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Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne), Bobo (Mira Barkhammar), and Klara (Mira Grosin) form a punk band in WE ARE THE BEST!

WE ARE THE BEST! (VI ÄR BÄST) (Lukas Moodysson, 2013)
Lehman Auditorium, 202 Altschul Hall, Barnard Campus
Friday, February 6, $12, 9:00
Festival runs February 5-8

Thank goodness Lukas Moodysson changed his mind. After his 2009 film, Mammoth, and the death of his father, the Swedish director of such indie faves as Show Me Love, Together, and Lilya 4-ever was extremely depressed and considering quitting the movie business. But he was eventually inspired to make a happy film, and the result is the absolutely delightful We Are the Best! A liberal adaptation of his wife Coco’s semiautobiographical graphic novel Never Goodnight, the film, set in 1982 Sweden, follows the adventures of thirteen-year-old best friends Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and Klara (Mira Grosin), a pair of outsiders who think they are rebellious punk rockers, making statements by running down the up escalator at the mall and writing an anti-sports song. Joined by fourteen-year-old Christian classical guitarist Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne), they form a punk band to rival middle school heavy metalers Iron Fist. Determined to show that punk is not dead, they futz with their hair, attempt to bond with a teen-boy punk trio, and try their darnedest to gel as a band, even though drummer Bobo and bassist Klara don’t really know how to play their instruments. All the adults in the film, primarily Klara’s parents (Lena Carlsson and David Dencik), Bobo’s mother (Anna Rydgren) and her strange friends, and the two youth recreation leaders (Matte Wiberg and Johan Liljemark, real-life members of the band Sabotage), are pretty goofy themselves, not exactly your prototypical role models, so silliness pervades in wonderfully funny ways.

Writer-director Moodysson celebrates the sheer joy and utter ridiculousness of childhood throughout We Are the Best!, never getting overly serious and allowing his three young stars to improvise, which makes their characters that much more honest and endearing, both in small moments and within the overall narrative, which concentrates on having fun. And indeed, We Are the Best! is nothing if not a whole lot of fun. We Are the Best! is screening February 6 at 9:00 at the Athena Film Festival, the annual “celebration of women and leadership” taking place February 5-8 at Barnard and Columbia between 116th & 120th Sts. and Broadway & Claremont Ave. The fifth edition of the festival includes such other films as Gillian Robespierre’s Obvious Child, Sam Feder’s Kate Bornstein Is a Queer & Pleasant Danger, Justin Simien’s Dear White People, Diana Whitten’s Vessel, and Gina Prince-Bythewood’s Beyond the Lights, master classes with Prince-Bythewood, Cathy Schulman, and Stephanie Laing, panel discussions on gender diversity, crowdfunding, and cinematography, a conversation with Twyla Tharp, and more. This year’s recipient of the Laura Ziskin Liftetime Achievement Award is Jodie Foster.

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