Athena Film Festival

Noted Filmmakers Join Together to Celebrate Women and Leadership at Athena Film Festival Kick-off Party


Quite a few Angelenos will be venturing to New York this week for  the Athena Film Festival, which begins Feb. 9 and continues through Feb. 12. Founded by Melissa Silverstein and Kathryn Kolbert in conjunction with Barnard College, the Festival celebrates women and leadership and in doing so, will present 30 films that showcase women in leadership positions.

Also featured are workshops and discussions with filmmakers, actors and directors and an opening night celebration which will honor outstanding women with the Athena Film Festival Awards. 

Through films, documentaries and shorts, the Festival explores leadership across race, class and culture. According to Silverstein, the Festival hopes to inspire young women to recognize their potential as leaders and help change the world for the better.

“We live in a very visual society. We are affected by what we see on film,” she said. 

“You can’t be what you can’t see,” Silverstein added, borrowing a quote from the American activist Marian Wright Edelman.”Women almost need to be asked to take leadership roles. With men, it’s expected of them,” Silverstein added.

Serving as Festival co-chairs are noted filmmakers Debra Martin Chase, producer of “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” and “The Princess Diaries;” Jennifer Christman, executive director of the art-house theater, The Picture House; Diablo Cody, Academy Award-winning screenwriter of “Juno;” and actress Mira Nair of “Monsoon Wedding.”

Films included in this year’s line-up feature, among others, “The Lady,” in which Michelle Yeoh stars as Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of Burma’s democracy movement.

“If a girl sees in Aung San Suu Kyi, a woman who stood up for her country, maybe she will be inspired and see that she can be a leader,” Silverstein said. “If people don’t see themselves in these kinds of roles, they don’t dream big. This Festival is about dreaming big.”

More than 2,500 people attended the inaugural Festival last year and a greater number is expected this year as word of the Festival spreads.

The Athena Film Festival Awards, which will be given out on Feb. 9. will go to Rachael Horovitz, producer of “Moneyball,” Julie Taymor, film and theater director, known for Broadway’s “Lion King;” Dee Reese and Nekisa Cooper, the team behind the acclaimed “Pariah;” Theresa Rebeck, screenwriter, playwright and executive producer of TV’s “Smash,” and writers Diablo Cody of “Juno,” Dana Fox of “What Happens in Vegas;”, Liz Meriwether of “No Strings Attached”and Lorene Scafaria of “Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist.”

Katie Couric will present the Laura Ziskin Lifetime Achievement Award, which Zisnik’s daughter, Julia Barry will accept on behalf of her mother. Ziskin was a film producer, whose credits include “Pretty Woman,”  “Spider Man” and “As Good As It Gets.”

Last May, to help introduce Silverstein and Kolbert to filmmakers in California and to raise awareness of the Festival, Susan Cartsonis, producer of “What Women Want” and “Beastly,” hosted a cocktail party at her Santa Monica home. All photos shown on this page and in the gallery below come from that event.

Silverstein is a marketing consultant and founder/editor of “Women and Hollywood;” Kolbert is director of the Athena Center for Leadership Studies at Barnard. Industry advisers include Nicole Bernard of FOX group, producer Bonnie Bruckheimer, Lisa Cortés of Cortés Films, producer Penney Finkelman Cox, Madeline Di Nonno of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, Lindsay Doran of “Three Strange Angels,” writer Delia Ephron, Julie Fontaine of Lionsgate, Nancy Gates of  United Talent Agency, director Sanaa Hamri, director Chris Hegedus, Gale Anne Hurd of Valhalla Motion Pictures, Annette Insdorf of Columbia University, Terry Lawler of New York Women in Film & Television, actress Sharon Lawrence, writer Margaret Nagle, Gayle Nachlis of Women in Film, actress Mary Kay Place, director of photography Nancy Schreiber, Paula Silver of Beyond the Box Productions and Anne Thompson of “Thompson on Hollywood.”

For more information about the Athena Film Festival, click here.

Photos from top, of the Athena Film Festival introductory party in Santa Monica, from left: Athena Film Festival co-chair Debra Martin Chase, Athena Film Festival co-founder Kathryn Kolbert and Diane Levin; Athena Film Festival co-founder Melissa Silverstein, left, Festival adviser Madeline Di Nonno; party host Susan Cartsonis, left, and actress and Festival adviser Sharon Lawrence. (Photos: Charles Bathgate) 



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Published Feb. 5, 2012 – Ellen Olivier, Society News LA