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Abigail Disney Will Speak at AUDACIA

We are thrilled to announce that Abigail Disney will speak at the AUDACIA forum 2011.

Abigail E. Disney (President & Producer, Fork Films) is a filmmaker, philanthropist, and scholar. Her longtime passion for women’s issues and peace-building culminated in her first film, the powerful feature documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell (Fork Films, 2008), about the women of Liberia who brought peace to their broken nation after decades of destructive civil war.

Her current project, the groundbreaking mini-series Women, War & Peace, documents the unreported role of women in the peace process in Colombia, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Liberia.

The granddaughter of Roy Disney and grandniece of Walt Disney, the co-founders of the Walt Disney Company, Abigail stayed away from the entertainment industry for many years, focusing instead on her studies at Yale and Stanford, and wrote her Ph.D. thesis on American war novels at Columbia University. She then volunteered for various charities, becoming well known for her thoughtful, bold and strategic grant-making and inspiring women across all socio-economic strata to embrace their own philanthropic power.

After playing key roles in a number of social and political organizations for more than 20 years, she unexpectedly began her film career in 2006 after a trip to Liberia to support Africa’s first female head of state, Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. She heard the remarkable stories of a small band of Liberian women who fought through nonviolent means to end a century of civil war in their country. “It was horrifying to me that I had never heard of these women and knew that it was going to be forgotten. Knowing something creates a debt in you—an obligation. I was in a position to make sure their story was honored.” Abigail says.

Teaming with the leader of the Liberian women’s Mass Action Campaign for Peace, powerhouse social worker Leymah Gbowee and Academy Award nominated, Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Gini Reticker, the resulting film became Pray the Devil Back to Hell. Abigail founded her NY-based production company Fork Films in 2007 to produce the film.

After garnering Best Documentary at its premiere at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival, Pray the Devil Back to Hell has won nearly 20 awards and honors, has screened in all seven continents, and holds the distinction as the first film to be shown at The World Economic Forum at Davos.

In 2008, following the groundswell of interest in Pray the Devil Back to Hell, Abigail launched Peace is Loud, an organization that supports female voices and international peace-building through nonviolent means. After a successful festival and theatrical run, the film’s universal message of the power of ordinary people to change their communities was brought to even wider audiences during Pray the Devil Back to Hell’s grassroots distribution campaign, the 2009 Global Peace Tour. The film screened in hundreds of venues worldwide, ranging from living room screenings to remote areas in conflict zones to the United Nations headquarters in NY and Geneva.

In producing films such as Family Affair, Playground, Sun Come Up, and Return, Abigail continues to draw on her advocacy work by investing in films that make an important social contribution, with particular emphasis on material that has been overlooked, people who tend to be underestimated, and stories that have been left out of the mainstream historical record.

Fork Films currently has a development deal with writer/director Deborah Kampmeier’s (Hounddog, Virgin) company Full Moon Films, and will be co-producing the feature film Lonely Hunter, based on the true life story of Southern gothic writer Carson McCullers.

The thread of Abigail’s dedication towards conflict resolution and women’s rights continues with Women, War & Peace, a five-part television series co-produced by WNET and Fork Films for broadcast on PBS in Fall 2011.

Her decision to produce Women, War & Peace stems from Abigail’s belief that, "War has never been a tidy, closed activity, taking place on a clearly demarcated battlefield between two uniformed entities, or when it has, that has been the exception. Rather, war marches right through the center of everything—through house, hearth and field—ripping a hole into the center of things that can never be entirely repaired. To bring a woman’s eyes to the telling of the story of war—to turn the camera around and place it in her hands—is to fundamentally alter the way war looks and sounds and smells."

The five-part series, which Abigail is producing with Pray the Devil filmmaking partner Gini Reticker in collaboration with WNET, challenges the conventional wisdom that war and peace are solely the domains of men. Through unreported and deeply moving stories of women in Bosnia, Colombia, and Afghanistan, Women, War & Peace will focus on women’s strategic role in the post-Cold War era, where globalization, arms trafficking, and illicit trade have intersected to create a whole new type of war.

Abigail is also a sought-after public speaker, frequently traveling around the country and across the globe to deliver keynote addresses, commencement speeches, lectures, and participate in panels as an expert in philanthropy, women’s engagement and leadership and conflict resolution. She has spoken at locations as varied as The Hague, The Clinton Global Initiative 2010 Conference and at dozens of universities and community centers.

She has been honored numerous times for her myriad contributions towards social issues. Abigail has received awards such as the Epic Award from the White House Project and Changing the Landscape for Women Award from the Center for the Advancement of Women. In 2011, Abigail will be bestowed with the prestigious International Advocate for Peace (IAP) Award from the Cardozo Law School’s Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution (CJCR). Past recipients of the IAP Award include luminaries such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Bill Clinton.

Abigail received her Bachelors degree from Yale University, her Masters degree from Stanford University, and her Doctorate from Columbia University. She lives in New York City with her husband and their four children.