Julia’s Athena 2024: Abortion Stories, 20K Bees, & Erica Tremblay

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending my fourth Athena Film Festival at Barnard College (my alma mater). Although I have now graduated, it’s always a joy to return to campus and see the next class of wonderful people donning Athena merch and scanning tickets at the door, greeting people and giving directions, and sitting down to enjoy what is hands-down Barnard’s best event of the year. 

After a long, chatty brunch at Le Monde on Broadway, our FF2 group headed into the festival. Our first event was a screening of Someone You Know followed by a panel called “Abortion Storytelling.” Someone You Know  is a short film written & directed by Asha Dahya, in which three women from different walks of life tell the story of their late-stage abortions. Someone You Know delves into the nuanced decision-making and emotional journey that comes with having an abortion at a later stage of pregnancy, a common but not often discussed experience amongst women.

Panel Discussion on Telling Stories about Abortion

Following the screening of Someone You Know, there was the Abortion Storytelling panel dedicated to the radical discussion of abortion, a conversation which is tragically stigmatized and silenced. The AFF panel featured four brilliant, witty, and driven women, each dedicated to abortion activism in her own way: Asha (the filmmaker), Jess Jacobs, Renee Bracey Sherman, and Ruth Leitman. 

Throughout the chat, they bantered with each other, educated us, and lifted each other and everyone in the room up, without ever forgetting the importance of conversations like these. One of the most striking moments came when one of the panelists asked anyone in the audience who had had an abortion to raise their hand. Not only was the number of people who raised their hands striking (because abortion is so stigmatized, we rarely confront how common and how completely normal it is), but the defiance and self-assurance with which these women raised their hands up, was incredibly moving to me. 

Screening of 20,000 Species of Bees by Estibaliz Urresola Solaguren

Next, my sister Amelie and I headed off to see 20,000 Species of Bees written & directed by Spanish filmmaker Estibaliz Urresola Solaguren. (We love to watch foreign language films in our family!) 20,000 Species of Bees is about a young transgender girl who is coming to terms with her own identity, even while exploring the femininity of the women and girls around her. The film was calm, interior, with long shots of “Lucía” (the name she chooses for herself) exploring her picturesque village and observing the quiet activities of her loved ones. Sofía Otero — playing Lucía — delivers a performance with enormous depth. Well after the film was over, I was filled with a sense of love and admiration for Lucía, who bravely and assuredly became who she was, leading the adults around her to open their hearts and grow in their own ways. 

Panel Discussion on Indigenous Women’s Voices

After 20,000 Species of Bees, we headed into a panel called “Decolonizing the Film Industry: Indigenous Women’s Voices.” The panel featured Erica Tremblay, Jennifer Loren, and Razelle Benally. I was thrilled to see Erica there, as I have been a fan of hers for a long time. (Follow link below to my SWAN of the Day post about her!) The Q&A followed the debut of Erica’s newest film, Fancy Dance, which stars recent Academy Award-nominee Lily Gladstone. The panel featured Indigenous women in the film industry, discussing the importance of including Indigenous stories in the film world. 

In one of my favorite moments, Erica discussed the language of the Seneca-Cayuga tribe (to which she belongs). In this language, if there are any women present in a group, then you describe the group using female terminology. This is in contrast to, for example, French, when, even if there is only one man in a whole group of women, you describe them with masculine rather than feminine pronouns. This anecdote highlights the beauty of uplifting indigenous stories; there is a world in which women — and BIPOC women at that — are the center of the narrative, even linguistically, and that is a powerful thing. 

After the panel, I was able to meet Erica, a moment which I will never forget — the type of moment that reminds me why I do this, the sheer joy and love that goes into supporting artists like Erica. To Erica: Thank you for all that you do. You are such an inspiration! 

Needless to say, I never regret attending the Athena Film Festival. There is nothing quite like the energy in a room full of intelligent, powerful, and enthusiastic folks gathering to support women artists. I hope to continue returning year after year!

© Julia Lasker (4/16/24) — Special for FF2 Media


Read my SWAN of the Day post for Erica Tremblay here.

Read Jan Lisa Huttner’s review of Lily Gladstone’s performance in Certain Women here.

Fancy Dance will begin a limited theatrical release on 6/21/24, and will begin streaming on AppleTV+ on 6/28/24. FF2 Contributor Amanda Wall’s review of Fancy Dance will be posted in June!


Featured Photo: Sofía Otero as “Lucía” in the film 20,000 SPECIES OF BEES (2023), directed by Estibaliz Urresola Solaguren. Photo courtesy of Film Movement. All Rights Reserved.

20,00 Species of Bees has been nominated for dozens of awards at film festivals all around the world, and Sofía Otero (who was just 8 years old at the time of filming) is the youngest person ever to win the Silver Bear for Best Leading Performance at the Berlin International Film Festival. Most of 20,00 Species of Bees was filmed in Laudio/Llodio, a town in northwest Spain just south of  Bilbao on the Bay of Biscay. Note that Laudio is the own’s name in Basque language, and Llodio is the name in Spanish.

Middle Photo: Filmmaker Erica Tremblay is the first recipient of the Jaya Award, celebrating the achievements of an Indigenous filmmaker from North America who crafts women-centric narratives with compelling female leads. Photo Credit: Jan Lisa Huttner (3/2/24) © FF2 Media LLC Authorized for responsible use as long as link to this post is included in all re-posts.

Bottom Photo (from left): Jennifer Loren, Julia Lasker, Jan Lisa Huttner, Erica Tremblay and Razelle Benally. Photo Credit: Amelie Lasker (3/2/24) © FF2 Media LLC Authorized for responsible use as long as link to this post is included in all re-posts.

Tags: 20000 Species of Bees, Abortion Storytelling, Amanda Wall, Amelie Lasker, Asha Dahya, Athena 2024, Athena Film Festival, Barnard College, Certain Women, Decolonizing the Film Industry, Erica Tremblay, Estibaliz Urresola Solaguren, Fancy Dance, Gazelle Benally, Indigenous Filmmaker, Jan Lisa Huttner, Jaya Award, Jennifer Loren, Jess Jacobs, Lily Gladstone, Renee Bracey Sherman, Ruth Leitman, Someone You Know

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As an associate for FF2 Media, Julia writes reviews and features for films made by women. She is currently a senior at Barnard College studying Psychology. Outside of FF2, her interests include acting, creative writing, thrift shopping, crafting, and making and eating baked goods. Julia has been at FF2 for almost 4 years, and loves the company and its mission dearly.
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