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Athena Film Festival 2018 spotlights women in strong, leadership roles

Women will take over the stage and screen at the Athena Film Festival which opens Feb. 22 at Barnard College.

The festival, which is in its eighth year, focuses on films about women in strong, leadership roles.

It also highlights the importance of having more women in vital spots behind the camera, such as directors, writers and cinematographers.

Sound familiar? Festival founders Kathryn Kolbert and Melissa Silverstein started talking about these issues years before the #MeToo movement turned national attention to sexual harassment and marginalization of women in the entertainment industry.

“We are thrilled beyond belief about what’s going on,” Kolbert said. “We have been beating that drum for eight years . . . women need equal opportunity at every level of filmmaking and they don’t have that right now. The film industry, like every corporation in America, needs to open its leadership to women.”

Fittingly, the four-day festival opens with a screening of “Battle of the Sexes,” a film that examines the 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. Emma Stone plays King, the female tennis sensation, and Steve Carell portrays a sneering Riggs, who boasted he could defeat any woman on the court.

King will take part in a discussion after the screening.

“We have a real strict criteria about what we show,” said Silverstein, who is also artistic director of the festival and founder of the Women and Hollywood blog. “It has to have a female protagonist in a leadership position. They have to be strong, resilient, have moxie and courage.”

The schedule includes big-budget Hollywood films, such as “Wonder Woman” and “The Post,” along with features, documentaries and shorts.

The festival also offers panels and workshops, including “From Outrage to Power: Town Hall on Sexual Harassment and Violence.”

Last year more than 6,000 people attended the festival over four days. Organizers are hoping this year’s crowd will be even larger.

“We are trying to continue these conversations and push these conversations to the next level and create an industry,” Silverstein said. “We want it to be inspirational and aspirational.”


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