Athena Film Festival Honors 'Can You Ever Forgive Me?' Director Marielle Heller, Time's Up Organization

March 22, 2019

The ninth annual Athena Film Festival cited by The Hollywood Reporter for their diligent and continuous work in empowering and celebrating fierce and fearless women:

The ninth annual festival screened films centered on women leaders, awarded trailblazers making their mark in their respective fields, hosted panels like "Time's Upx2" and more.
 
For nine years, the Athena Film Festival — co-founded by the Athena Center for Leadership Studies at Barnard College and Women and Hollywood — has worked to spotlight women leaders across different industries.
 
"Initially, the idea was to give a place to showcase great women’s stories that were being made into films and to give women an opportunity to have those films made," festival co-founder Kathryn Kolbert told The Hollywood Reporter at Friday's awards ceremony. "We're just celebrating fierce and fearless women."
 
This year's slate of award winners included Can You Ever Forgive Me? director Marielle Heller and Time's Up founding member and lawyer Nina Shaw, while multihyphenate Desiree Akhavan took home the breakthrough prize.
 
"There’s something really exciting about being the first to do something. As much as it sucks to feel like there’s not enough opportunities out there, and that you’re alone in that struggle, it’s also really exciting to say, 'I get to break that barrier.' I get to be the person who says something that hasn’t been said before," Akhavan told THR. "Like, how many times have you seen movies about some straight white guy who’s single and some straight white girl who’s single, really like each other, want to get together, and how the fuck are they going to make it happen? That story is boring. I’d like to tell a different one."
 
For Akhavan and other women filmmakers to be able to tell their stories, she says network studios and production companies need to "put their money where their mouth is."
Toronto International Film Festival co-head Cameron Bailey seems to be doing so, as he won this year's Athena leading man award. 
 
"It’s very important that men are recognized because they’re half, if not more, of the battle," Kolbert said. "One of the reasons we started the leading man award is to recognize the contributions of great men who are willing to be advocates for women, and we’d like to see many, many more of them."
 
Bailey told THR that at TIFF, they're doing everything they can in terms of programming. Going forward, he said it's important to "listen to what women filmmakers need, and give them opportunities wherever we can."
 
Throughout the weekend at the Athena Film Fest, films such as Ask for JaneFast Color and I Am Somebody’s Child: The Regina Louise Story are being screened. Overall, 70 percent of the movies are female-directed, and 25 percent were helmed by women of color. 

Read the rest of Allison Crist's article here.