The ninth annual Athena Film Festival, co-founded by the Athena Center for Leadership Studies and Women and Hollywood, opens Thursday, February 28, and runs through Sunday, March 3 at Barnard College. Celebrating fierce and fearless women leaders, the festival showcases films that feature strong female protagonists and honors the accomplishments of those who help bring their stories to life. Weekend passes and individual tickets are available for purchase on the festival website, where you can also find the full schedule.

Feature Films

The opening night film, Fast Color, follows a superhero who goes into hiding when her superhuman abilities are discovered. Starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, it is an incredibly powerful story of womanhood, motherhood, and more. This will be its New York premiere.  

Another New York premiere, the documentary centerpiece This is Personal, looks at feminist activists Tamika Mallory and Erika Andiola and exposes the fundamental connection between the personal and the political, and asks: How can intersectionality birth a new social justice movement? Directed by Amy Berg, a critically acclaimed, Emmy-award winning and Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker whose first film, Deliver Us from Evil, was nominated for an Academy Award, this screening will be followed by a panel on intersectionality and social movements.

The narrative centerpiece is the U.S. premiere of Out of Blue, which follows Detective Mike Hoolihan (Patricia Clarkson) as she investigates the shooting of a leading astrophysicist. This screening is in partnership with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

One of the stars of the closing filmKnock Down the HouseCongresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will attend the Festival on Sunday, March 3, in support of the film. Knock Down The House chronicles the campaigns of four female progressive candidate against powerful incumbents in the 2018 midterm elections. The film, which won the Festival Favorite at this year's Sundance Film Festival, was recently acquired by Netflix, for a reported $10 million, and will be released this spring.

Other films include the Oscar-nominated blockbusters Can You Ever Forgive Me?, starring Melissa McCarthy as writer Lee Israel; the 18th-century, England-set comedic drama The Favourite (for which actors Olivia Colman and Rachel Weisz won Golden Globes); and On The Basis of Sex, a 2014 Athena List screenplay and 2019 Sundance Film Festival Favorite Award winner, about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s early years.

The Red Carpet

The awards gala honors extraordinary leaders in the entertainment industry and is set to take place on Friday evening in the Diana Center Event Oval. Two Athena Awards will be presented: to Nina Shaw ’76 — cofounder of the pioneering organization Time’s Up in response to revelations of widespread abuse and misbehavior at the hands of powerful men across the entertainment and other industries — and to Can You Ever Forgive Me? director Marielle Heller, who directs the Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning television series "Transparent." Writer-director Desiree Akhavan, who wrote, directed, and starred in her 2014 film debut, Appropriate Behavior, and also wrote and directed The Miseducation of Cameron Post, a coming-of-age story about LGBTQ youth that took the Grand Jury prize at Sundance 2018, will receive the Breakthrough Award. Toronto Film Festival co-chief Cameron Bailey, who has brought countless female filmmakers into the spotlight, will receive the Leading Man Award.

Free Programming

On top of the high-profile events and buzz-worthy screenings taking place over the weekend, festival-goers will also have access to a selection of complementary screenings, panels, and workshops including:  the screenings for 1979’s horror classic Halloween (followed by a Q & A with actress and activist Nancy Stephens), the world premiere of I am Somebody's Child: The Regina Louise Story (a panel discussion with author Regina Louise, the lead actress Angela Fairley, and others will follow), and The Hate U Give, which follows the character Starr as she finds her voice and stands up for what’s right.

Student and Alumnae Connections

This year, the Festival features films involving Barnard alumnae: Joy Gorman ’96, who produced the documentary centerpiece, This is Personal; and Cait Cortelyou ’09, who co-wrote and stars in Ask for Jane, which will be followed by a Q & A with Cortelyou and director Rachel Carey. 
And, of course, the Festival would not be possible without a dedicated team of hundreds of Barnard students and alumnae who volunteer their time to ensure all attendees feel welcome and have the information they need to experience the Festival to the fullest. 

For more information about Barnard’s Athena Film Festival schedule and to purchase tickets or passes, including deeply discounted all-access passes for students of all ages, visit the Festival website.