The Athena Film Festival, founded by Kathryn Kolbert, the Constance Hess Williams Director of the Athena Center for Leadership Studies at Barnard College with Melissa Silverstein, artistic director of the Festival and head of Women and Hollywood, in collaboration with UN Women (established in 2010) held the première of Athena Global Shorts at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations on the evening of January 17, 2013.
Tasnim - showing in the Athena Global Shorts Programme
Donna Ann Welton, Deputy Director of Communications & Public Diplomacy for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations introduced the evening and stated the importance of storytelling: "As my boss Hillary (Clinton, Secretary of State) says, it is important that women help each other." The films shown this evening will be screened around the world. "We need to keep each other's stories," Welton asserted, as the perfect opening for the tales to come.
Shame, as a core hindrance to female leadership, as explored in the films in this program, can be overcome, expelled and placed back where it came from to build positive relationships.
Tasnim, a 12 minute 2010 Arabic short by Elite Zexer about a 10-year-old girl, Tasnim, who challenges the strict gender codes in her Bedouin village, is the strongest of the four films addressing female leadership. Love for a father leads to an inquiry into the meaning of "dignified behavior." My favorite scene has the mother try and cover her daughter's long hair, which is tangled and sweaty from a soccer match in the desert with the boys. Combined with her jersey and dusty pants, the traditional headscarf makes the girl look like a pirate, signaling strength and vigor, where subordination to traditional norms was intended.
Donna Ann Welton, Deputy Director of Communications & Public Diplomacy for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. Photo by Anne-Katrin Titze. Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze
In Northeast Front (Frente Noreste), Angela Torres Camarena's 11 minute 2010 Spanish language short, a mother takes charge to rescue her children from the grasp of Mexico's cartels after one of her sons unintentionally becoming involved in a dangerous exchange.
Destri Martino's animated short, The Director, is a minute of fun and serious clothing.
Elizabeth Tadic's Umoja: No Men Allowed, opens the door for 32 minutes to a village of the Samburu tribe in Kenya, where men are not allowed. The village, including a progressive school and a business to sell extraordinarily beautiful jewellery to tourists, is an extended safe house for abused women. Many have been raped and all of them are victims of the traditional female circumcision. The village saves their lives and establishes an alternative to the oppression that the males shown in the film so openly want to have back. "We had to outcast her because she brought shame," one of the men from a village upstream explains about a woman they exiled because she was supposedly raped by British soldiers.
The Athena Global Shorts Program mission statement sums it up well:
"The films celebrate the power, audacity and creativity of women leaders and showcase the innumerable ways women lead in their countries and communities."
The Athena Film Festival has an impressive array of movies about the celebration of women and leadership to be shown at Barnard College in New York City from February 7 - 10, 2013.