In this its second year featuring a lively weekend of films focused on women and leadership, the Athena Awards, founded by Kathryn Kolbert and Melissa Silverstein and held at Barnard College, honored The Tempest director Julie Taymor, Moneyball's producer Rachael Horovitz, Pariah's director Dee Rees and producer Nekisa Cooper, and the Fempire: Young Adult writer Diablo Cody, , Liz Meriwether, and Lorene Scafaria. A Laura Ziskind Lifetime Achievement Award was inaugurated in memory of this noted film producer and activist in cancer research. Recipients are asked to adhere to only one caveat: they must speak about a woman who has influenced or inspired them, not their mother. An act of rebellion, this rule was immediately violated.
Taking the stage to M.C. Lizz Winstead, a founder of Air America Radio and writer on the Daily Show, recounted a story in which she was to appear on a program with Desmond Tutu and other luminaries. Upon seeing this event announced, her mother said, "You are the only one I never heard of." That episode set the evening off with several women telling horror mom tales. Receiving her award, Seminar playwright and writer of the new television series Smash, Theresa Rebeck began her speech, imagine my astonishment to learn that Lizz and I have the same mother. Returning to her pal Caroline Hirsch of Caroline's, Winstead laughed, and that's not all. Speaking of Rebeck, we both are the fifth child in Republican families in Ohio. Wow!
The ultimate gab-fest continued with Katie Couric introducing the Laura Ziskind Award, speaking about her partner in raising money for cancer research, Ziskind's passion for producing and for people, and also for her mothering. Daughter Julia Barry accepted the crystal award for her mother who died in 2011.
Gloria Steinem presented the award to Taymor, noting The Lion King and Spiderman director's genius and remarking at the current scandal about the producers ousting her from the project and refusing to pay her. "She's being mildly punished for being indispensible;" Steinem's humor -- the Ms. magazine founder had at one point written for Saturday Night Live -- was dead on.
Geoffrey Fletcher, Jeffrey Toobin, and D.A. Pennebaker attended too, game for this celebration of female talent and excellence.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.
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