Feminism / Films

Athena Film Festival Celebrates Films on Women & Leadership

As I shared in my last post, I’m headed to my fave city in the world…New York City!! What does The Opinioness have planned? A weekend at a feminist film festival! Movies with strong women…huzzah! I’m attending the 2nd Annual Athena Film Festival, which showcases films on women and leadership.

Held at Barnard College and hosted by Women and Hollywood, Barnard College and the Athena Leadership Institute, it was co-founded by Melissa Silverstein of Women and Hollywood (love her!) and Kathryn Kolbert of the Athena Center for Leadership Studies at Barnard College. The unique festival contains features feature films, documentaries, shorts along with panels and workshops for filmmakers.

Silverstein recently wrote why the Athena Film Festival is a unique feminist film festival:

“But the reality is that it is still much more difficult for women to become successful in the film business.  That’s not just anecdotal.  Look at the numbers—both in front of and behind the scenes. In 2011, women made up just five percent of the directors on the top grossing films of the year, and that lowly number is actually a two-point decrease from the previous year.  Women also make up only 30 percent of roles in front of the camera.  It’s not that women are not going to the movies.  Women buy 50 percent of all tickets according to the last data available by Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).

“The Athena Film Festival is unique in the world of women’s film festivals in that we are focused on women’s leadership.  By spotlighting the content of the films rather than on the gender of the director we distinguish ourselves.

“That doesn’t mean we don’t try and get as many women directed films as we can.  But our mission is to create a cultural conversation about how vital it is for all of us—and for our future—to have more female leaders at all levels in our society.”

Last year, I attended a screening of the ground-breaking documentary Miss Representation which explores gender, sexism and the media along with a phenomenal panel on the Bechdel Test which discussed the need for more female screenwriters and directors which made me seriously question why I’m not writing screenplays myself. I’m sure this year will yield more astounding and inspirational films.

Feminist media critic Soraya Chemaly wrote:

The Athena Festival. This is where to go if you are interested in what the world actually looks like today and will look like in the future. They are movies that change the world in two ways: one, they are literally about women who are changing their communities and two, they provided a gender-balanced story-telling counterpoint to the Hollywood man-boy model.”

With female writers comprising 24% of ALL writers in Hollywood and women in only 33% of speaking roles in films, women’s experiences and perspectives are often missing. Women don’t just sit on the sidelines. They lead, advocate and inspire. These films celebrate their diverse lives yet their common goal to catalyze change. Through the Athena Film Festival, we witness a mosaic of stories, a symphony of voices.

Purchase tickets or passes here. Can’t attend? Watch some of the panels live-streaming.

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