NEW YORK (February 12, 2020) – The Athena Film Festival (AFF) at Barnard College today announced honorees, additional films and programming, and the 2020 winners and finalists of the Athena List. Co-founded by Barnard College’s Athena Center for Leadership Studies and Women and Hollywood, the festival celebrates women and leadership and boasts a diverse range of feature films, shorts, and documentaries that highlight courageous women. The 10th anniversary of the festival will run from Thursday, February 27, through Sunday, March 1, at Barnard College in New York City.
The festival will honor veteran producer and CEO of Gamechanger Effie T. Brown (“Dear White People,” “Real Women Have Curves,”), Golden Globe®-nominated actress Beanie Feldstein (“Booksmart,” “How to Build a Girl”), director, writer, and producer Jennifer Kaytin Robinson (“Someone Great,” “Sweet/Vicious”) at the Athena Film Festival Awards Ceremony on Wednesday, February 26.
Also being honored is Director Unjoo Moon, whose film “I Am Woman” opens the 2020 festival. Moon will receive the recently announced Athena Breakthrough Award, sponsored by Netflix. Dedicated to elevating female filmmakers, the newly created award will recognize a standout first- or second-time filmmaker of a narrative or documentary who identifies as a woman and whose film has not yet secured U.S. distribution as of January 1, 2020. Moon will receive $25,000 that will help her attend screenings of “I Am Woman,” as it rolls out across the globe.
“The Athena Film Festival is thrilled to commemorate this incredible group of honorees whose talent brings unique voices and artistic vision to the industry and continues to pave the way for future generations of women filmmakers,” said Athena Film Festival co-founder Kathryn Kolbert. “We are very grateful to have Effie, Beanie, Jennifer and Unjoo join us for the festival and look forward to celebrating their achievements and seeing what triumphs are in store for them.”
Additional films announced for the 2020 lineup include “Black Christmas,” directed by Sophia Takal (Barnard ’07), written by Takal and April Wolfe, and starring Imogen Poots, Aleyse Shannon and Lily Donoghue; “Clemency,” written and directed by Athena List winner Chinonye Chukwu and starring Alfre Woodard and Aldis Hodge; “Frozen 2,” directed by Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck and written by Lee, and featuring Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel as voice cast; “Little Women,” written and directed by Greta Gerwig (Barnard ’06 and AFF ’11 honoree) and starring Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, and Laura Dern; New York Premiere of “Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” written and directed by Eliza Hittman; “Radioactive,” starring Rosamund Pike and directed by Marjane Satrapi; and “Woman In Motion,” directed by Todd Thompson.
The festival also announced the winners and finalists for the Athena List, an annual slate featuring unproduced screenplays about women leaders. Winners include “What the Eyes Don’t See,” by Cherien Dabis; “Over It,” by Joy Goodwin; “Auto High,” by Nina Kentsis; “Mother-Daughter,” by Tricia Lee; and “Noor,” by Nijla Mu’min. Finalists include: “Stampeded,” by Sontenish Myers; “Redwood Summer,” by Rangeley Wallace; and “Bell,” by Dyana Winkler and Darcy Brislin.
“The introduction of the Athena List has made women-driven narratives about female leaders a priority, and we are pleased to present this year’s list of dynamic scripts,” said Athena Film Festival co-founder Melissa Silverstein. “We are also excited about the additional films in this year’s lineup ranging from a recent breakout at this year’s Sundance Film Festival to Academy Award-nominated features, as well as one previous Athena List-winning screenplay.”
Festival-goers will also have the opportunity to learn from a range of industry leaders, both behind and in front of the camera, with a curated program of master classes and panels that will touch on a wide expanse of topics, including The Present and Future of Women in Animation, an investigative look at women who work across all fields of animation and their accelerating success; an in-depth Masterclass on Writing for Film & TV, with Valerie Woods, co-executive producer and writer of Ava DuVernay’s acclaimed drama series “Queen Sugar”; and Women & Horror: Women as Heroes and Villains, focusing on depictions of women as both heroes and villains in horror films and exploring what that means for our culture. The festival will also welcome Silence Breakers to talk about the challenges of speaking out in the entertainment industry.
As previously announced, the festival will open with Unjoo Moon’s “I Am Woman,” and close with “Rocks,” written by Theresa Ikoko with Claire Wilson and directed by Sarah Gavron. Additional films include “Lost Girls,” “Military Wives,” “The Perfect Candidate,” and “Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am.”
The 2020 festival co-chairs include J.J. Abrams P’22, Amma Asante, Julie Parker Benello ’92, Gina Prince-Bythewood, Debra Martin Chase, Geralyn Dreyfous, Paul Feig, Sherry Lansing, Kasi Lemmons, Jon Levin P’13, Katie McGrath P’22, Pat Mitchell, Vernā Myers ’82, Sheila Nevins ’60, Regina K. Scully and Rachel Weisz.
The 2020 festival sponsors include founding sponsor The Artemis Rising Foundation and its founder Regina K. Scully, The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Netflix, Dobkin Family Foundation, Hanky Panky, Secret Sauce Media, Twitter, Whitewater Films, Walt Disney Studios, Attitude New York, The Fledgling Fund, Lifetime, Open Society Foundations, Reavis Page Jump LLP, FF2 Media, National Institute for Reproductive Health, Stephens College and Valhalla Entertainment.
Passes and tickets are now on sale. Visit the Athena Film Festival website for regular updates and more information.
MORE INFORMATION ON NEWLY ANNOUNCED FILMS, PROGRAMS, AND PANELS:
Director: Sophia Takal
From the producer of “Happy Death Day” and “Halloween,” comes a timely take on a cult horror classic as a campus killer comes to face a formidable group of friends in sisterhood. Hawthorne College is quieting down for the holidays. But as Riley Stone and her Mu Kappa Epsilon sisters prepare to deck the halls with a series of seasonal parties, a black-masked stalker begins killing sorority women one by one. As the body count rises, the sisters start to question whether they can trust any man. Whoever the killer is, he’s about to discover that this generation’s young women aren’t about to be anybody’s victims.
Director and writer: Chinonye Chukwu
Chinonye Chukwu’s sophomore feature is an enthralling story of Bernadine (Alfre Woodard), a prison warden whose years working on death row takes a psychic toll. After a harrowing botched execution, her growing investment in the next prisoner to be executed encourages her to look more closely at her motivations and relationships and offers a tough-minded inquiry into the morality of capital punishment. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.
Directors: Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck
Why was Elsa born with magical powers? What truths about the past await Elsa as she ventures into the unknown to the enchanted forests and dark seas beyond Arendelle? The answers are calling her but also threatening her kingdom. Together with Anna, Kristoff, Olaf and Sven, she’ll face a dangerous but remarkable journey. In “Frozen,” Elsa feared her powers were too much for the world. In “Frozen 2,” she must hope they are enough. From the Academy Award®-winning team—directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, producer Peter Del Vecho and songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez— “Frozen 2” features the voices of Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff and Josh Gad.
Director and writer: Greta Gerwig
Writer-director Greta Gerwig ’06 (“Lady Bird”), winner of a 2011 Athena Award, has crafted a film that draws on both the classic novel and the writings of Louisa May Alcott, unfolding as the author’s alter ego, Jo March, reflects on her life with her three sisters.
Never Rarely Sometimes Always – New York Premiere
Director and writer: Eliza Hittman
Written and directed by Eliza Hittman, the film is an intimate portrayal of two teenage girls in rural Pennsylvania. Faced with an unintended pregnancy and a lack of local support, Autumn (Sidney Flanigan) and her cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder) embark across state lines to New York City on a fraught journey of friendship, bravery, and compassion.
Director: Marjane Satrapi
From the 1870s through our 21st century, Radioactive tells the story of pioneering scientist Marie Curie (Rosamund Pike) through her extraordinary life and her enduring legacies – the passionate partnerships, her shining scientific breakthroughs, and the darker consequences that followed.
Woman in Motion – Alfred P. Sloan STEM Showcase
Director and writer: Todd Thompson
In 1977, with just four months left, NASA struggles to recruit scientists, engineers, and astronauts for their new Space Shuttle Program. That is when Nichelle Nichols, “Star Trek”’s Lt. Uhura, challenges them by asking the question: “Where are my people?” Embarking on a national blitz, she recruits 8,000 of the nation’s best and brightest, including the trailblazing astronauts who will soon become the first African American, Asian, and Latino men and women to fly in space.
ATHENA LIST WINNERS & FINALISTS
“Auto High,” by Nina Kentsis
Needing money to attend her dream college, a high school girl with a knack for mechanics risks everything to enter the underworld of New York street racing.
“Mother-Daughter,” by Tricia Lee
A churchgoing, undocumented Asian woman who has a strained relationship with her daughter forms an unlikely friendship with a transgender teenager who dials the wrong number.
“Noor,” by Nijla Mu’min
Caught in the throes of grief following her brother’s unsolved murder outside of a Brooklyn bodega, a black woman develops an unexpected physical connection to the Arab man who works there. A surrender to lust and a search for truth lead their worlds to collide.
“Over It,” by Joy Goodwin
Sick of the superhero workplace bullshit, two female superheroes — a working mom and her millennial trainee — go rogue to stop a villain, changing their squad forever.
“What the Eyes Don’t See,” by Cherien Dabis
The true story of Iraqi American pediatrician Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, who blew the whistle on local and state government officials for exposing tens of thousands of Flint, Michigan, residents to disastrous levels of toxic lead in the water.
“Bell,” by Dyana Winkler & Darcy Brislin
The untold story of famed inventor Alexander Graham Bell and his deaf wife, Mabel, whose marriage changed history, for better and for much worse.
“Redwood Summer,” by Rangeley Wallace
An environmental lawyer follows her husband to Alabama for his career, abandoning her successful work in Washington, D.C. Once there, she takes on an environmental case that reunites her with a long-lost love.
“Stampede,” by Sontenish Myers
On a southern plantation in the 1800s, a young slave girl has telekinetic powers she cannot control. Circumstances escalate when she’s separated from her mother to be a house girl, in close quarters with the mercurial master’s wife.
Women & Horror: Women as Heroes and Villains
Building on our successful panel on women and horror at the 2019 festival, this panel will focus on depictions of women as both heroes and villains in horror films and beyond and what this tells us about the current zeitgeist.
Film Outreach and Engagement
This panel will help filmmakers to develop effective outreach and communication plans. Using case studies and models of success, outreach and engagement experts will discuss effective strategies and best practices to ensure that audiences will be excited to see, attend, and engage with your films.
The Impact of Women Running for Office
Tired of being ignored, angered by government policies, and anxious about the future of America, thousands of women — many first-time female candidates — were inspired to run for office in 2018 in what became a barrier-breaking, historic election. Was this a moment, or is it a movement? Can the surge of women running be sustained? On this panel, we will hear from women who were elected in 2018 and those who are currently running for office to discuss the importance of female leadership and what that means for the future. Clips from the upcoming documentary “Surge” will be shown during this panel.
The Silence Breakers
The Harvey Weinstein story broke because several brave women spoke out after decades of being silent. There are upwards of 80 women who have made accusations against Weinstein, and dozens of women who have accused men in powerful positions in Hollywood and beyond, including music mogul Russell Simmons. This panel will hear from the #SilenceBreakers, the women who put their names, reputations, and careers on the line to stand up and change the culture. They will share their experiences and the impact speaking out has made on lives and careers.
Masterclass on Writing: Valerie Woods
Join us for an in-depth Masterclass on writing for film and TV with the co-executive producer/writer of Ava DuVernay’s acclaimed drama series “Queen Sugar,” as well as Lifetime’s “Any Day Now” and Showtime’s “Soulfood.” Woods will be joined by writer Ken LaZebnik, founder and former director of the Stephens College Low-Residency MFA in Television and Screenwriting program.
The Present and Future of Women in Animation
Recent research from the Annenberg Inclusion Institute (AII) at USC has shown that the field of animation is one of the few areas in the entertainment industry where women are accelerating. However, the data is more complicated than surface impressions. Women are leading at the top, and many women are working at the entry level, but they are not rising through the ranks. Why is this, and what can be done? In partnership with Women in Animation (WIA), an organization dedicated to advancing women in the field of animation, this panel will feature AII founder and director Dr. Stacy Smith and women who work across all fields of animation to discuss the current field of animation and what we can do to get women through the pipeline of the animation industry. Through this panel, WIA hopes to share their vision of a world where women share equally in the creation, production, and rewards of animation.
Using Film to Make Global Change
We know that film drives culture; it can influence how people think, feel, and perceive the world around them. Global gender justice organizations, including UN Women and Global Fund for Women, are harnessing the power of film to challenge stereotypes and foster public support for feminist action. Join us for an intergenerational and intersectional discussion on how activists are building momentum, making progress, and writing new futures for themselves and their communities — and using film to drive progress.
We will begin by screening the New York premiere of a short film from the upcoming documentary series Fundamental: “Defenders of Justice: Fighting Racism and Patriarchy in Brazil.” The series, created by Global Fund for Women in partnership with two-time Academy Award-winner Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, follows activists from five different countries who are working on the front lines of the global fight for gender justice. The other four films in the series will be available for viewing at the Activism Booth on Saturday and Sunday of the Athena Film Festival.
Women in Space (following the film “Woman in Motion”) – Alfred P. Sloan STEM Showcase
With the first all-women spacewalk in October 2019, and NASA’s goal to land the first woman on the moon by 2024, what was once a dream for many women and girls is now becoming a reality. Numerous films in recent years have also explored the idea of women in space, and through the festival’s partnership with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, we will continue to support the development and distribution of films about women in STEM. Following the screening of “Woman in Motion,” the panel will discuss the history of women in space and the connection between the stories on screen and real-life initiatives.