“Till” will open the 2023 Athena Film Festival (AFF). A press release announced that Chinonye Chukwu’s acclaimed drama, which tells the true story of Mamie Till-Mobley’s pursuit of justice for her 14-year-old son, Emmett Till, who was lynched while visiting his cousins, is set to kick off the 13th edition of the fest. Chukwu’s debut feature, ‘Clemency,’ was on the 2017 Athena List and screened at the 2020 Festival. She was honored in 2021 with the launch of the Chinonye Chukwu Emerging Writer Award, which supports funds for emerging talent in the Athena Writers Lab.Tracy Droz Tragos’ “Plan C,” a documentary that spotlights a grassroots network fighting to expand access to abortion pills across the United States, will close AFF.

Set to run March 2 to March 5 in NYC on Barnard’s campus, AFF celebrates women leaders. The fest includes film screenings, in-depth discussions with filmmakers and industry experts, a series of programs that support the pipeline of women creatives, and a wide variety of events focused on celebrating and amplifying women’s stories.

“We look forward to bringing Chinonye Chukwu’s work back to the festival with her newest feature, ‘Till,’ to open the 13th edition. From ‘Clemency’ being on the Athena List, to an award in her name, it has been a true delight watching Chinonye soar. ‘Till’ is such an impactful and important film that I think is crucial for all audiences to see, ” said Melissa Silverstein, Co-Founder and Artistic Director of AFF and Founder of Women and Hollywood. “We are also thrilled to be closing our festival with ‘Plan C,’ a film that could not be more critical in today’s climate. Additionally, our Creative Development Program is growing and we are proud to announce $65,000 going to this year’s awardees.”

The festival’s lineup includes the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation STEM Showcase screening of “Blueback,” a film about the ocean, a beautiful marine creature, and a young girl’s power to change the world. Paula Eiselt’s “Under G-d,” a look inside how the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision sparked a national Jewish response. will make its New York premiere.  It will be followed by a Conversation on Abortion, Faith, and the Law, a panel conversation bringing together religious leaders as well as legal scholars and activists to explore and unpack the connections between faith and abortion, and the current legal landscape.

Other panels include Leadership from Below the Line, a panel to bring together women and nonbinary film production technicians to share their experiences as creatives on set; a conversation on Youth Activism, Climate Change, and Environmental Action following “Blueback”; and Andrea Dworkin: Ongoing Evolutions of Feminist herstory (following Pratibha Parmar’s “My Name is Andrea,” a hybrid documentary drama about the controversial writer and thinker).

The festival will be honoring Débora Souza Silva with The 2023 Athena Film Festival Breakthrough Award, which is sponsored by Netflix, and will screen her film “Black Mothers Love & Resist,” which focuses on the mothers who have lost sons to police violence. In addition, The Chinonye Chukwu Emerging Writer Award 2023 Grantee sponsored by Christine A. Schantz will be awarded to Kristen A. Golden for “AWE.”

Passes for the Athena Film Festival are on sale now. You can purchase tickets and find out more about programming on the fest’s website. You can also find more information about programming below.



Opening Night


Director: Chinonye Chukwu

Writers: Chinonye Chukwu, Keith Beauchamp, Michael Reilly

TILL is a profoundly emotional and cinematic film about the true story of Mamie Till-Mobley’s relentless pursuit of justice for her 14-year-old son, Emmett Till, who, in 1955, was lynched while visiting his cousins in Mississippi. In Mamie’s poignant journey of grief turned to action, we see the universal power of a mother’s ability to change the world.

Closing Night

Plan C

NY Premiere

Director: Tracy Droz Tragos

A grassroots network fights to expand access to abortion pills across the United States, keeping hope alive during a global pandemic and the fall of Roe v. Wade.

NY Premiere

Under G-D

Director: Paula Eiselt

The U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision sparked a national Jewish response. Inspired by the lived experiences of Jewish women, rabbis, Jewish organizations, and interfaith leaders are launching lawsuits to challenge the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

{STEM Showcase} sponsored by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation



Director/Writer: Robert Connolly

Based on the bestselling novel by Tim Winton, BLUEBACK is a timely tale about the ocean, a beautiful marine creature, and a young girl’s power to change the world.

Afghan Dreamers

Director: David Greenwald

Members of the all-girl robotics team from Afghanistan struggle to succeed in international competitions while combating their male-dominated culture and the threat of Taliban rule.


Conversation on Abortion, Faith, and the Law

Following UNDER G-D

Abortion is one of the biggest issues of our time. The argument for or against abortion is often deeply connected to faith. In the United States, conservative Christianity has dominated the abortion conversation and is largely responsible for the recent wave of abortion bans happening across the country at the state level. This panel conversation will bring together religious leaders from multiple faiths as well as legal scholars and historians to explore and unpack the connections between faith and abortion, and what the current legal landscape looks like for all those involved.

Youth Activism, Climate Change, and Environmental Action

Following BLUEBACK

According to the United Nations, the world is home to 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 to 24 — the largest generation of youth in history. Young people are not only victims of climate change; increasingly, they are also valuable contributors to climate action and conservation movements. These young people are entrepreneurs, innovators, and movement builders. This post-screening conversation will bring together youth activists, educators, scientists, and creatives to discuss how young people around the world are advancing climate action and how we can tell these stories in a compelling way that inspires others.

Andrea Dworkin: Ongoing Evolutions of Feminist herstory


Andrea Dworkin’s prominence in feminist herstory has had lasting impacts on conversations about women’s rights, pleasure, sexuality, gendered violence, and inequality. As new feminist waves expand our understanding of what the world can be, join us for a conversation about a thinker whose work has impacted ever-evolving feminist imaginations.

Policing Women’s Bodies


This post-screening conversation will explore the damaging pattern of human rights abuses that occur against women athletes who achieve success on the world stage. Why are these investigations occurring? Why are they almost exclusively targeting women of color athletes who are competing at the highest international levels? Bringing together athletes, journalists, and lawyers, this conversation will discuss the racist and sexist nature of these controversies and what it means for future generations of women athletes.

Uncovering Stories Lost to History


Who decides who gets to make history, and how are those stories captured, cataloged, and passed down through generations? What about those stories lost to history — the gaps we all know exist — and the bias that overwrites the stories of those not deemed “history worthy”? This panel will bring together historians, journalists, authors, and artists to discuss how we can do better to preserve these often overlooked or forgotten figures.

Leadership from Below the Line

This panel will bring together women and nonbinary film production technicians to share their experiences on set as creatives with technically demanding crew positions. We know when women make movies together, it’s magic, so join us to hear insights from women working “below the line.” We’ll learn more about what life is like on set and how we can support additional women interested in pursuing careers in film production.


The 2023 Athena Film Festival Breakthrough Award sponsored by Netflix

The Athena Film Festival Breakthrough Award is given to a feature-length film — narrative or documentary — directed by a first or second-time woman filmmaker that did not have US distribution as of February 1, 2023. The winning film screens at the Athena Film Festival, and the director receives a $25,000 grant.


Wanda Johnson and Angela Williams, mothers of young Black men victimized by police brutality, come together and build a network of community-led support, mutual aid, and healing in this documentary spanning Oakland’s Fruitvale to the American South. Long before George Floyd’s murder and the BLM protests in 2020, Oscar Grant’s 2009 fateful encounter with law enforcement on a BART platform seeded public awareness and cultural consciousness of systemic racism and its discontents. Paying forward lessons learned and advocating against anti-Black violence in memory of her son, Oscar, Wanda Johnson holds space for Angela Williams, whose teen son, Ulysses, survived a police encounter in Troy, Alabama, living to tell his story. Radical empathy fuels this timely exposé.

The Chinonye Chukwu Emerging Writer Award 2023 Grantee sponsored by Christine A. Schantz

The Chinonye Chukwu Emerging Writer Award is a $10,000 grant given to a feature-length writer who has previously participated in an Athena Film Festival Writers Lab.

AWE by Kristen A. Golden

No horizon is too far for polar explorer Ann Bancroft, already the first woman to trek to the North Pole. Based on a true story, AWE drops us into Ann’s 1992 quest to lead the first all-women’s expedition across Antarctica. Pulling their sleds 1,700 miles through brutal subzero temperatures and whiteout conditions, Ann and her team must race against time and their critics to complete the trek before the coastal waters freeze, leaving them stranded on the barren continent.

Alfred P. Sloan Fellowships for The Writers Labs

Athena is extending fellowships to participants in the Athena Film Festival Writers Lab working on projects featuring women in STEM (both screenplay and television). The fellowship includes funding to attend in-person labs as well as mentorship and guidance to advance their projects.


Mileva by Nicola Lanthier-Rogers, Emilija Gasic

Told in three separate timelines spanning from her childhood through her adult years, Mileva follows the life of Mileva Marić, later Mileva Einstein, the brilliant physicist and mathematician. As a young girl, Mileva fights for the best possible education, earning a spot at an all-boys high school and, eventually, the Swiss Polytechnic. But despite great talent, intelligence, and drive, through her adult life Mileva lacks opportunity due to patriarchal limitations and expectations. Mileva is the story of an incredible woman whose cosmic collision with Albert Einstein results in a star-crossed romance, a brutal divorce, and the theory of relativity itself. Based on true events.


Devoted wife Emily reluctantly steps into her husband’s role as chief engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge when he’s paralyzed during its Victorian-era construction, encountering jealousy and discrimination as she becomes the world’s first female engineer. Based on a true story, A BRIDGE BETWEEN US tracks the building of a bridge and the collapse of a marriage.


THE HOME FRONT by Rosalind Grush

Imperial College, London, 1915: When the Germans use a deadly poison gas for the first time in history on the battlefield in World War I, a female chemist organizes a secret team of all-women scientists to develop a weapon strong enough to beat back the Germans. Inspired by true events.

PUBLIC HEALTH by Myra Aquino

A disgraced surgeon is forced to take on a temporary job at the decrepit Public Health Department of West Palm Beach, Florida, and must figure out how to get her old job back.

PUSH IT! by Mirella Christou

PUSH IT! is the story of an under-the-radar women’s rights activist who fights an uphill battle with heavy personal costs to finance and orchestrate the creation of the revolutionary birth control pill. Based on true events.



Angry Annie (Annie Colère)


Director: Blandine Lenoir

Writers: Blandine Lenoir and Axelle Robert

Producers: Aurora Films, Local Films

A countryside village in France, 1974. When she accidentally becomes pregnant, Annie, a working mother of two teenagers, meets with the Movement for the Liberation of Abortion and Contraception (MLAC), doctors and women who perform illegal abortions in the public eye, practicing a free, safe, and respectful method. Gradually Annie will join their battle, which will bring a new meaning to her life.

Daughter of Rage (La Hija de Todas las Rabias)

New York Premiere


Director/Writer: Laura Baumeister de Montis

Producers: Martha Orozco, Laura Baumeister de Montis, Rossana Baumeister, and Bruna Haddad

11-year-old Maria’s home is the biggest garbage dump in Nicaragua, where she lives with her mom. When circumstances change and Maria feels that she has been left alone with no one to take care of her, she is forced to find her own way.


Brazil, France

Director: Flávia Neves

Writers: Melanie Dimantas and Flávia Neves

Producers: Mayra Faour Auad, Vania Catani, and Thomas Sparfel

Following the death of her foster mother, Fernanda goes back to her wealthy uncle’s house to implode certainties and let the painful truth about her origins surface.

My Emptiness and I (Mi vacío y yo)


Director: Adrián Silvestre

Writers: Raphaëlle Pérez, Adrián Silvestre, and Carlos Marques-Marcet

Producers: Testamento and Alba Sotorra

Raphi, from France, fantasizes about romances with princes and about starting a traditional family. But in reality, things aren’t like that. She works in a call center in Barcelona, struggles with at times embarrassing dates, and is diagnosed by her therapist as having gender dysphoria. We follow this trans woman as she makes her transition, as well as in her everyday life.


United States

Directors/Writers: Nick Johnson and Will Merrick

Producers: Aneesh Chaganty, Sev Ohanian, and Natalie Qasabian

​​After her mother goes missing, a young woman tries to find her from home, using tools available to her online.

Moving On

Sneak Preview

United States

Director/Writer: Paul Weitz

Producers: Paul Weitz, Stephanie Meurer, Andrew Miano, Chris Parker, and Dylan Sellers

Directed by Academy Award-nominated writer Paul Weitz, MOVING ON stars Academy Award winner Jane Fonda (Claire) and Academy Award nominee Lily Tomlin (Evelyn) as estranged friends who reunite to seek revenge on Howard (Malcolm McDowell), the petulant widower of their recently deceased best friend. Along the way, Claire reunites with Ralph (Richard Roundtree), her great love, as each woman learns to make peace with the past and each other.

Rachel Hendrix Sneak Preview

United States

Director/Writer: Victor Nuñez

Producer: Heidi Levitt

A portrait of a widow, mother, professor, and author, Rachel Hendrix, finding her way in life after losing her beloved husband. It is a story of grief that we all know yet rarely get the chance to see with such nuance and intimacy.

The Lost King

New York Premiere

United Kingdom

Director: Stephen Frears

Writers: Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope

Producers: Steve Coogan, Christine Langan, and Dan Winch

Stephen Frears’ latest tells the true story of an amateur historian (Sally Hawkins) battling skepticism and bureaucracy in a quest to locate the final resting place of King Richard III.

Vera Dreams of the Sea


Director: Kaltrina Krasniqi

Writer: Doruntina Basha

Producer: Shkumbin Istrefi

Vera is a middle-aged sign language interpreter who leads a well-structured life: a wife to a renowned judge, a supportive mother, and a caring grandmother. Her serenity is disrupted by her husband’s unexpected suicide, followed by an unwelcome, menacing parade of relatives who claim to have ownership over their village family house. Fear and mistrust will force Vera to take the family’s fate into her own hands.

Women Talking

United States of America

Director and Writer: Sarah Polley

Producers: Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Frances McDormand

The women of an isolated religious colony reveal a shocking secret about the colony’s men. For years, the men have occasionally drugged the women and then raped them. The truth comes out and the women talk about their new situation.


Body Parts

United States

Director: Kristy Guevara-Flanagan

Producer: Helen Hood Scheer

BODY PARTS traces the evolution of “sex” on screen from a woman’s perspective, uncovering the uncomfortable realities behind some of the most iconic scenes in cinema history and celebrating the bold creators leading the way for change.

Black Mothers Love & Resist

United States

Director/Writer: Débora Souza Silva

Producers: Débora Souza Silva, David Felix Sutcliffe, Adina Luo, and Loi Ameera Almeron

Wanda Johnson and Angela Williams, mothers of young Black men victimized by police brutality, come together and build a network of community-led support, mutual aid, and healing.

Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On


Director: Madison Thomas

Writers: Andrea Warner and Madison Thomas

Producer: Stephen Paniccia

This in-depth look at the life of the activist and musician offers archival material never seen before, as well as present-day footage of Sainte-Marie performing and interviews with the singer and her bandmates and colleagues.

Category: Woman


Director/Writer: Phyllis Ellis

Producers: Phyllis Ellis and Howard Fraiberg

When 18-year-old South African runner Caster Semenya burst onto the world stage in 2009, her championship was not celebrated but marred by doubt, and her personal medical records were leaked to the international media. The public scrutiny of her body, driven by racism and sexism, obscured the most fundamental aspect of who she is: a great champion.

Esther Newton Made Me Gay

United States

Director: Jean Carlomusto

Producers: Jean Carlomusto and Shanti Avirgan

Agility, persistence, and passionate inquiry have driven Esther Newton’s survival as a butch lesbian, octogenarian athlete, and groundbreaking scholar whose life’s work has influenced generations of LGBTQ activists and scholars.

The Fire That Took Her

United States

Director: Patricia Gillespie

Producers: Julie Goldman, Kristi Jacobson, Carolyn Hepburn, Christopher Clements, and Tracy Elizabeth Jarrett

Mother-of-two Judy Malinowski, then 31, was doused in gasoline and set on fire by her crazed ex-boyfriend — and became one of the first ever to testify from beyond the grave, at the trial for her own murder. A story that lives at the intersection of true crime and #MeToo, THE FIRE THAT TOOK HER goes deep inside a landmark case to ask a timely question: How much must women suffer in order to be believed?


United States

Director: Maris Curran

Producer: Jon Coplon

JEANNETTE tells the story of Jeannette Feliciano, a competitive bodybuilder and queer single mother, who struggles to cope with trauma after surviving the mass shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub. Filmed in striking and intimate vérité, this documentary embraces the strength, hope, and humor of an incredible woman’s journey of healing.

Judy Blume Forever


United States

Directors/Producers: Davina Pardo and Leah Wolchok

Producers: Sara Bernstein, Marcella Steingar, and Justin Wilkes

​​Generations of readers have found themselves in a Judy Blume book. Her name alone unleashes a flood of memories for anyone who’s gripped one of her many paperbacks. For decades, Blume’s radical honesty has comforted and captivated readers — and landed her at the center of controversy for her frankness about puberty and sex. Now the beloved American author candidly shares her own coming-of-age story.

Mama Bears

United States

Director: Daresha Kyi

Producer: Laura Tatham

This fascinating film follows professing Christian parents and LGBQT individuals who struggle with a faith that often condemns their children and themselves.

My Name Is Andrea

United States

Director: Pratibha Parmar

Producer: Shaheen Haq

MY NAME IS ANDREA is a hybrid documentary drama based on the life of writer Andrea Dworkin, who decades before #MeToo called out sexism with revolutionary flair. With this film, the viewer is invited to reconsider the legacy of one of the most misunderstood figures of the 20th century. Shaped by the values of justice and equality learned from the civil rights movement as a young girl, Dworkin observed the ways that male chauvinism and discrimination impact every woman’s daily experience and dared to demand that women be seen as equals.

Queen of the Deuce

Canada, Greece

Director: Valerie Kontakos

Writers: Christos Asteriou, Valerie Kontakos, and Despina Pavlaki

Producers: Ed Barreveld, Valerie Kontakos, and Despina Pavlaki

From the 1960s to the ’80s, Greek-born Chelly Wilson built a porn cinema empire and a reputation as a savvy operator in the Times Square vicinity known as the Deuce.


CANS Can’t Stand

United States

Directors: Matt Nadel and Megan Plotka

Producer: Matt Nadel

CANS CAN’T STAND follows a group of Black trans women in New Orleans who are fighting to repeal Louisiana’s unjust Crime Against Nature by Solicitation (CANS) law.

El Carrito

United States

Director/Writer: Zahida Pirani

Producers: Zahida Pirani, Mauricio Piratova, and Ran Yan

After a harrowing event, an untrusting street vendor discovers the embrace of her community.

The Feeling of Being Close to You (能靠近你的感觉)

Singapore/United States

Director/Writer/Producer: Ash Goh Hua

THE FEELING OF BEING CLOSE TO YOU documents a mother and daughter’s attempt at healing the intergenerational trauma and abuse within their lives.


New York Premiere

United States

Director/Writer/Producer: Lilli Carré

The animated female nude shifts in smear frames through the history of painting, parroting famous depictions of women. She tests the postures by inhabiting them and promptly discarding them, rejecting the fantasy that each represents.

Honey (Madhu)


Directors: Tanmay Chowdhary and Tanvi Chowdhary

Writer: Tanvi Chowdhary

Producer: Sue-Ellen Chitunya

Satakshi and Madhu, who went to school together, reunite after years of being apart on a night of festivities during the Durga Puja festival in Kolkata. As the night progresses, we find out that they have feelings for each other but are not able to express them.

Lilith & Eve

United Kingdom

Director: Sam de Ceccatty

Writers: Manon Ardisson and Sam de Ceccatty

Producer: Manon Ardisson

That awkward moment when the first woman on earth meets … the first first woman on earth.

Long Line of Ladies

United States

Directors: Rayka Zehtabchi and Shaandiin Tome

Producers: Garrett Schiff, Rayka Zehtabchi, Sam Davis, and Pimm Tripp-Allen

A girl and her community prepare for her Ihuk, the once-dormant coming-of-age ceremony of the Karuk tribe of Northern California.

Look Like You

United States

Director/Writer: Snigdha Kapoor

Producers: Pulkit Datta and Lauren Sowa

Tara, a South Asian queer woman, goes to see her 8-year-old biological son after many years but is unprepared for the tensions that resurface with his white adoptive parents.

Love, Barbara

United States

Director: Brydie O’Connor

Writers: Brydie O’Connor and Matt Hixon

Producers: Brydie O’Connor and Myriam Schroeter

A short documentary about the iconic legacy of pioneering lesbian experimental filmmaker Barbara Hammer, as seen through the lens and love of her partner of over 30 years, Florrie Burke.

The Panola Project

United States

Directors/Writers: Rachael DeCruz and Jeremy S. Levine

Producers: Rachael DeCruz, Jeremy S. Levine, and Melissa Fajardo

THE PANOLA PROJECT follows Dorothy, a convenience-store owner, as she goes door to door in her often-overlooked rural Black community in order to convince her neighbors to get their COVID-19 vaccines.

the ritual to beauty

United States

Directors: Shenny De Los Angeles and Maria Marrone

Writer/Producer: Shenny De Los Angeles

Three generations of Dominican women explore their relationship to relaxing their hair. By conjuring the magic of water and the power of her ancestors, a daughter uses spoken word poetry as an incantation to break the generational curse that has blocked the women in her family from locating where joy lives inside the body.

The Road Back to Cowessess

NY Premiere

United States of America

Director/Producer: Sean Parenteau

Writer: Kevin Nikkel

The Cowessess Residential School of Saskatchewan operated from 1898 to 1997, started by the Canadian Government and later operated by the Catholic Church. It was finally closed in 1997. For decades former students of residential schools across the country have complained about abuse and mistreatment while attending school. In the summer of 2021 ground penetrating radar discovered 751 unmarked graves on the grounds of the Cowessess Residential School. Six survivors of the school return to pay their respects, to reflect on the impact of the past, and demand reconciliation.

Still Waters

United States

Director/Writer: Aurora Brachman

Producer: Mariales Diaz

A daughter asks her mother a question about the abuse in her mother’s childhood. Her answer begs them to wade through its rippling effects throughout their lives.

Talk Black

United States

Director/Writer: Destiny Macon

Producers: Destiny Macon, Jonathan Baty, Brad Jayne, Kisha Imani Cameron, and Smitha Lee

A timid engineer develops a wild and expressive split personality to help her speak up to the boy’s club at work.

To Wade or Row

United States

Director/Writer: Rebecca van der Meulen

Producers: Leanne Macaione and Dina Barossi

When Jane visits a small town motel, she puts her trust in its covert clinic. A sheriff’s arrival places her future in jeopardy.

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