New York’s Athena Film Fest Celebrates Women In Film

by Erika W. Smith


If you’re in the New York area, don’t miss the Athena Film Festival, which marks its eighth year later this month. The Barnard College festival will be held from February 22-25, 2018, and it will be a long weekend filled with movies directed by or starring women.

Women’s representation is sorely needed both in front of and behind the camera: the Celluloid Ceiling, which tracks women’s employment behind the camera, found that in 2017, only 11% of the top 250 films were directed by women. And according to a study by Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, in 2016, just 29% of protagonists in the top 100 grossing films were played by women.

“The Athena Film Festival’s mission to highlight women’s voices and stories is today more relevant than ever as this year has brought an unprecedented rise in women’s activism, Kathryn Kolbert, co-founder of the Festival and Constance Hess Williams ‘66 Director of the Athena Center for Leadership Studies at Barnard College, told BUST via email.

“The Athena Film Festival gives you the opportunity to see women onscreen in unprecedented numbers. Every film we screen focuses on audacious and bold women leaders, which is very different from the average multiplex. We also try to screen as many female directed films as we can and this year the total is 76%,” added Melissa Silverstein, co-founder and Artistic Director of the Festival and founder of Women and Hollywood.

The 2018 festival co-chairs include Ava DuVernay, Julie Parker Benello, Debra Martin Chase, Geralyn Dreyfous, Paul Feig, Sherry Lansing, Jon Levin, Dylan McDermott, Sheila Nevins, David Oyelowo, Gina Prince-Bythewood, Susan Rovner, Regina K. Scully, and Rachel Weisz. Awardees include documentary filmmaker Barbara Kopple, whil will receive the Laura Ziskin Lifetime Achievement Award; director Amma Asante, who will receive the Athena Award; and JJ Abrams, who will receive the Athena Leading Man award. 

The festival will begin with a showing of the Battle of the Sexes (2017) directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris as the opening film, followed by a post-screening conversation with Billie Jean King. The centerpiece film is Mankiller, a documentary about Cherokee community organizer Wilma Mankiller, directed by Valerie Red-Horse Mohl; it will be followed by a post-screening conversation with Red-Horse Mohl, executive producer Gale Anne Hurd, and Gloria Steinem. The closing film will be the Post, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Meryl Streep as the Washington Post’s  Katharine Graham, the first female publisher of a major newspaper in the US.

Other highlights of this year’s festival include a showing of the 1980 comedy 9 To 5, directed by Colin Higgins and starring Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda, and Lily Tomlin; Patti Cake$, directed by Geremy Jasper and starring Athena’s 2018 Inaugural Breakthrough Award honoree Bridget Everett; and the New York premieres of several fims, including It’s Criminal, directed by Signe Taylor; My Year With Helen, directed by Gaylene Preston; and Beads, directed by Rachel Byrd.

See the full schedule and purchase tickets at

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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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