The Athena Film Festival kicked off their 10th-anniversary celebrations with a bang, at the Athena Film Festival Awards Ceremony on February 26 at Barnard College. This year’s honorees included Lady Bird actress, Beanie Feldstein, film director Unjoo Moon, and Gamechanger CEO Effie T. Brown with presenters Paul Feig and Verna Myers.
The Athena Film Festival honors extraordinary women that demonstrate leadership in the film industry. Basically it’s the best kind of awards ceremony, aka women supporting women. *Cue Beyonce’s Run The World* But where did this all begin? No place other than Gloria Steinem’s living room. Yes, you read that right. “It started when Melissa Silverstein, my co-founder, invited me to a party at Gloria Steinem’s house and there were all of these filmmakers who were complaining about the fact that they could make one film but couldn’t get the second film made,” says co-founder Kathryn Kolbert. “So I had just started here at Barnard and created the Athena Center and we decided to do a film festival. What’s happened has been fabulous” Okay, but can we just go back to the part where she was casually invited to a party at Gloria Steinem’s house? No? Okay, we’ll move on.
Steinem is also pleased with the success of the festival. “It’s great to see it grow and become more influential and more important and a great place where people get new ideas, see new ideas, and it just multiplies the energy,” says Steinem.
Luckily, I wasn’t the only one freaking out over Steinem’s appearance. “I literally fell over, my knees buckled, I was like, ‘is that who I think it is?’” says Beanie Feldstein. “She’s literally my inspiration, she’s my everything.” But Steinem wasn’t the only person in attendance leaving Feldstein excited. Little Women producer and good friend, Greta Gerwig made a special appearance to cheer on her bestie, Beanie. Nothing beats successful and supportive BFFs.
Presenter and feminist Paul Feig was back for the awards’ 10th anniversary after being the festival’s first honoree. BTW, if you’re not caught up, it’s 2020 and men can be feminists too. “Men have to step up and become part of the cause because we are all in this together,” says Feig on male feminists. “(The industry) can’t be a boys club. We can’t keep other voices out. What’s so exciting about what we do is that we get to represent voices, and when we do that we should be letting people who are not normally empowered to tell their stories, tell their stories because those stories are really interesting and compelling.” Come on Paul, hand me the Kleenex. You already made me cry hard enough during Last Christmas, you don’t need to do it again!
The Athena Film Festival aims to inspire young children and women alike. “I created this motto when I was younger that ‘they either want the bean or they don’t want the bean’ and that’s sort of my life motto for myself. You just have to be you, people will take it or leave it and sometimes it’s hard, sometimes it’s easier, but I really do believe that every single human being has something to offer and that’s what I always say to young women.” says Feldstein.
Speaking of inspirational words, what could be a better note to end on than a pep talk from Gloria Steinem? That’s right, nothing, so here you go: “Okay, here’s my big advice, do not listen to my advice. Listen to that voice inside you, that is a unique person, and could never have happened before, and can never happen again, and to know what that voice is, because it tells you what you love to do, you forget what time it is when you’re doing it, follow that, and I’m here to help you.”