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April 07, 2011

Though Indigenous Eyes: The 2011 Native American Film + Video Festival

2011 NAF+V The 2011 Native American Film + Video Festival, hosted by the National Museum of the American Indian, took place at the George Gustav Heye Center (GGHC) in New York City from March 31 to April 3. It was the first film festival I have ever attended. In case you missed it, there are many reasons why you should attend next time, in 2013. From my observations, each film and video expressed authentic Indigenous experiences from Native people who live in cities, rainforests, reservations, and even on the Arctic ice!

The 2011 festival began with the symposium Mother Earth in Crisis. During the symposium, award-winning Indigenous filmmakers from Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Mexico, and the United States screened their films that engage Indigenous responses to climate change. The Opening Night film, Qapirangajuq: Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change, by Zacharias Kunuk (Inuit) and Ian Mauro, asks contemporary Inuit people living in Igloolik and other communities throughout Nunavut to share their observations of global warming and the impact of climate change on their daily lives. The intent of this film is to relate the message that global warming is a human rights issue affecting the Inuit people's environment, economy, and culture, and most importantly, their survival.
Inuit Knowledge & Climate Change As the festival progressed, festival guests had the opportunity to visually visit Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, Suriname, and multiple sites in the United States. Some films are expressed in the actors’ indigenous languages, with subtitles. Hearing the protagonists’ voices from various hemispheric locations adds a component of realism concerning how indigenous people view themselves and their communities. In turn this provokes viewers like me to encounter each filmmaker’s piece through indigenous eyes. It would have taken countless years and a small fortune to visit these communities in real life and achieve what was available to see and think about in one weekend!

Immediately after the screenings were discussions and question-and-answer interactions between filmmakers and the audience. Some filmmakers wore their traditional clothing and spoke their first languages; interpreters stood by to translate answers to each specific question.

“From the more than 400 entries that were received, nearly 100 outstanding shorts, features, and documentaries were screened,” said Elizabeth Weatherford, founding director, Native American Film + Video Festival. “Throughout this week, the festival brings you Native Storytelling at its best: wrenching at times, touching, risky, ironic, hilarious and experimental.” I have to agree, as I felt a wide range of emotions as I watched each film.

Big Foot One refreshing aspect of the festival was Saturday’s program of youth short films. In numerous ways, Indigenous kids are just like other youth around the world. In other respects, however, day-to-day living in Indigenous communities offers unique challenges of maintaining culture, language, and even survival. These young people’s ability to express their creativity through the use of media is a wonderful achievement. One youth film I particularly liked is titled Big Foot, made by Antony Poucachiche (Algonquin) and Kelvy Poucachiche (Algonquin) from Canada. Through the use of both realism and animation, these two young filmmakers describe their Big Foot encounter! I look forward to seeing future works by these promising filmmakers,

Badlands Another highlight was the Saturday evening screening of Reel Injun by Neil Diamond (Cree). This film is full of humor, including parody and juxtapositions from a Native perspective. One scene that garnered huge laughter and applause reveals what Indian actors were actually saying in their Native languages in early westerns. But I won’t spoil the punchline. It’s on you to go see this highly entertaining perspective on the history of Indigenous representations in film.

At the screening of Reel Injun, I had the pleasure of sitting next to Gary Farmer, a First Nations actor well known in Indian Country. Native actors, writers, directors, producers, musicians, and cultural activists were on hand to support their and their colleagues' works. While rubbing elbows with other festival participants, I was able to gain inside knowledge from industry professionals from Los Angeles, New York, and, yes, Moose Factory, Canada. Movie distributors were also on hand to select films to take back to their networks for broadast to wider audiences, including representatives from the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) and a new Native Television Network that is preparing to make its national debut.

For more information about the 2011 Native American Film + Video Festival, visit the Native Networks website, friend the NMAI Film + Video Center on Facebook, follow it on Twitter, and see what’s being shown on the NMAI F+V YouTube channel. Then join us for the next Native American Film Festival, currently scheduled to take place two years from now! 


Voladora All images courtesy of the filmmakers. From bottom to top:

From Voladora/A Flying Woman, directed by Chloe Campero, produced by the Center of Indigenous Arts, Vera Cruz.

From Turix: Drangonflies without Borders, directed by the Turix Collective, produced by Yoochel Kaaj.

From Reel Injun, directed by Neil Diamond (Cree), produced by Rezolution Pictures International in co-production with the National Film Board of Canada and in association with CBC Newsworld.

From Big Foot, directed by Antony Poucachiche (Algonquin) and Kelvy Poucachiche (Algonquin), produced by Wapikoni Mobile.

From Qapirangajuq: Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change, directed by Zacharias Kunuk (Cree) and Ian Mauro, produced by Igloolik Isuma Productions and Kunuk Cohn Productions.

Cover of the program for the 2011 Native American Film + Video Festival. Image from the film Down the Mighty River, Episode 1, directed by Ernest Webb (Cree) and Lisa M. Roth, produced by Beesum Communications.



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It's amazing how much can be learned from the original inhabitants of any territory. It sounds like a great festival. I especially like the "Reel Injun" trailer. I'm going to have to check out some of the films. Thanks.

i would have loved to attend the festival.
how was the youth short film? must have been an amazing experience.

Thanks for the writeup.

The museum was delighted to find another wonderful review of 2011 Native American Film + Video Festival on the blog Wet Paint: Images and Words about Dance, Art, Music and Everything Else:


Thanks for the information you provide. I really liked your article. Gauged Earrings

We have lived in an era where technology has flourished and in many cases at the expense of the environment especially in regards to Global Warming. I just hope it is not too late for the next generation.

Wonderful film festival, so enjoyable!

Tyler York

The film festival must have touched the hearts of the participants. The indigenous community has been somehow undeniably taken for granted. They group is well-deserving of learning the kind of improvement we get to experience today.

Richard Barrick, Tampa, FL

Thanks for inform us about this Video Festival. I wish I can join because I am from singapore and studying video course. I love to watch the documentary about culture because this is their traditional! Each culture have their own unique. Thanks for post this article hope soon can watch come clip from this film.

The 2011 Native American Film + Video Festival were an awesome event I've ever seen. It totally touched my heart and I will never miss it in next. Thanks for this great segment.


Very inspiring, really nice article is this. American film and video festival is amazing for me.

The indigenous community has been somehow undeniably taken for granted. They must be educated so that no one will deceived them.

I love this post. I agree that its really amazing to learn the culture and tradition of indigenous communities. Somehow, I still believe that they don't have to deny themselves of the new technologies. Their strong preservation for what they believe is awesome.

One scene that garnered huge laughter and applause reveals what Indian actors were actually saying in their Native languages in early westerns.

I recall that in WWII, the US used the Navajo language as a code.

Being a huge fan of movies I wish to attend these kinds of film festivals, definitely these experience are really delivering a beneficial platform for the movie makers and encourage them in huge range.

American film and video festival is amazing for me.


this is really a great site to read and get some quality information. I was actually having a huge laughter and applause when the indian actors where talked about

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