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'Mesnak' Wins Big at American Indian Film Festival

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The American Indian Film Festival took place November 2 through 10 in San Francisco, with the final evening being given over to the 37th annual American Indian Motion Picture Awards Show.

More than 80 films were screened and judged for the competition, and when the hardware was handed out, one in particular emerged as a clear tour de force: The Canadian film Mesnak, which won Best Film, Best Actor (Victor Andres Trelles Turgeon), and Best Actress (Eve Ringuette) awards. Mesnak tells the story of a Native man who was adopted as a toddler and is now living in Montreal and working as an actor. He returns to the reserve where he was born and meets his mother and people for, essentially, the first time, and his struggles with his identity mirror those of the character he's been rehearsing—the lead in Shakespeare's Hamlet.

Another notable winner was Tatanka Means, son of the late activist Russell Means, who was given Best Supporting Actor honors for his performance in Tiger Eyes. The film is based on the young-adult novel of the same name by Judy Blume, and represents the first time any of Blume's books have been adapted to the big screen. A week earlier, Means won the Tamalewood Award, given to a promising newcomer, from the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival.

The thrash metal band Testament won the award for Best Music Video, for "Native Blood." Both song and video were created as a tribute to Testament frontman Chuck Billy's Pomo heritage.

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The evening was hosted by the actors Tonantzin Carmelo and Michael Horse. For a complete list of winners, visit the American Indian Film Institute website.