With the growing popularity of cultural diversity and a demand for Indigenous feature films, many filmmakers all over the globe are gracing the film landscape with stories once only told by our ancestors.
Here are a group of indigenous feature films and their associated movie trailers that you might have missed. Many of them generated a must-see buzz, others you may have heard about but for some reason haven’t gotten to. Others may be outside your comfort zone.
All said, the act of creating an indigenous feature film does not come without controversy, as there is an underlying theme to all that Native folks can relate to: The concepts of Indigenous resistance, fighting for your people, your land, your way of life, and the future of your children, is part of our veritable indigenous DNA.
Here are Indigenous feature films you might have missed, or might want to watch again.
An impressive debut film by director Jayro Bustamante, Ixcanul was Guatemala’s entry for 2015 Foreign Film Oscars, but was not nominated. It is the first feature film in Kaqchikel Mayan, and Spanish, and shows us the oppressive nature of the exploitation of the Mayan people.
María, a seventeen-year-old Mayan (Kaqchikel) girl, lives on the slopes of an active volcano in Guatemala. An arranged marriage awaits her, but her suitor must first spend months working in the city. It is a world María knows nothing of, but is forced to grapple with when problems arise. The actress Maria Mercedes Coroy stars in a film western reviewers call a ‘strong feminist statement.’
Embrace Of The Serpent (2015)
This film is a drama about the effect of European colonialism on the Amazon. Shot along the border of Colombia and Brazil, it unfolds in two different historical periods, and features a script developed in consultation with native tribes.
There is a relationship between a Native man, Karamakate, and the two European researchers that come into his territory generations apart, while showing how his culture has been affected. It is a beautiful movie, well-made, intelligent and sensitive, utilizing native actors and non-actors. You do wonder when the “white savior” will make an appearance but Karamakate tells most of the story. Nominated for an Oscar as Best Foreign Film in 2015, this is Colombian writer-director Ciro Guerra third feature.
The Dead Lands (2014)
If you haven’t seen it yet, be prepared for a rush of adrenaline. There are no explosions and car chases in our list of films but this may be the closest to a testosterone drama. Made in New Zealand by Toa Fraser, the film is in Te Reo, the Maori language.
The film is about warring Maori tribes, tribal honor and a forbidden place of graves and spirits - the Dead Lands - and a cannibal ghost played by Lawrence Makoare, who also played Orc warriors in The Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit films. Taglines include: “Where the warrior spirit was born” and “brutal, bloody violence”.
Seed: The Untold Story (2016)
As the film states in it's synopsis: "In the last century, 94% of our seed varieties have disappeared. As biotech chemical companies control the majority of our seeds, farmers, scientists, lawyers, and indigenous seed keepers fight a David and Goliath battle to defend the future of our food."
This eye-opening film covers a wide range of content to include seed banks, tribal community gardens and their Native stewards - the Hopi and Pueblo farmers, the Norwegian Global Seed Vault, a group of buoyant yet self-proclaimed hippies travelling with Bushmen of the Kalahari, Native Hawaiian activists, Vandana Shiva and farmers from India fighting back against GMO’s.
If you are into seeds (and you really should be if you want to know what you are planting, harvesting, preparing and eating,) then view the film and participate.
You can purchase it for a minimal price or better yet get your local food cooperative to arrange a showing with other seed films, there are many out there.
The movie is now available on DVD, Blu-Ray and is streaming online. For more information visit the film's website at www.seedthemovie.com.
Albert Muenala, a highly respected Kichwa scholar and filmmaker, and the director of Ecuador’s first Kichwa-language movie, Killa says he wants the public to know that the problems facing all Indigenous peoples in this hemisphere are based on colonialism and a lack of sovereignty..
The film follows a photojournalist whose incriminating photos of a mining company operation is met with ruthless force by a corrupt government and the Indigenous community rises up to defend. The trailer and film are in Kichwa/Spanish. Here is Rick Kearns’ review of the film.
Daughter of the Lake / Hija de la Laguna (2015)
Daughter of the Lake or Hija de la Laguna is about a native woman, Nelida Ayay Chilon, who leads a fight against gold miners who will potentially destroy the lake that she and her farming village depend on. Nelida can communicate with the spirits of the lake to assist her in the struggle.
Seal hunting, a critical part of Inuit life, has been controversial for a long time. Now, a new generation of Inuit, armed with social media and their own sense of humor and justice, are challenging the anti-sealing groups and bringing their own voices into the conversation.
Director Alethea Arnaquq-Baril joins her fellow Inuit activists as they challenge outdated perceptions of Inuit and present themselves to the world as a modern people in dire need of a sustainable economy. The celebrity activists say they are doing the protests “for their own good” and these angry Inuk say they would “like to meet these celebrity protesters in person.”
Children of the Jaguar (2012)
Winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize, Eriberto Benedicto Gualinga Montalvo is the director of the documentary which won two film festival prizes: the National Geographic's award for best documentary and Colombia's Indigenous Festival prize for best depiction of a struggle by an indigenous people.
The documentary follows the lives of the inhabitants of Sarayaku in the southern Amazon region of Ecuador and their fight against multinationals seeking to exploit oil reserves beneath the Amazon forest floor. They win a judgement in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights but can they get the government and corporations to abide by it?
The film is produced by Amnesty International.