Native Two Spirit films premiere at festival

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SAN FRANCISCO – The Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project came together to promote the creation, exhibition, and distribution of new films and videos that increase the visibility of queer women of color, authentically reflects their life stories, and addresses the vital social justice that concerns their communities. The 6th Annual Queer Women of Color Film Festival will be held June 11 – 13 at San Francisco’s Brava Theater, and admission is free.

On June 12, the festival will have its featured screening, “Reclaiming Remembrance,” which showcases films made by Native Two Spirit (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) filmmakers, including “Two Embrace,” a film by Diné Navajo/Oneida Iroquois activist Carrie House. This animated short illustrates the border tribes and Two Spirit peoples’ first contact with European Christians.

Apache writer Rope Wolf examines the American Indian connection to the Bay Area urban reservation in “Two Spirits: Belonging.” Diné Navajo educator Esther Lucero and Seminole professor Dr. Melinda Micco center their film “Killing The 7th Generation” on American Indian women who were sterilized without their consent. Chiricahua Apache elder Ruth Villasenor explores the legacy of colonization that created California’s Proposition 8, the California Marriage Protection Act which overturned the California Supreme Court’s ruling that same-sex couples have the right to marry.

“Our film festivals encompass all communities and every year we have a particular focus,” said festival promoter Kebo Drew. “It’s not that the different communities aren’t involved, because we’re both multiracial and multiethnic, but this year we’re focusing on Native American, indigenous, and First Nation Two Spirits. For us it’s about building community. For example, here in the Bay Area, even though it’s one of the larger urban area reservations, the community is almost invisible. This is a way of saying that not only is the community here, but we have a range of many different tribes, and different mixes as well, but this is who we are and at one time Two Spirits were very important in our cultures. So here are these stories that are from Two Spirit communities, but they are not just about being Two Spirit. There is a film about forced sterilization, and there are other films about what it was like when the first pilgrims came and what they did to our cultures; it’s all different ways of looking at who we are. It also helps us to build community with people who might be our allies, or might be our friends, but they don’t know anything about us.”

When asked about reaction from Native people who do not accept Two Spirited people, Drew said they probably don’t have all the information.

“Sometimes they have a reaction because of what they’ve been taught by religion, but here’s another way of understanding these human beings. We’re very open to building bridges and talking to people who might reject us, because we feel it is in everybody’s interest if we’re talking about the racism we are experiencing, or what is happening in our communities, or about the things we need other than blaming Two Spirit people for our problems. And many Native organizations, like AIM-WEST (American Indian Movement West) have been very positive and are willing to reach out.”

Drew is proud of the program, which offers free professional training for queer women of color and other members of the community to come in and make films. “We also do a lot of word of mouth; we’ve had people going out to pow wows, handing out flyers, and sending out e-mails, so we’re getting films from all over to put in the larger film festival. We have been around for 10 years and we just had our first woman go into graduate school for film – she just got into the University of Southern California. We’ve had a number of them graduate out of film school with master’s degrees in film.

“During the festival weekend we usually get 2,000 people, and it is free because we want to open it up to the community; a lot of people who don’t go to other film festivals come to ours. In a lot of our cultures we share food together, so we have food and drinks before each screening, and it’s all free. We get a full range – people bring their children, so it’s not just queer women – it’s our uncles, and brothers, and fathers. It’s like all of our communities.”

For more information, visit www.qwocmap.org.