The Athena Film Festival captures the spirit of women in film

The Athena Film Festival is celebrating its fifth anniversary this year with a continuing commitment to showcase films with women in leadership roles. The festival, which takes place February 5-8th in New York City, is also honoring out filmmaker, director and actress Jodie Foster with their Laura Ziskin Lifetime Achievement Award. Not many film festivals revel in the achievements of women, which makes Athena particularly special.

Wallis Annenberg Center For The Performing Arts Gala - Arrivals

The films chosen by Athena must meet certain criteria but are vastly different in tone, subject matter and focus.

“The films have to have a woman in a leadership role as the protagonist in the story,” said festival co-founder Kathryn Kolbert. “The movie can be made by men or women, but the real question is, what story is it telling? Frankly, our view is that we want to demonstrate that women play critical roles in all aspects of society, and demonstrate courage, audacity, grit and are resilient and able to make a difference in the world.”

The festival features not only feature length and short films, but panels and workshops focused on women in the film industry.

“Firstly, I think there are a lot of women involved in film making. I don’t think there is a lack of talent; I think there is a lack of opportunity,” said Melissa Silverstein, co-founder of the festival and Artistic Director of Indiewire’s Women in Hollywood. “What happens is, women self select themselves out after a while because they don’t see themselves moving forward. So we need create opportunities for women who are good. Let’s also remember the fact that just because you can pick up a camera, doesn’t mean you should pick up a camera. We need more talented men and women, but a lot more women because we are so underrepresented, to move up the food chain. There are a lot of people trying to figure out what prevents that from happening.”

This year’s festival will be screening some films that feature queer women. The documentaries Out in the Night, Rosie O’Donnell: A Heartfelt Standup, Kate Bornstein is a Queer and Pleasant Danger, and Born to Fly: Elizabeth Streb vs Gravity, and the shorts Brittney Griner: Lifesize and Flying Solo.

For a full list of films, check out the festival’s site. Tickets are now available.