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Athena Film Festival 2019: Repro Justice And Queer Characters

Over the weekend, Bwog Staffer Maya Corral spent most of her time eating Skinny Pop, wearing a bright blue volunteer beanie, and watching films at the Athena Film Festival.

The Athena Film Festival is a quintessential Barnard experience. As a Barnard-obsessed high school Senior, I remember watching all 30 minutes of the Kate McKinnon and Paul Feig panel on Youtube, and quietly obsessing over the prestigious (aka famous) stars that the Athena Film Festival draws. As a first year, this was my only real-life experience with the film festival. It exceeded my expectations, with lots of women, activism, LGBTQ culture, and star power present.

Athena held a variety of events, ranging from documentary to film showings, panels, and virtual reality booths. I attended two films over the weekend, Lady Parts Justice In The New World Order and The Miseducation of Cameron Post. Lady Parts Justice In The New World Order follows the Lady Parts Justice, a collective of activists and comedians. The founder, Lizz Winstead, is also a co-creator of the Daily Show and sat on the panel after the event. The documentary focuses on their Vagical Mystery Tour, bringing a breed of comedy and advocacy all over the United States. Wearing a “Sweet Tits” shirt and yelling at protestors on the sidewalk, these activists advocated for reproductive justice in a way that didn’t make supporters feel doomed about our current and future political landscape. They held the Golden Probes, aka “sexism’s most glamorous night,” held The State of the Uterus (2016), and made fun of Park Slope moms who went to Planned Parenthood in college and never thought about it again.

The docu-series was funny and empowering. It inspired me to try making a difference rather than curling up into a ball in my dark dorm room with thoughts about the current administration defunding Planned Parenthood. The docu-series also shouted-out Oregon for being liberal, which I appreciated as an Oregonian.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post was exactly what I expected from a feature film at a film festival dedicated to marginalized identities and the empowerment of women. Cameron Post (played by Chloe Grace Moretz) is a high school junior who’s caught having sex with her best friend. She’s sent to “God’s Promise,” a religious gay conversion camp. There, she meets a variety of people, makes friends, and comes of age. Desiree Akhavan, who directed the film, also received the Breakthrough Award at the Athena Film Festival. She participated afterward in a Q&A in which, unsurprisingly, the first question asked about her experiences with directing and filming the movie’s gay sex scenes. The beauty of this film, and the Q&A discussion afterward, was that it showed an authentic story of what it means to come of age in a generation more open about sexuality than the generations before us. While I imagine that most Barnard students cannot relate to being sent to gay conversion therapy, the theme of finding your identity rang true for everyone in the room.

On the whole, the events that I attended were well executed and empowering. With an event that focuses so much on women and marginalized identities, I was worried I would leave films feeling even worse about the politics of our current administration, but I actually left feeling inspired. It’s nice to eat Skinny Pop and laugh in a room about the stupidity of Donald Trump and the awkwardness of growing up. That’s entirely the space that the Athena Film Festival created for the Barnumbia community.

Picture Uno via Athena Film Festival Facebook Page

Picture Dos via Athena Film Festival Facebook Page

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