Athena Film Festival

By Jennifer Ramirez

True to the Greek goddess of wisdom and war, the Athena Film Festival celebrates courageous and powerful women, both real and fictional. The 8th annual event was held in Barnard Hall at Columbia University February 22-25th. It featured documentary, narrative and short films, along with panels and workshops.

The Female Gaze, a panel with filmmakers Isabel Sandoval, Jennifer Fox, and Tracy Heather Strain explored the importance of the female narrative in media, and how the filmmakers’ personal and professional experiences led them into storytelling.

“My body of work is all about women,” said Jennifer Fox to a room of women young and old, from novice to professionals to neighborhood locals. “As an artist we make best what we know best.”

Fox later explained it was through her art that she was able to share some of her teenage years on screen. “What I discovered is that everything about everything I do comes out of female’s souls,” she said.

Isabel Sandoval spoke of her journey through film and how it led her to one of her own truths. Sandoval, an immigrant from the Philippines, explained to the audience that throughout all the films she was directing and producing there was a recurring theme that kept presenting itself time and time again. It revealed to her, she said, what she was: a transgender woman. She said it was the trials and tribulations that characters went through in her films where she saw herself.

In the following Q&A session, audience members asked panelists about the industry and potential obstacles they might face. Each of the women on the panel gave insightful responses, many emphasized the importance of being authentically yourself. The rest, they said, will follow.

“I’ve been a film critic for 20 years and part of it is because I said I have a voice and I don’t see it anywhere and I want to see it so that I can look at films through that voice,” said panel moderator Thelma Adams. “I would just like to say let’s respect the experience and listen to the experience of people who have been in the field in times that were may be less enlightened, and grow from it.”

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