2020 was my second Athena year with FF2 Media, and while I was only able to spend one day at the festival this year, I felt like a seasoned professional this time around. Last year, I remember fumbling to flash my pass, asking where screenings were every five seconds, and not knowing when I’d have a minute to eat in between the various films and sessions I wanted to attend.
This year, I had a plan. I knew exactly how long the 1 train would take to haul me uptown, and hit the ground running to get to my first screening.
When I sat down to see Kuessipan with a significant portion of the FF2 crew, I had no idea what I was about to see and feel for the next two hours. Kuessipian is a beautifully structured and emotionally packed film following the friendship of two best friends set in an Innu community. When one of the pair falls for a white boy, their friendship is tested amidst various problems that develop in their community. Mikuan and Shaniss must navigate the tense lines drawn between the Innu community and the Canadians and strike a balance between their own desires, their families, and their roots.
Keussipian is an excellently structured film that navigates heavy themes with ease and grace. The characters are beautifully human, and their problems and tensions are real and absorbing. By the time the credits rolled, I was stunned. The room was relatively silent as everyone shuffled out and on to the next one.
For me, the “next one” was A Regular Woman, which was sponsored by FF2. A Regular Woman is narrated by the protagonist from the grave as she details every event and circumstance that led up to her murder after deciding to abandon her Muslim roots. A Regular Woman is an impactful and deeply tragic portrait of Ayur’s struggles to break free and try to live in her own way with her newborn son. This was likely the heaviest film I’ve seen all year, and even though it was intensely difficult to watch, it tells an important and recurring story that doesn’t often see the light of day. It was a distinct reminder that while many women are satisfied with their situations, those that attempt to leave often don’t make it out alive.
Despite my 2020 Athena films being rather emotionally intensive, I’m always thankful for the opportunity to attend a festival that focuses on women in film. You will be hard-pressed to find another community of people in one place that cares as much about raising women’s voices up to the top. And so, if you get the chance to go next year, do it! You’ll undoubtedly be amazed by what you see.
Photo: FF2 team at the Athena Film Festival at Barnard.