Blog: Athena Film Festival Opening Night Reception
A blizzard may be in the forecast, but that won’t do a thing to stall one of the most exciting festivals to hit our city in recent years. Yes the weekend is finally here and for it’s third outstanding year, the Athena Film Festival is back! On Thursday night, the LocalBozo.com team was fortunate to be invited to the opening night reception and award ceremony to stylishly kick off this celebration of women in film. This magical evening was held at the stunning Diane Center located in the heart of Barnard College.
At 6:30pm on the dot, the evening’s players began to make their way onto the red carpet. First up, Debora Spar, President of Barnard College and presenter was joined by Athena Film Festival Co-Founders Kathryn Kolbert and Melissa Silverstein. All three of theses dynamic women were instantly mobbed by the flashing bulbs as well as interviewers from around the world. This journalist crew took this rare opportunity to field questions regarding pressing issues that pertain to women in the entertainment industry. Moments later, Diablo Cody the very popular screenwriter of such films like “Juno” and “Young Adult” made her way onto the carpet to receive similar treatment by these press teams. Cody is not only a Co-chair for the 2013 festival but would present the coveted “2013 Laura Ziskin Lifetime Achievement Award” later in the evening. In general the red carpet was kept very casual, allowing those on either side of the rope time to interact with each other and get the most out of this face time portion of the evening.
Once the last honoree made her way down the carpet it was time to enter the Diane Center’s main event space to officially kick off the opening night reception celebration. For the first hour, attendees had a unique opportunity to rub shoulders and share cocktails with many of the women who would find themselves on stage later in the evening receiving awards. By being able to walk up to those powerful women and strike up any kind of conversation is rare indeed and I commend the festival for allowing such access. After filling up on fine glasses of wines furnished by “Middle Sister Wines” and trays of cured meats, the lights began to fade down and the speaking portion would begin. First up, two well deserving Barnard students from the class of 2013 would make the opening remarks. Julia Kennedy and Charlie Gillette welcomed the room of guests while giving some background on their treasured college experiences. They then introduced the much respected Debora Spar who boldly spoke about the weekend ahead which will be filled with film screenings, panel discussions and so much more. The passion in her eyes and voice could be felt all the way in the back of the room.
The award ceremony was nothing short of breathtaking. Melissa Silverstein, Artistic Director of the festival presented the “Film Critic and Author Award” to long time critic, Molly Haskell. Ms. Haskell gave a rousing acceptance speech, first making a joke about how rarely critics get awards and secondly praised women like popular filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow. Later on actor, screenwriter and Barnard 2006 alumni Greta Gerwig would take the stage to the excitement of all in the house. She presented Pat Mitchell an award for her commitment to support women across the globe. And in a very fitting fashion, Ms. Mitchell was unable to accept in person as she is currently in the Congo helping those stricken by the horrors transpiring in that region. Pat did provide a video acceptance speech that blew the crowd away with her candor. To conclude this grand award ceremony, Diablo Cody would present the 2013 Laura Ziskin Lifetime Achievement Award to the very deserving female producer, Gale Anne Hurd. Ms. Hurd has produced such blockbusters as “The Terminator” and the every popular AMC show “The Walking Dead.” Before launching into her comments, Ms. Hurd spoke about how important the deceased Laura Ziskin was to the business. Gale later remarked how she works tirelessly to ensure qualified women of all walks of life have prime, above the line jobs on all her productions. It’s simply humbling to see and hear a woman of her career level talk about her peers like this.
The evening was nothing short of amazing and we were thrilled to be there. The LocalBozo.com team cannot stress it enough how important the Athena Film Festival is to women and culture in general. Make your way to the festival website right now and see how you can take part in a weekend you will not soon forget. And as Pat Mitchell said, “You are all Athenas!” I could not think of a more accurate statement.
- Jay Rubin