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Indian film festival debuts with 100 works
Friday, July 11 2008
 
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More than 100 films were shown during the inaugural Talking Stick Film Festival, which was held June 26 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The film festival included panels and workshops with notables like actor Wes Studi, director Chris Eyre – whose supernatural thriller “Imprint” was shown during the festival – and actor Gary Farmer.

The films were largely written, directed or produced by Indians from the U.S. and Canada, with some offerings from indigenous people of Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and Samoa.

“I was surprised how much work is out there – and how much brilliant, really stunning, work is out there,” said festival director Karen Redhawk Dallett. She had envisioned finding only 20 to 30 good films for the festival.

That's a huge change from three decades ago, when Michael Smith, a Sioux working with the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation in Seattle, set about to find films – no matter who made them – that rebutted the stereotypical portrayal of Indians. He scrounged up 17, and the American Indian Film Festival was born in 1975.

Navajo filmmaker Norman Patrick Brown has made about a dozen films over the past 20 years, many in the Navajo language with English subtitles. He co-produced a 37-minute documentary that was shown at the Talking Stick festival called "Poison Wind," about the effects of uranium mining.

“For many of us, it’s not really about the glamor or the high-end production values,” said Brown, who has made films about diabetes and drug and alcohol addiction. “It’s mostly serving our community, educating the community.”

According to Smith, there are about a dozen Indian and indigenous film festivals in North America. Among them: events at the National Museum of the American Indian and the Heard Museum in Phoenix; Sundance Film Festival’s Native Forum; the imagineNATIVE film and media arts festival in Toronto; and Dreamspeakers Film Festival in Edmonton, Alberta.

The Talking Stick film fest opened with the U.S. premiere of “Older Than America,” a Canadian film directed by Georgina Lightning, (Cree) about atrocities at Indian boarding schools The film was shot on location in nothern Minnesota on the Fon du Lac reservation.

For more info, see: TalkingStickFilmFestival.org.

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