FF2-Sponsored Panel ‘Bringing in New Voices in a Post-Pandemic Film Industry’ at Athena Showcases Two Promising New Artists

FF2-Sponsored Panel “Bringing in New Voices in a Post-Pandemic Film Industry” at Athena Showcases Two Promising New Artists

Like many things, Athena Film Festival looked completely different this year than it did in past years. The festival took place online, with live panels happening on Zoom. FF2 proudly sponsored one of these panels: Bringing in New Voices in a Post-Pandemic Film Industry, hosted by Amanda Salazar and featuring two new filmmakers, Maria DeCotis and Naz Riahi. It was a lively conversation that demonstrated that the energy of Athena was not lost when the festival went virtual. 

Both Maria and Naz (referred to here with their first names because that’s how they were addressed during the panel) approached the interviewer’s questions with honesty and vulnerability, which resulted in a wonderfully candid conversation not only about their experiences as filmmakers but also as women and as humans. Though the topic of the panel was new filmmakers during the pandemic, this was a conversation that anyone could connect to. 

Perhaps the most touching moment was when Naz opened up about feeling like she’d started making films too late in life, at 40. Without missing a beat, Maria and Amanda began naming successful female filmmakers who started at the same age, one of which was one of my personal heroes, Lynn Shelton. Then Maria made the beautiful observation that everything Naz has done has led to where she is now, and so she could not possibly be late.  

Both filmmakers expressed that their art had served as a way to cope with the state of the world during the pandemic. For Naz, this meant creating a short film about the isolation she was feeling living alone when the country first shut down. For Maria, it was posting comedy sketches on YouTube inspired by Governor Cuomo’s daily update videos. Both of these women managed to harness the sheer pain of this time and use it to create art that would speak to people and help them cope, too.

Despite the vulnerability, they were brave enough to share; Maria and Naz exhibited incredible strength and determination to realize their dreams no matter what is in their way, be it the celluloid ceiling or a global pandemic. This is the beauty of women who make films, and it has only shown itself more as the pandemic has challenged filmmakers in ways it never has before. It is so important to support women who want to make films right now, from the smallest independent short films to the highest budget blockbuster features, because they not only need it but deserve it now more than ever. While we’re on the topic, Naz’s film Sincerely, Eric can be found on Vimeo, and Maria’s comedy sketches can be found on Youtube, and she will soon be releasing her own short film, L’incidente Intimo, as well.

© Julia Lasker (3/25/21) FF2 Media

Feature Photo: Screengrab from Athena Panel ‘Bringing in New Voices in a Post-Pandemic Film Industry’. Credit to Athena Film Festival.

Tags: Athena Film Festival, Julia Lasker, Maria Decotis, Naz Riahi

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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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