The Athena Film Festival Opening Ceremony

by Alexandra Palacios

Barnard gets dressed up for the 
Athena Film Festival.

This weekend hundreds of New Yorkers and students will brave the snow to come to Barnard for the Athena Film Festival, a celebration for women leaders in the highly male-dominated industries of film and television. If you have yet to buy your tickets, I strongly urge you to spend a good portion of your day watching all the trailers for the films being shown (it is an excellent form of procrastination). Thursday night marked the beginning of this festival with the Opening Award Ceremony. In a word, I would describe the event as swanky. The event oval cleans up nicely and everything was decked out in a pretty baby blue, from the lights, to the tables, to the extremely tempting cocktails. I stood out like a sore thumb as one of the very, very few students at the opening. The first 40 minutes were dedicated to mingling, so I stood in the back and tried desperately to hide the hole in my tights. While I did pass on the seductively lax open bar, the hors d’oeuvres were a delicious dinner. Even better than the macaroni puffs was the cute guy who kept on serving them to me. You can tell me he was just doing his job, but I know we were soul mates. But, moving on.

Five prominent women were being honored by Barnard and the Athena crew for their various roles in paving the way for professional women in film. DSpar began the event by being her glamorous self and talking a bit about this new Barnard tradition that has only started three years ago, during our time here.

The first woman to be honored with an award was Molly Haskell, for her talents as a film critic and author. Haskell is one of the foremost authorities on film, particularly on the roles of women. She has written for New York Magazine, Vogue, The New York Times and many more publications. Amongst her female role models, she named Kathryn Bigelow, a sentiment that I know Barnard women would absolutely agree with. The next award went to Rose Kuo, who is the executive director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center. She also leads the annual New York Film Festival, which with her help has regained its popularity.

The third woman to be awarded last night was Pat Mitchell, for her commitment to supporting women across the globe. Quite fittingly, Mitchell couldn’t accept the award in person because she was providing humanitarian relief in The Republic of Congo. She sent in a video acceptance speech, declaring her role models were the “modern day Athenas.” Pat Mitchell is the President and CEO of The Paley Center for Media and is also the former president and CEO of the Public Broadcasting Service (a.k.a. a little station called PBS) the first woman, producer and journalist to hold the position.

Gale Anne Hurd wins the 2013 Laura Ziskin 
Lifetime Achievement Award

Ava Duvernay, an acclaimed Director, Film Marketer and Publicist, was the next woman to be awarded. She is the first African-American woman to win Best Director (Drama) at Sundance for her movie Middle of Nowhere, which is being screened at the festival this weekend. The movie is also nominated for Best Film at Gotham Awards and for four Indie Spirit Awards. She is a founder of the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement. Lastly, but in absolutely no way least, the 2013 Laura Ziskin Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Gale Anne Hurd, which besides being mistakenly identified as a filmmaker, was my favorite part of the evening. As an avid The Walking Dead fan (I mean, I have been counting down religiously until its return), seeing the woman behind such a gory “guy” show was very cool. Hurd has developed and produced film and television series that routinely gain attention from the Academy Awards and the Emmys. She is also a woman-leader in the male-dominated world of the blockbuster. Her films such as The Terminator Series and Alien, which she lovingly described as “chick flicks,” are just some of her most popular works. On a side note, she was rocking leather pants and a hat with a feather in it: the pure definition of badass.

These trailblazers are just some of the women being recognized at the Athena Festival this year. With each film being screened this weekend, a woman leader, both real and fictional, is being celebrated. So buy your tickets, bundle up and be sure to see at least some of these films, all of which will make you laugh, make you cry and will certainly resonate with you long after you’ve left the theatre.

Alexandra Palacios is a sophomore at Barnard and Social Media Strategist for The Nine Ways of Knowing.

Image of Gale Anne Hurd courtesy of Alien Anthology Wiki.

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