This past February Barnard College was proud to host the Athena Film Festival, a celebration of women and leadership co-founded by Kathryn Kolbert, director of the Athena Center for Leadership Studies at Barnard College and Melissa Silverstein, head of Women and Hollywood, a women’s film news and advocacy Web site. Throughout the 4-day festival, attendees had the opportunity to see over 25 films that highlight the wide diversity of women’s leadership in both real life and the fictional world, illuminating the stories of women from across the globe that have made a difference in their countries and communities. Through these feature films, documentaries and shorts, as well as conversations with directors, activists, actors and film industry executives, the festival organizers aimed to examine the complex opportunities, difficulties, and values women in the film making industry share.

The development of the Athena Film Festival came at a critical time:

  • In 83 years, only 4 women have been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director and only a single woman has won.
  • In 2009, in the 250 top-grossing domestic films, women made up only 7% of directors, 8% of writers, 17% of executive producers and 2% of the cinematographers.
  • In front of the camera, as of 2007, women had less than 30% of the speaking roles.
  • Yet, women buy 55% of all movie tickets, more tickets than men in all age groups.

The Athena Film Festival recognized 13 women for their leadership in the film industry and their creative accomplishments, with the Athena Awards presented at a star-studded opening reception hosted by Lynn Sherr, former ABC News correspondent and author.

For their vision and talents as exemplary directors:

Debra Granik
Tanya Hamilton
Chris Hegedus

For their outstanding work distributing films by and about women:

Women Make movies
Debra Zimmerman

For her exceptional success as a motion picture and television producer:

Debra Martin Chase

For her artistry as one of Hollywood’s definitive screen actresses of her generation:

Greta Gerwig ‘06

For their creativity and panache as screenwriters:

Delia Ephron ‘66
Anne Rosellini

For her excellence as one of America’s premiere cinematographers:

Nancy Schreiber

For their extraordinary use of film for social change:

Abigail Disney
Gini Reticker

For their distinguished reporting and commentary about women and film:

Leslie Bennetts
Anne Thompson

For more information, go to