A few weeks ago, I attended my first Athena Film Festival at Barnard College as a member of FF2 Media (a sponsor of the festival). I’ve only been around that area once or twice, so I was really looking forward to exploring and supporting a student-run film festival! I went to Hunter College for undergrad; it’s an institution that sports depressing gothic architecture and has virtually no campus, so from the get-go Barnard was total whiplash for me. I’m thankful that Athena gave me the opportunity to visit a college with a real campus (no offense to my alma mater) and the beautiful though somber films we saw added to the experience.
On Sunday, March 1, I was able to see two films. They were Kuessipan and A Regular Woman. I’m really glad that I got to watch those two films specifically, as they centered around women of color. Kuessipan was based on a novel by Naomi Fontaine, about two Innu girls who consider themselves as close as sisters. However, one of the girls, Mikuan, falls in love with a white Québécois. She dreams of moving away from their tiny reserve, potentially damaging her bond with childhood friend Shaniss forever. It’s more than just a drama; Kuessipan exposes the mistreatment of the indigenous by the Canadian government (which applies worldwide) and reminds us of the cycle of poverty due to deplorable conditions. It was incredibly impactful, teaching so much so subtly, and also breached on the subject of assimilation — a topic I’ve debated on myself as an Asian American.
I enjoyed the first film I watched immensely! After the brief rendezvous, the FF2 Media team then all went down to see the film we sponsored, A Regular Woman. Our editor-in-chief Jan said a few wise words about SWAN (Support Women Artists Now) and we then saw yet another impactful film. This film was more in your face than Kuessipan; it starts off with the narration speaking in Turkish, and then breaking the fourth wall to speak German so that the audience could understand her. The narrator is supposed to be Hatun “Aynur” Sürücü, a woman murdered by honor killing, telling us about the events that lead to her death. Though she lived in Germany, her family practiced a repressive version of Islam that married her off young to a cousin in Istanbul. However, she escaped back to Germany to raise her child as her husband turned out abusive. To the horror of her family, Aynur gradually became more westernized, doing things we take for granted like renting her own apartment, studying for a job, and even exposing her hair. Such acts were shameful and tainted her family’s name, until her youngest brother “Nuri” killed her — thereby purifying her of her sins. I always worry about films like this in our political climate, hoping that people won’t view Muslims in contempt, but it’s emphasized that Aynur’s family was extremist anyways. A Regular Woman reminded us about how repressed women continue to be in other parts of the world.
Both of the films I got to watch at Athena were very impactful, though I felt a certain heaviness each time I exited the theater. Still, it was great to see so many people come together for the event, and I’m excited to see what quality films Athena brings next year.
© Beatrice Viri 3/15/2020 FF2media