The fourth year of the Athena Film Festival, held at Barnard College February 6-9th, was an incredible experience for women and men. Foremost, the festival organizers and participants collaborated in their appreciation and recognition of those who have taken an active part in raising the banner of global film movements. Panel presenters, filmmakers, audience members, and sponsors gathered with the hope that as they express their dynamism in whatever talents and walks of life they embrace through film, they will continue to motivate women toward leadership, autonomy, creativity, and inspiration. Ultimately, doing so will only benefit culture and society as a whole.
Co-Founders Kathryn Kolbert (Athena Center for Leadership Studies at Barnard College) and Melissa Silverstein (Women and Hollywood) introduced many of the screenings and master classes. The films included a wide range of features, documentaries, shorts, and “works-in-progress” for critical review.. There were master classes for filmmakers, panels and special events: opening film after-party, luncheons and receptions and the Athena Film Festival Award Ceremony..
Festival highlights included the awards bestowed. On hand for the ceremony was Debora Spar, President of Barnard College, Regina K. Scully, CEO and Founder of Artemis Rising Foundation-the Athena Film Festival’s founding sponsor, Festival Co-Chairs, Co-Founders, illustrious recipients and others.
This year Sherry Lansing was the recipient of the Laura Ziskin Lifetime Achievement Award given to a women in the film industry whose leadership demonstrated vision and courage and set a standard for other women to follow. 2014 Awards went to Callie Khouri, Oscar-Winning writer and film and TV creator and director, Kasi Lemmons, gifted actress, director and writer and Keri Putnam, Executive Director of the Sundance Institute. Each of these women is responsible for their groundbreaking achievements assisting women in gaining voice and power to maintain leadership positions. They continue to make a tremendous impact for women in the media industry with current projects.
These women have helped other women begin to move among their male counterparts. However, the statistics the festival reported are not as encouraging as one would hope. Among the films shown at Sundance in 2013, 29% of filmmakers were women and 71% were men.
There is a lot that must be accomplished and with the gap in economies of scale and increasing difficulty in achieving funding, women will be challenged more than ever to be innovative, forward thinking, and ahead of the curve, finding partnerships with others who recognize the acute sensibilities and resonances women can contribute to touching a cultural wellspring of film audiences that are increasingly dominated by women.