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Athena Film Festival 2024 Recap

This is our first year covering the Athena Film Festival which is a film festival based in New York and the premise is to showcase films directed and produced by women. We got the opportunity to witness some great films and documentaries such as The Disappearance of Shere Hite. We'll start with the opening night film which was Copa 71 which is a documentary of the first ever Womens' World Cup predating the FIFA Womens' Cup by 20 years. The documentary chronicles womens' soccer from the 19th century up to the 60s where it was banned and very few women play could not because of the international law placed on countries that disallow women playing soccer. The fines was so severe that countries that allowed womens' soccer would not compete in international play. The documentary chronicles the struggles of crafting the event from finding a host country to finding teams to promoting the tournament. This is where the interviews of some of the women comes in to talk about their upbringing and why they love and play soccer to the point they had to play where no one can see or they would get in trouble. One of the players name Elena Schiavo who at the time was considered the best female soccer player on the planet is showcased as a mean competitor and imposed fear in her opponents. Elena who was a member of the Italian team that came in third talked about the issues women had while in Mexico(where the tournament was played) from wages to FIFA banning them from playing soccer in their home countries. It was quite interesting how FIFA went out of their way to restrict women's soccer as they see fit unless they had control of the scene. Carol Wilson is another participant of the tournament but for England better known as the Lady Lionesses she also talked how welcome they were by the Mexican media during the duration of the tournament until they got home and no one seem to care. The recurring theme of the documentary is that no one in the countries cared about their teams once they came home and were forgotten for many decades. Even Mexico the home country and team who won the cup was forgotten due to the rules that was in place to block them out of history. The film do put FIFA in a negative light but it deserved the notion due to their actions. Copa 71 is a great documentary and tied into Women's History Month. A good film to start the festival.

Next we got the opportunity to watch the Nikki Giovanni documentary: Going To Mars. Even though it was released last year there are some scenes in it that can be relatable to today's times. In the film Nikki talks her life story including her strained relationship with her son, her teaching and mentorship to the younger generation. She opens up to her fans and family about her willingness to travel space and race. Nikki is the guide and narrator is this ride through different eras of her life. This is not your traditional talking head documentary nor where things are in chronological order. However it makes for a great film as we get to know what Nikki's thoughts and little nuances of her writing process. It is a great way to introduce and a refresher to one of America's greatest poets.

We also got a chance to see the closing night film The Persian Version which is loosely based on the director's life. It about a Iranian-American woman who tries her best to balance both of her cultures and challenge any label stuck to her by society. The film also chronicles a family history build on jealousy, fearlessness and being unapologetic while drawing parallels between Leila and her mother. There is lots of comedy in this film courtesy of the grandmother who provides Leila with insight on why her mother behaves that way towards her and the secret she hid to keep her family intact. From there Leila sees similarities with her mom and then figure out that they are the same but different approaches to family and life. It's a heartwarming film that can be a tearjerker but doesn't drop a tear. There are laughs in scenes that is needed and brings the audience a slight calm when the film gets serious. You get to see how a immigrant family learn to live in American despite the culture clash and adapt when to achieve the American dream. This was a great way to close this year's festival.

We must thank the team at Athena Film Festival for allowing us to cover and review these great films from women and about great women as well. Hopefully this become a annual tradition.


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