Athena Film Festival: Mira Nair, 'Suffragette' Cast to be Honored

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Mira Nair

Director Karyn Kusama, producer Geralyn Dreyfous and composer Jeanine Tesori will also receive awards from the female-focused film festival.

Mira Nair and the cast and crew of Suffragette are among the first group of honorees announced for the 2016 Athena Film Festival. Nair will receive the Laura Ziskin Lifetime Achievement Award. Nair's credits include her Oscar-nominated debut film Salaam Bombay!, Vanity Fair, The Namesake, Monsoon Wedding and The Reluctant Fundamentalist. She recently completed filming Disney's Queen of Katwe, about a young girl from Uganda who trains to be a chess champion, starring Lupita Nyong'o and David Oyelowo.

"It is an honor to receive this award, to be in the august company of several splendid women who have paved the path before me," Nair said in a statement. " 'No words — action' was the lesson my mother taught me: as artists, we have the privilege of holding a mirror to the world, to engage, to question, to bring beauty to a complex universe."

Previous recipients of the Laura Ziskin award include Jodie Foster, Sherry Lansing and Gale Anne Hurd.

The cast and crew of Suffragette — including stars Carey Mulligan, Meryl Streep and Helena Bonham Carter, director Sarah Gavron and screenwriter Abi Morgan — will receive the first Athena Ensemble Award. Inspired by true events, Suffragette tells the story of women who risked their lives to fight for equality in the U.K.'s suffragette movement in the early 1900s. The film's story and the team of women who helped get it released "epitomize the mission of the Athena Film Festival," Wednesday's announcement stated.

The festival will also honor director Karyn Kusama, producer Geralyn Dreyfous and composer Jeanine Tesori, who is a Barnard College alumna.

Kusama's credits include Girlfight, Aeon Flux, Jennifer's Body and The Invitation, which will be released next year. Dreyfous has executive produced films like Born into Brothels, The Invisible War, The Square, The Hunting Ground, Dreamcatcher and Hot Girls Wanted.

Tesori is a Tony-winning composer and musical arranger who has scored films and plays including Fun Home, Twelfth Night, Thoroughly Modern Millie and Shrek the Third. She is the most prolific and honored female theatrical composer in history.

"We are honored to be recognizing the remarkable accomplishments of these outstanding women," Athena Film Festival co-founder and director of the Athena Center, Kathryn Kolbert said. "Each woman has had an extraordinary impact on entertainment, and their careers exemplify the power of female leadership in film."

Festival co-founder and artistic director Melissa Silverstein added: "The push for gender parity in Hollywood has gained momentum this year. We are proud to recognize women who, through their work and their voices, are changing the industry. Celebrating an inspiring cross-section of filmmakers and artists for the sixth year continues the Athena Film Festival’s mission of highlighting the remarkable people forging a path for women in the industry.”

The Athena Film Festival, which will take place at Barnard College from Feb. 18-21, is designed to celebrate and honor extraordinary women in the film industry. The festival highlights movies demonstrating women's leadership in real life and the fictional world.

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