Melissa Johnson

For 17 years, Violet “Vee” Palmer has been grabbing
her uniform and lacing up, night after night, to run with the big boys of the NBA.

The 100 Years Show

Director: Alison Klayman

Carmen Herrera was a pioneering abstract painter in the ’40s
and ’50s, but only recently found the recognition she deserves as she
approaches her 100th birthday.

The Trials of Constance Baker Motley

Director: Rick Rodgers

At the height of the civil rights movement, Motley joined
the NAACP’s legal team. The story of a leader who met prejudice and danger with
elegance and humor.


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 inthe 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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