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Athena Film Festival’s 2016 Lineup Released; Dawn Porter’s ‘Trapped’ Will Open Fest

Athena Film Festival's 2016 Lineup Released; Dawn Porter's 'Trapped' Will Open Fest

Remember when “Room,” “Carol” and “Brooklyn” were in the Oscar conversation?*

This award season — like most award seasons — has been another chilly winter mostly dedicated to discussing films by and about white dudes. (*Thanks to Forbes’ Scott Mendelsohn for reminding us of the glory days of last fall.) 

So let’s change the conversation to movies about girls and women doing great things. The sixth Athena Film Festival has announced its exciting 2016 lineup, which includes Dawn Porter’s fest opener “Trapped,” an exposé of the challenges to reproductive rights in a post-Roe v. Wade world, as well as a slew of female-led films that deserve more attention, like “Mustang,” “Far From the Madding Crowd,” “Truth,” “Freeheld,” “Suffragette,” “Testament of Youth” and “He Named me Malala.”

The festival is also proud to present under-the-radar crowd-pleasers like the South Korean drama “Cart” and the Misty Copeland portrait “A Ballerina’s Tale.” 

In addition to “Trapped,” the documentary “La Loi” will look at the struggle for abortion rights — this time in France. The nonfiction lineup will offer diversity of perspective and story. “T-Rex” tells the story of teenage Olympian boxer Claressa Shields, “Radical Grace” shines a light on radical feminist nuns, “Codegirl” chronicles high-school female programmers’ creations of apps that will empower their local communities and “Speed Sisters” captures the trials and tribulations of real-life Palestinian female race-car drivers. 

As previously announced, filmmaker Mira Nair will receive this year’s Laura Ziskin Lifetime Achievement Award. Additional awardees include producer Geralyn Dreyfus, director Karyn Kusama and composer Jeanine Tesori (who will lead a master class). Sheila Nevins, President of HBO Documentary Films, will also lead a documentary master class. The inaugural ensemble award will be presented to the cast and crew of “Suffragette.” 

“As the Athena Film Festival continues to grow, so too do the stories that feature strong female leads and issues. We carefully curated the films and artists to highlight their incredible talents and the broad scope they cover, from acting, to writing and producing,” said Melissa Silverstein, co-founder and Artistic Director of the Festival and founder of Women and Hollywood. “The 2016 lineup features women making waves not only in film but in life.” 

The 2016 Athena Film Festival will run from February 18-21 at Barnard College in Manhattan. Tickets and passes are now on sale. Please visit for regular updates.

Watch the trailer for the 2016 Athena Film Festival and check out the lineup below. Additional screenings, panels and special events will be announced in the coming weeks.  



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 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.


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

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 terrorist.

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 CityThe Turning). Emmy-nominated producer Kate Sharp (Behind the Mask, Madame BovaryThe 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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