The festival began on an exceptionally windy Thursday evening with a screening at the Miller Theatre. (This was the same theatre the festival started at last year too!) The opening film was a biographical drama hailing from Australia, I Am Woman. If anyone wanted an opening movie spear-headed by women, this was it—a debut feature from producer-director Unjoo Moon, written by Emma Jensen, about activist and musician Helen Reddy. This is an intriguing musical sneak peak into the industry of agents, studios, and touring performances with an inspirational story of a female artist. Tila Cobham-Hervey graced our screens in the lead role and Reddy’s songs got us all pumped up for the next few days!
On Friday, I walked into director Yu Gu and writer-producer Elizabeth Ai’s shocking documentary, A Woman’s Work: The NFL’s Cheerleader Problem. This was a rude awakening where audiences saw how much inequality is still possible in broad daylight. Gu follows the stories of American women fighting for basic pay and who have been unknowingly buried in 50 years of employment inequalities.
Saturday was a quadruple whammy starting with a documentary from director Joanna Lester Power Meri. We follow Papua New Guinea’s first national women’s rugby league team and how their participation in the 2017 World Cup was a large step for womankind. This was swiftly followed by a french narrative film from writer Anaïs Carpita and writer-director Marie-Sophie Chambon. Stars by the Pound is a wonderful film with young female characters, which is filled with beautiful displays of ambition, self-hatred, hurtful beauty standards, self acceptance, and what it means to be a friend. In the evening I opted for a British drama-comedy, Military Wives, written by Rosanne Flynn and Rachel Tunnard, that was a perfect balance of appropriate comedy and heart-wrenching humanity. Even later that night, I saw Lost Girls directed by Liz Garbus. This is a dark story of loss and love between mothers, daughters, and sisters. What’s even more shocking, is that this is based on a true story and some of the people upon which the story was based, were sitting in the audience with us. Everyone should look up the real life case of Mari Gilbert and her lost daughter.
The final day of Athena began with Kuessipan from writer-director Myriam Verreault and writer Naomi Fonataine. The feature drama centered on two girls who are best friends from the Innu community. They experience cultural clashes and differences in values when one starts to consider the world outside this community. My Athena Film Festival weekend finished off with FF2 Media’s sponsored film A Regular Woman directed by Sherry Hormann. After the team handed out our WITASWAN badges to all the wonderful people in the audience who came to support a woman filmmaker, Jan Lisa-Huttner introduced the film. I was completely unprepared for how much the movie would move me. It screamed of inequality between the sexes, but also clearly showed how different religions and cultures are often misunderstood. This is a story about a German woman of Turkish origin who wanted a life that valued women differently from the beliefs she grew up with. It sent chills down my back when I saw the real life footage intercut with in the film, reminding me again and again that this is based on a true story–that stories like this still exist in the world.
As a member of FF2 Media, one of the festival sponsors, I was able to view so many films. Post Athena weekend, I feel 8 films wiser and 8 films more inspired as a filmmaker to create more impactful pieces of art. I went home content and invigorated. This weekend reminded me endlessly about the power of film and the importance of supporting women in their art. These works have the ability to change someone’s life and perspective on the world; they can heal, connect, and awaken. They really do deserve to be seen.
Top Photo: Melissa Silverstein at the opening screening I Am Woman.
Middle Photo: Q & A with director Liz Garbus, producer Anne Carey, and some cast members.
Bottom Photo: FF2 Media team at the Athena Film Festival 2020.
Logo Credit: Athena Film Festival.