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Rebellion and History: Impressive Slate of Native Films Screens in Santa Fe

Films screening during Santa Fe Indian Market week include some of the most acclaimed recent movies about the Native experience.
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It’s not a designated Film Festival but you will have a chance to see several new and recent Native feature and short films during Indian Market week at a few venues. SWAIA and The Smithsonian/NMAI present the 14th Annual Native Cinema Showcase at the recently renovated New Mexico History Museum just steps north of the Plaza downtown. Feature films, short films, documentaries, animation and SWAIA’s Classification X winners will be shown from Monday, August 18 to Sunday, August 24, at various times in the day and evening. (Download the PDF: Schedule of Native Cinema Showcase.) 

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Monday (8/18) starts it off with Michael Apted’s Incident at Oglala, and John Trudell will be in attendance at 7pm. Tuesday (8/19) will show SWAIA’s Class X winners in the day and Wakening (Cree/Metis) and Kumu Hinu (Hawaiian/Tongan) in the evening. Wednesday (8/20) features Navajos Film Themselves (8 Dine’ directors/8 short films) in the day, Amautalik and The Orphan and the Polar Bear (shorts) precede feature film Craters of the Moon (bad road trip, mature audience) in the evening.

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Thursday (8/21) is a big day with Mann v Ford (Ramapough Indians take on Ford Motor Company and the EPA in this documentary) at 12 noon; the feature film Road to Paloma (Hawaiian actor Jason MoLiving in the Dirt, Making Art: Jason Momoa Explains Road to Palomamoa, a tale of biker honor, with a great production team of Randy Redroad, Russell Friedenberg and Heather Rae) at 7pm, Randy and Heather will be there; a free evening concert by A Tribe Called Red at MIAC at 8pm, presented by SWAIA & NMAI, it’s an outdoor venue on Museum Hill.

RELATED:Living in the Dirt, Making Art: Jason Momoa Explains Road to Paloma

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(Just so you know, ATCR will also play Friday night, indoors at Club Shadeh, at Buffalo Thunder Resort & Casino in Pojoaque.)

Friday (8/22) has Spirit in Glass (Plateau culture beadwork) at 1pm preceded by 3 Poems by Heid E. Erdich - Pre-Occupied, Indigenous Elvis Works the Medicine Line, and Lexiconography 1. At 5pm, the fourth annual Future Voices of New Mexico (, young and emerging filmmakers from high schools and under-represented communities tell stories in film and video. Another critically acclaimed feature film, Rhymes for Young Ghouls (the Red Crow M’igMaq reserve, residential school, good and evil and survival, mature audience, stars Kawennahere Devery Jacobs) plays at 8pm.

RELATED:Ghoul Power!: Actress Devery Jacobs Discusses Her "Badass" New Movie

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Saturday morning there will be an Educator’s Workshop on Native games & sports at MIAC; Yakona (meaning "rising water," a visual journey thru the crystal clear waters of the San Marcos River) starts at 1pm, preceded by #nightslikethese (NDN teen girls and their cell phones, Amber MidThunder and Shay Eyre); Something to Talk About this program runs 90 minutes and it is 17 short videos with Injunuity and The Ways and other cultural videos about language, hip-hop, Alaska, fishing, boarding schools, two-spirit, trade, history, sports & music, that all starts at 3pm. Saturday night at 8pm outside in the Railyard features Hawaiian: the Legend of Eddie Aikau (a surf film about a Native Hawaiian) preceded by a spiritual journey on water, Row. Sunday finishes with a re-showing of the SWAIA Class X winning films, then an afternoon tribute to Native women starts at 3pm with the feature film, Empire of Dirt (three Anishnaabe women, Cara Gee, Shay Eyre, Jennifer Podemski, flee Toronto for the Rez to struggle with the meaning of "family," Shay and Jennifer will be there), preceded by the ATRC music video Sisters, which features the music of female drum group Northern Lights.

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The Sundance Institute Native Film Series will be presented at another recently renovated venue, the Jean Cocteau Cinema (series page:, in the Railyard district. Author George RR Martin (Game of Thrones), a longtime Santa Fe resident, bought and renovated the Jean Cocteau last year, complete with bar, live music and sometimes street performers. The Sundance series runs from August 20-24 and consists of shorts and features created by indigenous filmmakers. Director of the Sundance Institute Native Film Program, N. Bird Runningwater, will be present for the duration of the series. The Native Film Program scouts worldwide for Indigenous artists with projects that can be supported through the Institute’s Feature Film Program, Documentary Film Program, Theatre Program, the Creative Producing Fellowship and Summit, and the Sundance Film Festival.

RELATED: Sterlin Harjo on His Sundance Debut of This May Be the Last Time

Sydney Freeland, director/screenwriter of Drunktown’s Finest, will introduce each screening of her film and remain for Q&A. Spirit Award nominee Sterlin Harjo will introduce his film This May Be the Last Time and Chris Eyre (known for Smoke Signals) will present his other notable title, Skins (2002). Academy Award nominee Taika Waititi will introduce (tentative) Boy, the follow up to his award winning Eagle vs Shark. Also featured is On the Ice by Andrew Okpeaha MacLean. The short films will be Wakening by Danis Goulet; OK, Breathe Auralee by Brooke Swaney; The Cave by Helen Haig Brown; Shimasani by Blackhorse Lowe; Sikumi by Andrew Okpeaha MacLean.

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The big draw could be the award winning film, Drunktown’s Finest, recipient of the Grand Jury at the 2014 Outfest, "for taking us into a dynamic world full of rich and flawed characters with unexpected journeys.” The reservation-set drama also won the audience-selected Best First US Dramatic Feature prize. In a Sundance interview with Women and Hollywood, Sydney Freeland explained her motivations for making her first film: "I was born and raised on the Navajo reservation, and growing up I never felt like I saw the people and places that I knew represented on film. On a really basic level, I just wanted to tell a story about those people that I knew and give them a chance to be represented on film." Sydney Freeland comes from showing her film in her home town of Gallup this past weekend.

RELATED:Drunktown's Finest, the Native Film Every Festival Wants

On Friday August 22, IAIA/MoCNA will celebrate Sundance Institute's Native American and Indigenous Program's 20th anniversary with a panel discussion and lively reception featuring the Navajo electro punk band The Discotays. The Sundance Institute has mentored more than 300 Native American and Indigenous artists. Program Director Bird Runningwater and Native directors Sydney Freeland and Sterlin Harjo will discuss breaking through common filmmaking barriers, the changing media landscape and the importance of sharing original stories out of Native lands.

There will also be fun the day before at MoCNA on August 22, from 5-7pm in the Allan Houser Art Park with a reception for Ric Gendron’s exhibit Rattlebone; Courtney M. Leonard’s BREACH: LOG 14; Da-ka-xeen Mehner’s Saligaaw (it is loud-voiced); and Mario Martinez’s The Desert Never Left "The City". This typical fun reception at MoCNA features: presence 4.0, Rezonate Art and Beyond Buckskin Boutique -- apparel, stylish jewelry and a roving fashion show, with DJ Tahnee Udero. And during Market weekend, August 23rd -24th from 11am-12noon at MoCNA, Native artist Cannupa Hanska Luger, filmmaker Dylan McLaughlin and producer Ginger Dunnill invite visitors to preview This is a Stereotype (, a film project. The film was motivated by Luger’s Stereotype: Misconceptions of the Native American exhibition at MoCNA in 2013, which addressed preconceived notions about Native Americans supported by popular culture that have been invented, imagined and rooted within the American public’s social conscience. Political artists, Douglas Miles (Apache Skateboards), Migizi Pensoneau (1491s) and Adrienne Keene (Native Appropriations) are interviewed. The film invites the audience to ask their own questions regarding Native American identity and stereotypes, encouraging the viewer to think critically when making decisions concerning culture and appropriation.

RELATED:Cannupa Hanska Luger Killed His Art to Prove a Point. Now He's Making a Film About It

Finally, if that’s not enough, acclaimed Native artist Kevin Red Star, will talk about and sign his new book,Kevin Red Star: Crow Indian Artist, at several venues, including Collected Works Bookstore (with author Dan Gibson and photographer Kitty Leaken) on August 20, with IFAM in the Railyard on August 21 in a Live Paint event with artist George Alexander, then at Windsor Betts Fine Arts Brokerage, on August 22. Kevin Red Star is among the last of the old school painters from IAIA, going on to the San Francisco Art Institute but is recognized as a visual historian of his Crow Nation.

Because of all this activity, The Santa Fe Independent Film Festival has moved to October (15th-19th) for the last 5 years; it's one of the fastest growing film festivals in the country today.

Alex Jacobs
Santa Fe NM
August 12, 2014