11 Essential Native American Films You Can Watch Online Right Now
Indian Country Today
Catch 'Empire of Dirt' and 'Rhymes For Young Ghouls' and other amazing films on Google Play, YouTube, Amazon Video, iTunes and VUDU today!
In late 2013, we brought you an important list of 10 current Native American films — The 5 Must-See Native Films of 2013 and 5 More Must-See Native Films From 2013 — that had scored big at film festivals and reaped praise from critics. You responded with a mixture of unbridled enthusiasm and puzzlement:
Sounds like a great movie! How the hell will I ever be able to see it?
A few years later, these Native American films are available online. And as on-demand video continues to become a completely valid method of releasing movies, festival and indie features are going the streaming route at the same time distributors are booking brick-and-mortar showings. So you can’t make it to the festivals and big-city arthouse theaters where many of these films screen? Doesn’t matter! Here are 11 Native American films you can watch in your own home, right now on Google Play, YouTube, Amazon Video, iTunes and VUDU and more.
Pop some popcorn, dim the lights, and hold your own Native Film Festival…
Wesley, a young, successful novelist, long ago left Arizona and the San Carlos Apache Reservation in his rear view mirror. He remains close to his mother but alienated the rest of the family with his autobiographical bestseller. He has no intention of returning for his parents anniversary party but finds himself pulled back into the fold. Coming home only underlines what a mess Wesley’s life has become, but he’s not alone in that. Shouting Secrets tells a present day story about a Native-American family with unique struggles but universal truths.??
Awards for Shouting Secrets:
Best Film, American Indian Film Festival 2011
Best Actor: Chaske Spencer, American Indian Film Festival 2011
Best Supporting Actor: Tyler Christopher, American Indian Film Festival 2011
Outstanding Actress in the Leading Role: Q’Orianka Kilcher, Red Nation Film Festival 2012
Best of the Fest Audience Award, Arizona Film Festival 2012
Feature Film Audience Award, Big Island Film Festival 2012
Best Feature Film Audience Award, Breckinridge Festival of Film 2012
Best Narrative Feature, Great Lakes Film Festival 2012
Best Ensemble Cast, Philadelphia FirstGlance Film Festival 2012
Best Feature, Rhode Island International Film Festival 2012
Best Feature Film Audience Award, San Diego Film Festival 2012
A young single First Nations mother struggling to bridge the generation gap with her daughter Peeka and her mother Minerva.
Awards for Empire of Dirt:
Best Canadian Feature Film—Special Jury Citation, Toronto International Film Festival 2013
Best Actress: Cara Gee, American Indian Film Festival 2014
Best Original Screenplay, Shannon Masters, Genie Awards 2014
Director Sterlin Harjo heard a story hundreds of times growing up; the story of when his grandfather disappeared. Pete Harjo mysteriously went missing in 1962 after his car crashed on a rural bridge in Sasakwa, Oklahoma. The Seminole Indian community began a day and night search for his body. As they combed the riverbanks it is told that they sang songs of faith and hope that had been passed on for generations. In This May Be The Last Time, the director revisits his grandfather’s mysterious death and how hymns played a role then and now in uniting families and communities in times of worship, joy, mourning, hope, tragedy. This deeply personal journey starts in Oklahoma’s Native churches and carries on through astounding connections to slavery in the deep American South and onward as far away as the Scottish highlands.
Award for This May Be the Last Time:
Best Documentary Feature, American Indian Film Festival 2014
Native American protagonist Wolf is on the run after avenging his mother’s murder. As he flees across the desolate American West on his motorcycle, he’ll discover that justice has a cost—Wolf’s search for redemption will reveal secrets and take him on a journey where the roads have some very unexpected turns.
Through the eyes of Larry Sole, a First Nation teenager filled with bravado and angst, fragile and yet angry, seeking clarity clouded by confusion, seeking to belong without belonging, comes the story of three unlikely friends isolated in a small rural town discovering what they can of life and love amid racial tensions and the recklessness of youth, in a world clouded by a dark mystery from his past.
Awards for The Lesser Blessed:
Best Supporting Actor: Kiowa Gordon, American Indian Film Festival 2013
Best Picture, Red Nation Film Festival 2013
Outstanding Actor in the Leading Role: Joel Evans, Red Nation Film Festival 2013
Red Crow Mi’g Maq reservation, 1976: By government decree, every Indian child under the age of 16 must attend residential school. In the kingdom of the Crow, that meansimprisonment at St. Dymphna’s. That means being at the mercy of “Popper”, the sadistic Indian agent who runs the school. At 15, Aila is the weed princess of Red Crow. Hustling with her uncle Burner, she sells enough dope to pay Popper her “truancy tax”, keeping her out of St. Ds. But when Aila’s drug money is stolen and her father Joseph returns from prison, the precarious balance of Aila’s world is destroyed. Her only options are to run or fight… and Mi’gMaq don’t run.
Awards for Rhymes for Young Ghouls:
Best Director: Jeff Barnaby, American Indian Film Festival 2014
Best Actor: Glen Gould, American Indian Film Festival 2014
Best Canadian Feature Film, Vancouver International Film Festival 2013
Best Director of a Canadian Film: Jeff Barnaby, Vancouver Film Critics Circle 2014
Best Canadian First Feature: Jeff Barnaby, Vancouver Film Critics Circle 2014
Outstanding Actress in a Supporting Role: Roseanne Supernault, Red Nation Film Festival 2014
A political thriller set during the Wounded Knee insurrection in 1973. Two activists are arrested and maintain in custody in a sheriff’s office. They will meet a Nixon advisor, a lawyer, a senator and a movie star who is also an activist.
Awards for The Activist:
Outstanding Actress in a Lead Role: Tonantzin Carmelo, Red Nation Film Festival 2014
Best Independent Spirit Award, Sedona Film Festival 2014
Best Feature, Naturman Tenerife Film Festival 2014
Set in the early 1980s, The Cherokee Word For Water begins with the return of Wilma Mankiller to her rural Oklahoma Cherokee community where many houses lack running water and others are little more than shacks. After centuries of being dehumanized and dispossessed of their land and identity, the people no longer feel they have power or control over their lives or future. This is the true story of the struggle for, opposition to, and ultimate success of a rural Cherokee community to bring running water to their families by using the traditional concept of “gadugi” – working together to solve a problem.
Awards for The Cherokee Word for Water:
Outstanding Actress in the Leading Role: Kimberly Guerrero, Red Nation Film Festival 2013
Best Theatrical Motion Picture, Western Heritage Awards 2014
Dennis Banks co-founded the American Indian Movement (A.I.M.) in 1968 to call attention to the plight of urban Indians in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The film presents an intimate look at Dennis Banks’ life beginning with his early experience in boarding schools, through his military service in Japan, his transformative experience in Stillwater State Prison and subsequent founding of a movement that, through confrontational actions in Washington DC, Custer South Dakota and Wounded Knee, changed the lives of American Indians forever.
Awards for A Good Day to Die:
Best Documentary Feature, American Indian Film Festival, 2011
Best Documentary, deadCENTER Film Festival 2010
Best Documentary, Dreamspeakers Film Festival 2010
Best Documentary, LA Skins Festival 2010
Best Documentary, Twin Cities Film Festival 2010
Best Documentary, Frozen River Film Festival 2010
Two teenage boys who have grown up like brothers go about their lives in the comfortable claustrophobia of an isolated Alaskan town. Early one morning, on a seal hunt with another teenager, an argument between the three boys quickly escalates into a tragic accident. Bonded by their dark secret, the two best friends are forced to create one fabrication after another in order to survive. The shocked boys stumble through guilt-fueled days, avoiding the suspicions of their community as they weave a web of deceit. With their future in the balance, they are forced to explore the limits of friendship and honor.
Awards for On the Ice:
Best Director: Andrew Okpeaha MacLean, American Indian Film Festival 2011
Best First Feature, Berlin International Film Festival 2011
Crystal Bear Award, Berlin International Film Festival2011
Haskell Wexler Award for Best Cinematography, Woodstock Film Festival 2011
Jury Prize for Best Feature Film, Woodstock Film Festival 2011
Best New American Film, Seattle International Film Festival 2011
Nominated for Grand Jury Prize, Sundance Film Festival 2011
(Note: Strictly speaking, Tiger Eyes isn’t a “Native American film” in the same sense as the others listed here, as its protagonist, screenwriters and director were all non-Native. But we include it in this list because of the critically-lauded performance by Tatanka Means, which was found award-worthy by Native film festivals.)
Forced by her grieving mother to move from her home in Atlantic City to the strange “atom bomb” town of Los Alamos, New Mexico, Davey (Willa Holland) no longer knows who to be or how to fit in. Everything that once mattered—the friends, reputations, parties and expectations that fuel high school days—suddenly seems insignificant and Davey is certain no one has the first clue about the turmoil she is going through. But when she meets Wolf (Tatanka Means), a mysterious Native American climber exploring the surrounding canyons, she feels he is able to see right into her most wild and secret emotions. Their intense relationship brings Davey back from the edge as she finds the courage to embark on the first great adventure of her life.
Awards for Tiger Eyes:
Best Actor: Tatanka Means, American Indian Film Festival 2012
Best Picture, Red Nation Film Festival 2012
Outstanding Actor in the Leading Role: Tatanka Means, Red Nation Film Festival 2012
Best Director: Lawrence Blume, Red Nation Film Festival 2012
This story was originally published November 28, 2014.
Have another Native film you’d like us to share? reach out to Vincent Schilling, ICMN’s Arts and Entertainment editor on Twitter at @VinceSchilling.