2013 Athena Film Festival Preview | Sarah Boslaugh

athena 75The festival highlights films that show girls and women in leadership roles, and honors women who have distinguished themselves in the industry.

fastgirls 500

Fast Girls

Women make up just over half the world’s population, but if you were to judge by American feature films, you’d think we were a distinct minority who seldom work, avoid influential and high-prestige occupations, and have a taste for wearing sexy clothing.* This comes as no surprise to anyone who’s ever run a current movie through the Bechdel Test, but still it’s discouraging to think that, more than one decade into the 21st century, the world presented by the hugely influential American film industry seems to be stuck in the 1940s.

The Athena Film Festival, now in its third year, is helping to correct that distorted image by highlighting films that show girls and women in leadership roles, and honoring women who have distinguished themselves in the film industry. The festival is a collaboration by The Athena Center for Leadership Studies at Barnard College, established in 2009 by Barnard President Debora Spar, and Women and Hollywood, founded in 2007 by Melissa Silverstein.

Among the feature films that will screen at this year’s Athena Film Festival are the Oscar-nominated Beasts of the Southern Wild and Brave; Sally Potter’s Ginger and Rosa; Magarethe von Trotta’s Hannah Arendt; and Regan Hall’s Fast Girls, which focuses on two women runners training to compete at the World Championships.

Documentaries to be screened at the festival include the Oscar-nominated The Invisible War, Lisa Immordino Vreeland’s Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel, Kristy Guevara-Flanagan’s Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines, and Bonnie McFarlane’s Women Aren’t Funny, which documents her attempts to get to the bottom of the stereotype referenced in the title. The Athena Festival also includes three programs of shorts, a session dedicated to works in progress, and a number of panels and workshops on various aspects of the film business.

Gale Anne Hurd will receive the 2013 Laura Ziskin Lifetime Achievement Award for her achievements as a film and television producer; her credits include the Oscar-winning films Terminator 2: Judgment Day and The Abyss, and the AMC hit series The Walking Dead. Also to be honored at the 2013 Athena Film Festival are the filmmaker Ava DuVernay; the film critic and author Molly Haskell; Rose Kuo, Executive Director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center; and Pat Mitchell, President and CEO of the Paley Center for Media.

The Athena Film Festival will run from Thursday, February 7, through Sunday, February 10, on the Barnard College Campus in New York City. Further information is available from the Festival website. | Sarah Boslaugh

* Here are a few statistics about current popular films, from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and from research published by Stacey L. Smith, a professor at USC’s Annenberg School.

  • In family films today, male characters outnumber females by of 3 to 1, the same ratio as in 1946.
  • In the top-grossing films from 2009, less than one-third of all characters in speaking roles were female.
  • In G-rated family films today, males are four times as likely as females to be shown at work.
  • In G-rated films released theatrically in the U.S. in 2006–2009, no female characters were depicted as working in the medical sciences, business executives, law, or politics.
  • In the top-grossing films from 2009, female characters were over five times as likely to be shown in sexy clothing as were male characters, and over three times as likely to be shown partially naked.

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