INDIgenesis is a new Native Film Series presented by the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, that screened on subsequent weekends this March. It builds upon the legacy of the Two Rivers Native Film and Video Festival and was created in part by Missy Whiteman (Northern Arapaho/Kickapoo), a writer, filmmaker, and digital media consultant whose films incorporate indigenous teachings and values as a means of revitalization and preservation. Whiteman, winner of a Sundance Institute Native Lab residency and a Mentor Fellowship, is based in Minneapolis with her company, Independent Indigenous Film and Media.
Missy Whiteman understands her work to be a voice for her ancestors to foster deeper understanding and to cultivate positive change. While based in part on traditional cultural ways and ideas, her work also addresses themes of loss in relation to larger cultural forces and the rebirth process of healing and redefinition of cultural identity. Her films incorporate, Indigenous languages, teachings and values.
Her father, Ernie Whiteman (Northern Arapaho), is an artist in Minneapolis and taught her how to envision the world and channel her emotions through the eyes of an artist. Ernie worked with the Native Artists Circle and the Walker Art Center and Missy’s upbringing in Minneapolis, Minnesota gave her the opportunity to learn and grow in her artistic abilities because of her relationships with other Native artists and filmmakers of various social and ethnic backgrounds. She says that this new film program, INDIgenesis at the Walker Art Center, is the daughter of the Two Rivers Native Film and Video Festival, (one of the earliest native film festivals in the country) and she also feels like a daughter in that way because of her family’s relationship with the Walker Art Center.
Whiteman told Indian Country Media Network of her greatest concerns and issues regarding her work and INDIgenesis .
“Who tells our stories, and how do they tell our stories? We have all these Native images in the media today, but many are still stereotypical. How do we relate to that and how do we change it. More importantly, what is it like to be a Native Person today? We have a unique way of looking at the world.”
The Sundance Native Lab Fellowship and Jerome Fellowship helped to fund her short film project “The Coyote Way: Going Back Home” which is in post-production and was screened at INDIgenesis on March 16. Whiteman is still working on the film’s music and audio sound-track. She is planning on a wider release in May 2017.
Like many Native artists at INDIgenesis, she says, “Art saved my life” and that art is above all a way to heal individuals and communities. She explains the premise of “The Coyote Way:Going Back Home” by saying, “It is a sci-fi docu-drama that tells its story by time travel, DNA memory and Native American sign language. Its an experimental narrative. Native people are well represented in Sci-Fi, in that we are talking about Historical Trauma and that DNA memory imparts both negative and positive experiences. Native people believe that we exist at different levels, as in the spiritual and in what can be called time travel. We are creating our own DNA memory now. It is related to the Seven Generations philosophy.”
The following films were screened at INDIgenesis at The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis during the month of March.
Directed by Norbert A. Myles, has been called “a buried American treasure” by National Public Radio. This classic silent movie (with live musical score) was shot in the summer of 1920 in southwest Oklahoma, the film features more than 300 members of the Comanche and Kiowa tribes. Their personal objects were integrated into the story of two suitors vying for the affections of the Kiowa chief’s daughter.
Directed by Sterlin Harjo,“Mekko infuses street-smart realism with Native American mysticism to create a quietly haunting portrait of fringe dwellers and castoffs.” - Hollywood Reporter
A thrilling redemption quest inflected with shades of the supernatural, Sterlin Harjo’s third feature follows a recent parolee (Ron Rondeaux, a Native American stunt actor) who encounters Bill, a malevolent figure he suspects might be a shapeshifter, played by Zahn McClarnon. Tulsa filmmaker Harjo (Seminole/Muscogee Creek) worked with and included members of the city’s Native homeless community in his film.
Directed by Zacharias Kunuk (“Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner”) and Natar Ungalaaq. “Maliglutit never puts a foot wrong. Kunuk’s filmmaking is consistently impressive.” - Playlist
This reimagining of John Ford’s classic western of the same title, gorgeously set in Nunavut circa 1915, follows an Inuk man who searches for the invaders who destroyed his home and kidnapped his wife. Soundtrack by Tanya Tagaq.
Directed by Missy Whiteman. This sci-fi docu-narrative follows Charlie, who is forced to choose between joining a Native street gang or going on an epic pilgrimage. Featuring an entirely Native American cast, the film was shot in the Minneapolis neighborhoods of Phillips and Little Earth. “The Coyote Way” features Native American Sign Language and there is no verbal dialogue. Both this film and “The Daughter of Dawn” utilize Native American (Plains) Sign Language.
Introduced by directors Zack and Adam Khalil. This experimental documentary explores the Ojibwe story of the Seven Fires Prophecy, which has been interpreted as predicting the arrival of the Europeans in North America and the subsequent destruction they caused. Bold, smart, and unflinching, the film examines the relationship between tradition and modern indigenous identity. From the trailer, “I did not have to remember these things, they remembered themselves all these years.” Co-presented by the Augsburg Native American film series.
The acclaimed and award winning documentary by Heather Rae. “A thought-provoking and graceful portrait of a tenacious peace warrior whose frankness is his greatest weapon.” - Boston Globe
This intimate portrait of poet and American Indian Movement leader John Trudell is the result of 12 years of extensive research and features interviews and archival footage. He passed away in 2015, and the screening pays tribute to his life and influence.
Serving as a grace note to a life of inspiration, activism, and preservation of the human spirit, the music video for The Pines’ “Time Dreams” is the result of a collaboration with John Trudell, Missy Whiteman, and the musicians. The song is the closing track on The Pines’ 2016 album Above The Prairie.
Discussion and Screening - Views from Standing Rock: with filmmakers Heather Rae and Cody Lucich in Person. Filmmakers Heather Rae (“Trudell”, “Frozen River”), and Cody Lucich (Estom Yumeka Maidu) led a discussion on documentary filmmaking, activism, and representation and presented footage from AKICITA, a forthcoming documentary they are collaborating on about the global, indigenous uprising born at Standing Rock in North Dakota.
There is also a Short Films Program: DNA//Memory: Storytelling and Cultural Heritage, introduced by director Lyle Corbine. Using storytelling these short films beautifully express filmmakers’ examinations of ancestry, language, and history. Program includes Shimásáni by Blackhorse Lowe, Anishinabemowin Nagishkodaading by Eve Lauryn-Lafountain, Shinaab by Lyle Mitchell Corbine Jr., Smoke that Travels by Kayla Briët, Four Faces of the Moon by Amanda Strong, and I’ll Remember You as You Were, Not as What You’ll Become, by Sky Hopinka.
“Views from Standing Rock” will be shown on March 25. This is a free screening and tickets are available at the main lobby desk one hour before each program.