Athena Film Festival 2019 began its run on Thursday, February 28th. On this chilly Thursday evening, my sister and I promptly headed to the Miller Theatre for the opening film of the festival—Fast Color. The auditorium was buzzing with excitement, waiting for the first film to begin. I hadn’t looked at the program prior to the screening, so the two of us sat in the center back with no idea what to expect. Directed by Julia Hart, Fast Color is a fantasy superhero movie starring women of three generations—talk about starting with a movie that is breaking the mould! Actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw leads as a lost young adult fighting for control over her uncontrollably strong superpowers. Having left her family for years, she finds her way back to them for help.
After the screening, we were surprised by a Q&A with Julia Hart and Lorraine Toussaint led by film and TV critic Rebecca Theodore-Vachon. The three women entertained us with behind-the-scenes information about the filming process; what has stuck to me since that day was when Toussaint highlighted Hart’s comment—she did casting based on the skill of the actor, and not by color. (On a side note, some of the VFX artwork done on this piece was mesmerizing!)
The next evening I continued my dive into the realm of science fiction, except this time it was through a documentary by Arwen Curry. Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin celebrates the late feminist American author known for her science fiction pieces set in the Hainish Universe and her infamous series set in Earthsea. The legacy of the feminist writer is unravelled through a combination of animation, which depicted the stories, and commentary from Ursula K. Le Guin and other fellow authors. Most importantly for me, the film and the Q&A that followed showed how the author grew into her style of writing and became a woman who stood her ground as a female and a writer who believed in the true value of her craft. During Curry’s Q&A, she explained the making of the documentary took ten years of following and working together with Ursula K. Le Guin.
Even later, at 9:30pm, I indulged in a screening of The Favourite—a film which boasts nine Academy Award nominations and one win from Olivia Colman. Without question, the theatre was absolutely full with people lining up outside for the screening; I made sure to get there early so I could get a good seat. What made the experience even more interesting is when I noticed the similarities between this movie and an older 1979 soviet TV movie, Стакан воды, which was based on a play of the same title by Eugène Scribe from 1840.
Saturday was a big whammy with three movies back to back starting off with Netizens. Director Cynthia Lowen’s film introduced me to the realm of cyber harassment. Three women’s lives are changed drastically when they become targets of stalking, intimidation, and seemingly harmless, but actually life-threatening experiences. The Emmy-nominated filmmaker later stayed for a Q&A with Carrie Goldberg, moderated by Jamia Wilson. The next movie, Ask For Jane, was an exciting narrative based on a true story about women of the 1960s who secretly aided other women with abortion services. Writer-director Rachel Carey and co-writer/actress Cait Cortelyou also attended the filmmaker reception, where Kimi and I had a short chat with them(!)
FF2 Media’s Editor-in-Chief Jan Lisa Huttner sponsored the evening screening of Working Woman. Directed and co-written by Michal Aviad, Working Woman is a timely piece about a woman navigating her place whilst working beside a controlling and entitled male boss. Following a brief introduction and explanation from Jan, the FF2 Media team stood up and waved at the audience behind us. Despite it being a simple gesture, it certainly felt like a victory wave or sorts!
The closing film of the Festival was the premiere screening of Knock Down the House. The festival helpers predicted that it would be a full house and they were absolutely spot on. There were lines and lines of people outside, waiting to get in. Luckily, we had VIP passes, which ensured we would be able to get good seats. Before the movie started, we were shocked to find out that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was also present in the audience with us! Three motivated and relentlessly hard working women from across the United States each start their own grass-root campaigns to challenge the powerful incumbents in Congress. Directed by Rachel Lears, this was a mind blowingly perfect film and Q&A to end the festival on; it left us feeling empowered, educated, and hopeful as we made our way back out into the rainy streets.
© Katusha Jin (3/05/19) FF2 Media