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The Athena Film Festival (AFF) announced its 2017 lineup showcasing films about powerful and courageous women leaders in real life and the fictional world.  The seventh annual festival, co-founded by the Athena Center for Leadership Studies at Barnard College and Women and Hollywood, will take place February 9 to 12, 2017, at Barnard College in New York City.

The festival will close on Sunday, February 12th with the New York Premiere of documentary DOLORES, directed by Peter Bratt.  The film chronicles feminist union organizer Dolores Huerta who worked side-by-side with Cesar Chavez during their decades-long fight for workers’ rights.

The Centerpiece Film will be the documentary CITY OF JOY, directed and written by Madeleine Gavin.  City of Joy opened in 2011 as a place of hope and healing for the women of the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and is a community for women survivors of sexual violence.  The film chronicles the women working to process their trauma, heal, and give back to their communities.

Among the feature films included in this year’s lineup are QUEEN OF KATWE, starring ‘17 AFF Leading Man Awardee David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong’o and directed by ‘16 AFF Lifetime Achievement Awardee Mira Nair; THE FITS, starring Royalty Hightower and directed and written by Anna Rose Holmer; CUSTODY, starring Viola Davis, Hayden Panettiere and Ellen Burstyn and directed by James Lapine; STRANGE WEATHER, starring Holly Hunter and directed by Katherine Dieckmann; and DENIAL, starring Rachel Weisz and directed by Mick Jackson among others.

The documentary category includes HBO’s BRIGHT LIGHTS: STARRING CARRIE FISHER AND DEBBIE REYNOLDS, directed by Alexis Bloom & Fisher Stevens, with a post screening conversation with President of HBO Documentary Films Sheila Nevins (‘15 AFF Awardee); POLITICAL ANIMALS, directed and written by Jonah Markowitz and Tracy Wares; MAJOR!, directed by Annalise Ophelian; and SOUTHWEST OF SALEM: THE STORY OF THE SAN ANTONIO FOUR, directed by Deborah Esquenazi among others.

In partnership with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences the festival will screen the U.S. Premiere of THE WOMEN WHO RUN HOLLYWOOD, followed by a panel discussion on the often-forgotten pioneering female filmmakers in early Hollywood.  Award-winning film historian and documentary filmmaker Cari Beauchamp, who is featured in the film, will participate in the panel.  Additional programming will include an inaugural virtual reality program, panel discussions, a Master Class hosted by ‘16 AFF Awardee Patricia Riggen, as well as a reading of A NOBLE AFFAIR, a 2016 Athena List winner written by Anil Baral and Kathryn Maughan.


A Good Wife  [New York Premiere]
Directed by: Mirjana Karanovic
Written by: Mirjana Karanovic, Stevan Filipović, Darko Lungulov
Mirjana Karanović writes, directs and stars in this searing and unforgettable portrait of a wife and mother facing the undoing of her family. Set in contemporary, post-war Serbia, Karanović presents a woman forced to make brave decisions about the life she thought she had and the woman she wants to be.

Angry Indian Goddesses
Directed by: Pan Nalin
Written by: Pan Nalin, Subhadra Mahajan, Dilip Shankar, Arsala Qureishi
Pan Nalin’s drama gives a fresh portrait of modern women in contemporary India. Frieda, a fashion photographer, gathers her closest girlfriends for a surprise announcement which turns into a weekend full of adventure, discovery and the unexpected.

Directed and Written by: James Lapine
Featuring an all-star cast, Custody takes an in-depth look at the systemic problems in the NYC child welfare system. Children’s Services removes a single mother’s two children after an accident at home. Her young, inexperienced lawyer is keeping a horrible family secret, and the presiding judge is tough and compassionate, but reeling from her own personal crisis. Cast includes: Catalina Sandino Moreno, Hayden Panettiere and Viola Davis.

Cents  [New York Premiere]
Directed and Written by: Christopher Boone
Sammy, a young troublemaker with a knack for numbers, turns her school’s penny drive into a money-making scheme with some classmates. As their plan spins out of control, Sammy faces the scorn of her peers, the disgust of her mentor, and the fury of her mother.

Directed by: Mick Jackson
Written by: David Hare
This historical drama recounts the story of professor Deborah E. Lipstadt, played by Academy Award winner, Rachel Weisz, and her battle with historian and Holocaust denier, David Irving. When Lipstadt’s book references Irving’s Holocaust denials, he accuses her of libel, sparking a legal battle for historical truth. It is up to Lipstadt and her team to prove the essential truth: that the Holocaust occurred.

The Fits
Directed and Written by: Anna Rose Holmer
The Fits follows Toni, a tomboyish boxer, who lands a spot on an after-school drill team in Cincinnati’s West End. When a mysterious outbreak of fainting spells plagues the team soon after Toni joins, she gains a new and frightening perspective of herself. The Fits is a truly original and hypnotic portrait of a young girl taking her first powerful steps towards womanhood.

In Between (Bar Bahar)
Director and written by: Maysaloun Hamoud
Three Palestinian women sharing an apartment in the vibrant heart of Tel Aviv find themselves doing the same balancing act between tradition and modernity, citizenship and culture, fealty and freedom.

Long Way North
Directed by: Rémi Chayé, Ron Dyens and Henri Magalon
Written by: Claire Paoletti, Patricia Valeix
This French-Danish animated film tells the story of Sascha, a Russian teenager, who sets off on a voyage to find and recover the lost ship of her missing grandfather who disappeared on his way to the North Pole. We follow Sascha on her epic quest to find and her journey of self-discovery along the way.

Queen of Katwe
Directed by: Mira Nair
Written by: William Wheeler
The 2016 Athena Film Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award Winner, Director Mira Nair’s new film is the true story of a brilliant Ugandan girl whose life is transformed with the discovery of her gift for chess. David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong’o star in this inspirational and uplifting story of a young girl who sets out to pursue her dream of becoming an international chess champion.

Strange Weather
Directed and Written by: Katherine Dieckmann
Holly Hunter plays a mother suffering the loss of her adult son, who sets off on a journey to find answers to the questions surrounding his death. Strange Weather is a story of forgiveness as this grieving mother looks inward to find a way to move forward.

Directed by: Catherine Corsini
Written by: Catherine Corsini, Laurette Polmanss
Sensual and elegant, Summertime follows Carole and Delphine as they fall in love against the backdrop of early feminist activism in 1971, Paris. When Delphine is called back to the countryside to help her family, she is forced to choose between home and her life in Paris with Carole.

Urban Hymn [U.S. Premiere]
Directed by: Michael Caton-Jones
Written by: Nick Moorcroft
Set against the backdrop of the 2011 UK summer riots, Urban Hymn follows a young female offender, Jamie, who possesses a remarkable voice, and the determined social worker, herself struggling with loss, who inspires Jamie to use her talent as a path to rebuild her life.

The Women’s Balcony
Directed by: Emil Ben Shimon
Written by: Shlomit Nehama
Emil Ben Shimon’s drama unfolds in an Orthodox community in Jerusalem when an accident during a bar mitzvah celebration leads to a gendered rift in the congregation. This rousing, good-hearted tale illustrates the strength of women speaking truth to patriarchal power.


100 Years
Directed and Written by: Melinda Janko
100 Years is the underdog tale of the unrelenting activist and tribal elder, Elouise Cobell, who led a 30-year fight against the United States government to protect the rights of her people and their land. Filing the largest ever federal class action lawsuit on behalf of 300,000 Native Americans, Elouise prevailed in the face of unrepentant obstructions and tampering by officials determined to withhold justice from Native Americans.

HBO’s Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds
Directed by: Alexis Bloom and Fisher Stevens
The story of a family’s complicated love, this documentary is an intimate portrait of Hollywood royalty in all its eccentricity. Carrie Fisher and her mother, Debbie Reynolds, live in the same Beverly Hills compound. The 83-year-old grand dame still has a Las Vegas act, but performing is taking its toll. Carrie’s response is both hilarious and heart-rending. Featuring vintage family films that bring iconic old-world Hollywood to life, as well as extensive vérité footage, the film is directed by Alexis Bloom and Fisher Stevens.

Directed and Written by: Madeleine Gavin
Since its opening in 2011, City of Joy has been a place of hope and healing for the women of the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Founded by Christine Schuler Deschryver and Dr. Denis Mukwege in conjunction with feminist activist, Eve Ensler, it is a community for women survivors of sexual violence.  Madeleine Gavin’s documentary chronicles the institution’s participants working to process their trauma, heal, and give back to their communities.

Dolores – CLOSING FILM [New York Premiere]
Directed and Written by: Peter Bratt
Feminist union organizer Dolores Huerta worked side-by-side with Caesar Chavez during their decades-long fight for worker’s rights. Unfortunately, she’s been all but erased from most historic accounts of the effort. Writer/director Peter Bratt rights that wrong in this powerful documentary, featuring interviews with Dolores, her comrades in arms, and her children, who struggled with her absence during her activist career.

Girl Unbound
Directed by: Erin Heidenreich
At only 25, Maria Toorpakai Wazir is an internationally-celebrated squash player, but in her home country of Pakistan, she faces opposition for her rejection of customary gender roles and refusal to conform to tradition. Erin Heidenreich’s feature film debut is a portrait of a young woman raised as a free spirit within a restrictive society, and the opportunities gained through her boundless view of life’s possibilities.

Keepers of the Game
Directed by: Judd Ehrlich
Traditionally reserved for men, lacrosse was born as a sacred game in Mohawk Territory. At Salmon River High in Fort Covington, NY, an all-Native American girls lacrosse team seeks to bring home a championship. But first they must overcome their crosstown rivals, Massena High. With more than just a game on the line, Judd Ehrlich’s film depicts the girls’ fight to blaze a new path for the next generation of Native American women.

Directed by: Annalise Ophelian
A leader of the fight for LGBT equality from the days of Stonewall, black, trans activist, Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, has never received recognition for the impact of her contributions — until now. Annalise Ophelian’s documentary profiles Miss Major as a political pioneer whose contributions to the trans community stretch from organizing, to being a surrogate parent for those abandoned by their families.

Martha & Niki
Directed and Written by: Tora Mårtens
Reaching the top of the hip-hop dance world in 2010, sisters-in-dance, Martha and Niki, found themselves in the challenging position of being the only women in a male-dominated sport. In a story stretching from Stockholm to New York, and, ultimately Soweto, director Tora Martens documents their struggles and successes and how their friendship is tested.

Political Animals
Directed and Written by: Jonah Markowitz and Tracy Wares
Political Animals presents an exciting portrait of two stories — the history of the legislation that paved the way for marriage equality, and the first four openly gay female legislators who championed the movement. Confronted with fear, indifference and homophobia, these four women stared hate in the face and emerged triumphant.

Restless Creature: Wendy Whelan
Directed by: Linda Saffire and Adam Schlesinger
Restless Creature allows the audience extraordinary access to a behind the scenes world at the New York City Ballet with long-time principal dancer, Wendy Whelan, as she faces injury, retirement, and having to redefine herself as a dancer. Linda Saffire and Adam Schlesinger’s film is a beautiful tribute to a resilient and extraordinary artist.

The Revival: Women and the Word
Directed by: Sekiya Dorsett
Inspired by the Black Arts Movement of the 1970s, The Revival is a tour of queer women of color creating modern day spaces for art and resistance. Director Sekiya Dorsett brings viewers on the road with a group of five visionary poets who tour the country performing in seven states over nine days, and crafts an intimate look at a range of identities and experiences.

Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four
Directed by: Deborah Esquenazi
In 1998, the San Antonio Four, a group of Latina lesbians, were sent to prison after being found guilty of sexually assaulting two young girls. Director Deborah Esquenazi shows how the intersection of homophobia, racism, and class-bias contributed to their conviction, and how these four women successfully took on our flawed justice system, reclaiming their innocence.

Women Who Run Hollywood [U.S. Premiere]
Directed and Written by: Julia Kuperberg and Clara Kuperberg
French documentarians and sisters, Julia and Clara Kuperberg, uncover the forgotten  stories of women who were at the helm of Hollywood during its golden age.  From women directors to unheralded female studio executives, Women Who Run Hollywood shines a light on important women who’ve gone unheralded in history.  A panel following the film will address the question of why these remarkable women are often overlooked, and how that relates to the current conversations on gender inequity in the industry.

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