Once upon a time, there was a virtual gathering place where minds from all walks of life would congregate together to share ideas, memes, opinions, (an unflinching amount of vitriol), and breaking news without the filter of a corporate owner. There were even little distinctive markings so members could differentiate between a random person screaming into the void and an authenticated, certified professional.
And then, tragedy struck. A wealthy albeit embarrassingly insecure wannabe leader purchased the gathering place to turn it into a personal praise circle, dismantling the culture that was working well, and replacing it with chaos. Suddenly, it became much more difficult to determine whether or not something being shouted in the gathering place was based in fact or just the unfiltered thoughts of blabbering fools. This is precisely why in 2022, people mistakenly took a scene from the Netflix film “Athena” as an act of political unrest.
Directed by Romain Gavras, “Athena” is a modern war epic about how the tragic killing of a young boy sparks a conflict in a French suburb, with the boy’s older brother desperately looking for answers. A film constructed primarily from single-take sequences, the impressive opening scene was chosen as one of /Film’s Best Movie Moments of 2022. It’s a harrowing scene of the start of a riot, a community in turmoil once it’s been made known that the young boy died as a result of excessive, racist police brutality. As such, “Athena” is filled with politically charged imagery, including a scene where protesters steal a police video.
So of course, racist clowns shared it on social media and claimed it was happening for real. And without verified fact-checking, went viral.
Go watch Athena
According to a report by Forbes, it’s estimated that the image was viewed over 9 million times before people realized that it was from a movie. It was, also to no surprise, originated by a far-right American account trying to “prove” that this was what would happen to the U.S. unless President Biden closed the borders. In the interest of refusing to give hateful bigots the attention they so desperately crave, we won’t be linking directly to the culprit. People sharing fake images to stir up controversy is nothing new, it’s just especially annoying when it’s so easily and verifiably fictitious. Fortunately, the fake image did inspire many people to check out “Athena,” arguably one of the best unsung films of 2022. The film currently boasts an 86 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and /Film contributor Lex Briscuso called the film “stunning and unforgettable.”
The script itself could be a bit stronger, but the visual narrative power of “Athena” is undeniable. Moments look nearly identical to the countless uprisings across the globe when marginalized citizens finally decide “enough is enough” and fight back against their oppressors — even when those in power have the upper hand and more firepower. “Athena” is a total gut punch of a film that deserves to be seen by as many people as possible. It’s infuriating that it will forever be associated with racist fear-mongers trying to stir up a frenzy online, but it’s a vital watch that perfectly encapsulates the way war and civil unrest are documented in our social media lifetime.