Sunday, February 9, 2014

Athena Film Festival 2014

The 4th Annual Athena Film Festival.
I had such a wonderful time at the Athena Film Festival yesterday! Whom else could relish joy at seeing four films in one entire day- three documentaries and one feature. Held at Barnard College across the street from Colombia University (where Kara Walker teaches!), a celebration of women centric film took place for the fourth year in a row. In each film, the female protagonist embraced challenges, defied conventions, and sacrificed a lot, placing hope and trust into believing dreams will come true. I happily volunteered during Rebel by Maria Agui Carter, whom was a nice pleasure to meet and listen to. She had such wonderful advice to all inspiring filmmakers. I met some wonderful people including Megan of Opinioness of the World- we bonded over films, vegan food, and soap opera forums. Woo hoo!

I started my morning with 365 Brand Chickenless Patties and Van's waffles topped with Daiya's fantastic new strawberry cream cheese style spread, fresh strawberries, and walnuts. Then I bused it from there. Watching Downton Abbey and Guiding Light reruns along the way.
I made it to Barnard College a little pass noon.
Picked up my purple volunteer and blue all access passes ready to see women centric films galore!
Jeremy Teicher's Tall as the Balboa Tree was an emotionally riveting tale about circumstances that one simply cannot control no matter how much one wishes. After her brother is injured, Columbu secretly gets a job while supposed to be watching the family cows. She is saving up all her hard earned money to protect Nebo, her little sister from marriage.
Itai Matamombe (left), an advisor to the United Nations Secretary-General on global education, with a Barnard College student moderator (right) leading a thoughtful discussion after the film. Topics ranged from ending child marriages to the importance of staying true to one's cultural beliefs.
I had lunch across the street at a populated restaurant called Ollie's Noodle Shop & Grille.
I had this amazing mango and vegetable stir fry in garlic sauce with a side of steamed brown rice. Utterly divine. Just needed more mango slices. Yes, I was feeling mighty greedy. Also, rather coincidental, but I was sitting next to a festival attendee. We headed off together to watch Maidentrip.
Jillian Schlesinger's Maidentrip was simply amazing!!!! Laura Dekker is definitely a she-ro in my book. This 15-year-old brave soul set sail around the world in a little boat- Guppie. Despite all the odds, all the battles, the people opposing her and the weather threatening survival, she beat everything and still continues to live her life on the sea. She filmed all of her sea adventures. Every last bit. That in itself is just incredible. Some of her shots were beyond beautiful.
I volunteered at the screening for Maria Agui Carter's Rebel. She was a lovely lady to meet. Kind and warm. My job was to hand out programs and greet folks as well as ensure to note Carter's guest list people who wouldn't have tickets. Very simple tasks. Carter's film, a cross between documentary and feature, is about Cuban born Loreta Velazquez- a disguised woman soldier battling on the Confederate side of the Civil War (yes, the bad side). Eventually, she would soon turn into a Union (good!) spy and free her own slave. Most of the film's information comes from Velazquez's book (still in print too!)- The Woman in Battle: A Narrative of the Exploits, Adventures, and Travels of Madame Loreta Janeta Velazquez. Intriguing. The interplays of race and gender that this film tackles, that Velazquez faces with fire and dignity is worth further investigating for history buffs like me. Carter wants to make this film into a feature. I think it's only right. People need to know Loreta Velazquez's contributions. Her as well as other women soldiers who still are relatively unknown, but are slowly making their way into rewriting history books.
Prepared to watch the last film for the evening.
The evening of strong, courageous women ended in a soft, articulate roaring of eloquent poetry from the gracious Alice Walker- who turns 70 today (the same age as another one of my she-ros, Angela Davis). I remember contributing a bit to Beauty In Truth's  indiegogo campaign, all excited and dazzled that someone wanted to make a film about one of my most profound inspirations. It was the first time I ever opened my wallet for supporting filmmaking. It needed to be made. The end results were breathtakingly beautiful- hearing her echo her own written words in a soul stirring voice, watching mesmerized individuals (including an old professor) speak about about her magnetic contributions in literary and activism circles. She has waged wars with good and evil, loved or offended many, but still people flock towards this poignant, commanding aura, towards this energy that she embodied. And it was so wonderful to see every part of her, to know her, to breathe her in for 87 minutes. 

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