Athena Film Festival explores women and leadership through lineup

Last year, when Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman director in history to win the Best Director Oscar, it was an eye-opening moment for many film fans that had never before noticed the dominance of men in Hollywood.

But it was no revelation to Melissa Silverstein, who founded the site Women and Hollywood, to focus attention on women’s issues in the entertainment industry. Silverstein has become one of the most respected film critics on the Internet by celebrating the accomplishments of women in film — and calling out the industry for its lack of acknowledgment of those accomplishments. If the site is not on your list of daily reads, bookmark it now.

Now Melissa has taken on a new venture, this time a film festival featuring films that explore women and leadership. The Athena Film Festival will highlight the stories of women around the world who have made a difference in their communities. Not surprisingly, the lineup includes several films dealing specifically with sexual identity.

The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls, directed by Leanne Pooley, is the story of “the world’s only comedic, singing, yodeling lesbian twin sisters.”

The crazy Kiwi duo, Jools and Lynda Topp, have become national treasures in New Zealand, with albums, live performances and a primetime TV show, Do Not Adjust Your Twinset. They have performed together for more than 25 years and are not only very funny women, but human rights activists at the forefront of the fight for LGBT equality.

Here’s the trailer.

The film topped Michael Moore’s at the Toronto International Film Festival by winning the People’s Choice Award for Best Documentary — and has garnered similar awards at festivals around the world. If you want to know more, check out Danielle Riendeau’s review.

Amy K. Jenkins’s experimental documentary, Audrey Superhero, explores gender identity through conversations with the filmmaker’s daughter, Audrey, who insists she is Superman and “wanted to be a boy when I got borned.”

Audrey, at six, knows exactly what it means to be a boy. At one point, she said, “I want to be a boy because — I’m wanting a girlfriend.” She makes the Superman parallel in her life – she knows everyone sees her as a girl, like Clark Kent, but when she changes into the Superman costume, she becomes a boy. You can view a clip from the film at

Whether or not Audrey will identify as male as she grows up remains to be seen, but regardless, Audrey Superhero is a fascinating peek at a child’s view of sexual fluidity.

Other films include the NYC premier of Miss Representation, a film about the media’s portrayal of women with interviews by Katie Couric, Nancy Pelosi, Catherine Hardwicke and others; the world premier of Mo, in which Julie Walters portrays charismatic British politician Mo Mowlam; and The Mighty Macs, the story of coach Cathy Rush’s transformation of a tiny Catholic women’s college basketball team from near-extinction to a national championship.

The Athena Film Festival takes place Feb. 10 – 13 at Barnard College in New York. You can find the full lineup at the festival’s website. Check out the list of films and let us know what you think. What would you most like to see?

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