The fourth installment of Barnard’s Athena Film Festival is fast approaching. Named for the most badass goddess to grace Mount Olympus, the festival celebrates female leadership in the film industry. The festival kicks off Thursday night with the New York premiere of “Belle” and an opening night party at Havana Central. The rest of the weekend will include a series of panels and discussions with important women in the industry, including a panel on the Bechdel test (a measure of how well a film represents women) and several screenings of films featuring strong female leads. Here are Spectator’s top picks for the weekend:
“Short Term 12”
Destin Cretton’s “Short Term 12” was the darling of the 2013 SXSW Film Festival, taking home both the Grand Jury Award for Best Narrative Feature and the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature. It stars Brie Larson as a deeply dedicated social worker struggling to work through lingering issues from her own troubled past, while acting as a role model for the disturbed youths whom she supervises. Critics absolutely loved it, and there was even talk of a dark-horse Oscar nomination for newcomer Larson. Though that didn’t happen, “Short Term 12” has been put on several “Best of 2013” lists, including one compiled by New York Magazine’s hard-to-please critic David Edelstein.
“Short Term 12” shows Saturday, Feb. 8 in 501 Northwest Corner Building at 6 p.m. Producer Joshua Astrachan will join the audience for a post-screening discussion.
Period pieces can be kind of tiresome, but “Belle” looks to have a lot of good things going for it. First, the plot is intriguing—it’s based on the life of Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) the mixed-race, illegitimate daughter of a Royal Navy admiral (Matthew Goode) in the late 18th century. Her aristocratic status gives her certain privileges, but she nonetheless experiences discrimination at a time when slavery still exists in Britain. The cast boasts several acclaimed British actors including Emily Watson, Tom Felton, Penelope Wilton (of “Downton Abbey” fame), and the great Tom Wilkinson. Bonus: Matthew Goode is very nice to look at.
“Belle” shows Thursday, Feb. 6 in the Diana Center Event Oval at 6:30 p.m. Director Amma Asante will join the audience for a post-screening discussion.
This animated musical follows unwavering optimist Anna as she treks across the kingdom of Arendelle in hopes of convincing her sister Elsa, the Snow Queen, to lift the spell of eternal winter she has put on the kingdom. She is accompanied by mountain man Kristoff and his reindeer Sven. “Frozen” is Disney’s highest-grossing film since “The Lion King,” and not only has it gotten great reviews, but it also received two Oscar nominations and managed to knock Beyoncé’s album off the top iTunes spot a few weeks ago.
“Frozen” shows Saturday, Feb. 8 in the Lehman Auditorium at noon.
“In A World...”
Lake Bell not only wrote and directed this film, but she stars in it, too. “In A World...” is the story of Carol Solomon, a struggling vocal coach with a dream to become a voice-over star in an industry dominated by men—including her father, Sam Sotto (played by Fred Melamed). Bell won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at last year’s Sundance Film Festival. Besides being well-written, the film boasts a hilarious cast that includes Rob Corddry, Ken Marino, and Demetri Martin.
“In a World...” shows Saturday, Feb. 8 in Lehman Auditorium at 9 p.m.
“American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs”
Ninety-eight-year-old Barnard alumna Grace Lee Boggs, BC ’35, serves as the subject of this new documentary about her lifelong career as an activist, writer, and feminist philosopher. Those who have had Karl Marx readings as course material may have Boggs to thank, as she was the first to translate several of Marx’s essays into English in “Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844.”
The film shows Friday, Feb. 7 in Lehman Auditorium at 6 p.m. Boggs will join the audience for a discussion following the film.
“Whoopi Goldberg Presents Moms Mabley”
From producer Whoopi Goldberg comes this documentary about groundbreaking comedienne Jackie “Moms” Mabley. Born Loretta Aiken, she began her career in 1969 at age 14 as a performer in African-American vaudeville and eventually made her name as a comedienne. She was known for her taboo material, including topics such as racism and her identification as a lesbian. At one point she was referred to as “the funniest woman in the world.” The film includes archival footage and commentary from performers such as Harry Belafonte, Kathy Griffin, Bill Cosby, Joan Rivers, and Sidney Poitier.
The film shows Friday, Feb. 7 in the James Room, Barnard Hall at 8 p.m.
“The Other Shore”
Remember that time Diana Nyad swam from Cuba to Florida in 53 hours at the age of 64? This documentary edited by Eric Myerson follows her epic journey as she faces the threat of sharks, deadly jellyfish, relentless currents, and physical exhaustion on her fifth attempt to complete the 103-mile challenge.
“The Other Shore” shows Saturday, Feb. 8 in the Held Auditorium, Barnard Hall at 3 p.m.