WATCH THIS MONTH
Welcome back from our winter break! At the end of this month online festivals begin again, Sundance and, from Finland, Skábmagovat. ADIFF/African Diaspora presents an online series, including a documentary and a feature film featuring the late David Gulpilil. In addition, Indigenous episodic series online have grown, including second seasons in 2022 for series launched in 2021, and a new Australian series coming to the US.
Sundance Film Festival Jan. 20 - 30. Online with packages and single tickets.
At the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, there will be 15 projects by Indigenous artists, from immersive experiences to short films, as announced by acting director of the Sundance Indigenous Program, Adam Piron, in the Sundance Blog.
This is Not a Ceremony Lead Artist: Ahnahktsipiitaa (Colin Van Loon) (Niitsitapi) . An immersive experience in which the buffalo spirit Inii and two Trickster poets serve as the guides.
Every Day in Kaimuki Director: Alika Tengan (Kānaka Maoli). A cynical and charismatic 20-something must decide whether to leave his life in O’ahu, where he skateboards with his friends and hosts a radio show to spotlight emerging talent, for New York City. Section: NEXT.
O’S60 (Udeyonv) (What They’ve Been Taught) Director: Brit Hensel (Cherokee Nation) Reciprocity in the Cherokee world, brought to life through a story told by an elder. Section: Shorts
The Headhunter’s Daughter Director/writer: Don Josephus Raphael Eblahan (Ifugao, Visayan). Leaving her family behind in the Philippines’ central Cordillera,,a young woman goes to try her luck in the city as a country singer.
On the Morning You Wake (to the End of the World) Lead Artist: Dr. Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio (Kānaka Maoli), Mike Brett, Steve Jamison, Arnaud Colinart, Pierre Zandrowicz. Virtual reality documentary series explores the day in 2018 when the people of Hawai’I are alerted to seek immediate shelter against a nuclear ballistic missile headed for the islands. Section: New Frontiers
Long Line of Ladies Directors: Shaandiin Tome (Diné), Rayka Zehtabchi. A girl and her community prepare for her Ihuk, the once dormant coming-of-age ceremony of the Karuk tribe of northern California. Section: Short Film Program 1.
Kicking the Clouds Director Sky Hopinka (Ho-Chunk Nation/Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians). An experimental documentary, Kicking the Clouds is centered on a 50-year-old cassette tape of a Pechanga language lesson between the director’s grandmother and great-grandmother, and contextualized by an interview with his mother in his Pacific Northwest hometown. Section: Documentary Shorts Film Program 1.
Atua Lead Artist: Tanu Gago (Samoan), Jermaine Dean (Māori) An AI experience reimagines the realm of Pacific gods that claims space for gender-diverse identities impacted by colonial first contact. Section: New Frontier
Maidenhood Director/Screenwriter: Xóchitl Enríquez Mendoza (Zapoteca) Catalina submits to the tradition of her people to demonstrate her purity and worth as a woman to her beloved, but her body betrays her and she fails to demonstrate her chastity. Section: Short Film Program 2
From the Collection: Sundance Anniversary Shorts
The 40 “From the Collection” shorts, including the Indigenous ones below, have all screened in Park City previously and will play on the Festival’s online platform through the Explorer Pass, available to all passholders from January 20–30.
Sikumi Director/Screenwriter: Andrew Okpeaha MacLean (Iñupiaq) An Inuit hunter inadvertently becomes a witness to a murder. Fiction. 2008 Sundance Film Festival, Jury Prize
Shimasani Director/Screenwriter: Blackhorse Lowe (Diné) When Mary Jane finds a geography book that shows her an entirely new world, she must decide whether to maintain her traditional Navajo reservation lifestyle with her grandmother or go out into a larger world. Non-Fiction. 2010 Sundance Film Festival
Mobilize Director: Caroline Monnet (Anishinaabe). Guided expertly by those who live on the land and are driven by the pulse of the natural world, this story takes us on an exhilarating journey from the far north to the urban south. Non-Fiction. 2016 Sundance Film Festival
Gesture Down (I Don’t Sing) Director: Cedar Sherbert (Kumeyaay) Screenwriters: Cedar Sherbert, James Welch (Niitsitapi, A’aninin). A graceful and personal adaptation of the poem “Gesture Down to Guatemala” by the late Native American writer James Welch. Non-Fiction. 2006 Sundance Film Festival
Two Cars, One Night Director/Screenwriter: Taika Waititi (Māori). A tale of first love. While waiting for their parents, two boys and a girl meet in the car park of a rural pub. What at first seems to be a relationship based on rivalry soon develops into a close friendship. We learn that love can be found in the most unlikely of places.Fiction. 2004 Sundance Film Festival
January 14 - 17. Online with tickets. Geoblocked to US and US offshore territories.
Included in a six-film reprise of this year’s African Diaspora International Film Festival in New York are three Indigenous films.
Loimata: The Sweetest Tears Director: Anna Marbrook. This redemptive tale of waka builder and captain Lilo Ema Siope’s final years is a chronicle of journeys. Confronting intergenerational trauma head on, the Siope family returns to their homeland of Sāmoa. For Ema’s father, this is the first time back to his birthplace since leaving in 1959. The result is a poignant yet tender story of a family’s unconditional love for each other, and a commitment to becoming whole again.
The Tracker Director: Rolf de Heer. The year is 1922 and the Tracker (David Gulpilil) has the job of pursuing The Fugitive - an aborigine who is suspected of murdering a white woman - as he leads three mounted policemen: The Fanatic, The Follower and also The Veteran across the outback.The Tracker, a mysterious and enigmatic figure whose true character remains unknown, assists them in their quest.
Gulpilil: One Red Blood Director: Darlene Johnson. An hour-long documentary on the life and career of the late Aboriginal actor David Gulpilil (c.1953 - 2021) by an award-winning Aboriginal filmmaker.
Skábmagovat Indigenous Peoples’ Film FestivalInari, Finland (320 km north of the Arctic Circle) January 27 - February 6. Online with tickets or pass. Some programs are geoblocked.
This international Festival, held each year in January, is the main forum for Sámi cinema and an annual meeting place for indigenous peoples. This year’s program and related festival events were to have been in-person with outstanding Sámi and international Indigenous films selected, But at the time of this writing, the festival was moving online to Vimeo because of the pandemic. Consult the website for what programs will now be available and how to access them. The Festival's last day takes place on February 6, Sámi National Day.
2022 Festivals with Indigenous Films - February
FIFO/Festival International du Film documentaire Oceanien February 5 -13. In-person in Tahiti and online
Denver’s Indigenous Film & Arts Festival-monthly programs February 9. Free online.
Mother Tongue Film Festival February 17 - March 4. Free online.
Big Sky Documentary Festival. February 18 - 27. Tickets. In-person in Missoula, Montana and online
ONLINE EPISODIC SERIES
This year saw a breakthrough in the creation of and access to Indigenous online series in the US, upping the amount of episodic offerings that seriously engage with Indigenous talent, and radically altering the landscape. These listed are from Australia, New Zealand, and US and include laugh aloud comedy, lawmen solving mysteries or going up against corruption, alien visitors, and vampire stories,. Three of them both star Indigenous actors (breakthrough: in one the lawman IS Indigenous!) and are created and produced by Indigenous directors, writers, producers.
Others are interesting because at least one of the primary characters is performed by Indigenous acting talent, with some revolving support cast Indigenous as well (BTW these latter are set on Indigenous lands and their surrounding towns, and try to include a more intimate and realistic take on the local Indigenous community and their viewpoints and issues.)
Rutherford Falls Streaming on Peacock with subscription. Season 1 available, Season 2 in production.
The series is a comedy about two lifelong friends, Nathan Rutherford (Ed Helms) and Reagan Wells (Jana Schmieding), whose relationship is tested when a crisis hits their small town. After the mayor decides to move a statue of Nathan's ancestor because car drivers keep crashing into it, Nathan begins a quest to keep the statue in its place, causing Reagan to juggle loyalty to her friend and to her people, the Minishonka Nation. Terry Thomas (Michael Greyeyes), the CEO of the Minishonka’s casino envisions big things for both Reagan and the success of their Nation. The show in all its roles has a strong emphasis on diversity. It was created by Ed Helms, Michael Schur, and Sierra Teller Ornelas and has 5 strong Native writers in the writers room. Trailer
Reservation Dogs Streaming on FX on Hulu. Free with Hulu subscription. Season 1 available. Season 2 in production.
From co-creators and executive producers Sterlin Harjo and Taika Waititi, Reservation Dogs is a half-hour comedy that follows the exploits of four Indigenous teenagers in rural Oklahoma who steal, rob and save in order to get to the exotic, mysterious and faraway land of California. One year ago, Daniel, the fifth member of the Reservation Dogs, died. Struggling to make sense of the loss, the remaining four blame their boring, small town and its ability to crush the spirit. They decide to honor Daniel by adopting his dream of getting to California as their own. The outstanding ensemble includes Devery Jacobs, D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai, Lane Factor, Paulina Alexis, Sarah Podemski, Zahn McClarnon, Lil Mike, FunnyBone .It is a notable first in that it features all Indigenous writers and directors, along with an almost entirely Indigenous North American cast and production team. Trailer
Mystery Road Seasons 1 and 2 free with subscription on Acorn TV and Amazon Prime. Buy/rent on Amazon Prime.
This Australian television neo-Western-crime mystery series first screened on ABC-TV in Australia in June 2018. The series is a spin-off from award-winning director Ivan Sen’s feature films Mystery Road and Goldstone. Brooding Australian Aboriginal detective Jay Swan (Aaron Pederson) is the main character in both the films and the two TV series.
Series 1 was directed by Rachel Perkins, another award-winning Aboriginal director, and Sen serves as a producer. Swan is brought in to solve a murder, with the local police officer (Judy Davis) In Series 2, which launched in 2020, is directed by two other great Aboriginal directors, Warwick Thornton and Wayne Blair (who also plays a recurring role). Swan is brought in to solve a murder in a different location with the “local cop” this time played by Jada Alberta. Both series were shot in northern Western Australia. Series 3, Mystery Road: Origin, a prequel starrings Mark Coles Smith as the young Jay Swan.is currently in production. Trailer.
Firebite Free with subscription to AMC+ (a premium streaming bundle), to AMC+ on Amazon, to YouTube and to Roku Channel. Launched in US in December 2021. Episodes are added weekly.
This highly original new vampire fantasy series was co-created by Warwick Thornton and Brendan Fletcher. It is set in a remote mining town in the middle of the South Australian desert,. The story centers around two Indigenous Australian hunters, a father and his adopted teen-aged daughter, Tyson (Rob Collins) and Shanika (Shantae Barnes-Cowan), on their quest to battle the last colony of vampires. The series began filming in August 2021, and is filmed in the traditional Country of the Antakirinj Matu-Yankunytjatjara people of the Western Desert and Kaurna People of the Adelaide Plains in and around Adelaide, the regional town of Coober Pedy, and at the Adelaide Studios in South Australia.
Firebite’s originality stems primarily from its backdrop and the colonial past that informs it — although the series isn’t a history lesson as much as a celebration of Aboriginal agency, telling an entertaining story of a human battle against literal bloodsucking parasites, in a biting take on manifest destiny. Trailer.
Three other series online have good roles for key Indigenous actors and the locations for two are set on reservations and towns near reservations.
Resident Alien About to begin Season 2 on SyFy cable channel and Season 1 streaming free on SyFy App A comedy series in which an alien crash lands on Earth in Colorado and must pass himself off as small-town human doctor Harry Vanderspeigle (Alan Tudyk). Gary Farmer stars as Dan Twelvetrees, local café owner and adoptive father to one of the central characters.
Longmire. Free with subscription to Netflix. This popular multi-season modern Western crime drama series, that premiered in 2012 on A&E, features a brooding white sheriff in a small Wyoming town located near Northern Cheyenne reservation. The reservation’s ambitious community leader Jacob Nighthorse--is he bad? Is he good?-- is played by A. Martinez, of Indigenous and mixed heritage. Playing Sheriff Longmire’s longtime Cheyenne friend, Henry Standing Bear (Lou Diamond Phillips) and the setting has provided for numerous great Native actors to have recurring and supporting roles, including Zahn McClarnon, Gary Farmer, David Midthunder, Julia Jones, Irene Bedard, Amber Midthunder, Q’orianka Kilcher, Graham Greene, Hank Cheyne, Tantoo Cardinal and others.
The Brokenwood Mysteries Season 1 streaming with subscription to Acorn TV. Buy/rent multiple seasons on Google Play, Amazon, iTunes. A quirky New Zealand mystery follows DJ Mike Shepherd who arrives at the seemingly peaceful town of Brokenwood to discover multiple crimes and secrets. His savvy local Maori friend, Jared Morahu, is played by Pana Hema Tayler, who stars in Seasons 1 - 6. Hema Taylor has starred in a number of excellent Aotearoa films, including The Dead Lands.
Comedy, Producers, Poets, Mapping Native Lands
Native Americans in Comedy
We Had a Little Real Estate Problem: The Unheralded Story of Native Americans in Comedy by Kliph Nesteroff “turns to a subject that even some who work in comedy might know nothing about. Today about a hundred young men and women from many North American tribes are writing TV and sketch comedy and performing stand-up and improv, remuneratively or not. The Navajo comedian Ernie Tsosie says, ‘Now almost every tribe has a comedian.’” From “Part of Why We Survived” by Ian Frazier in The New York Review, January 13, 2022
Netflix and IllumiNative have announced the launch of the IllumiNative Producers Program, a year-long training program for Indigenous producers. The inaugural program begins in April 2022 and will support a cohort of seven early and mid-career producers. The selected fellows will develop current projects and attend monthly workshops and other roundtable discussions. , They will have mentors and get access to network building among their cohort, with other creatives, Netflix executives and other studios. A stipend of $25,000 will also be given to support their work. The partnership is part of Netflix’s Fund for Creative Equity.
Joy Harjo, the first Native American U.S. Poet Laureate, writes poetry that explores her personal experiences, the history of her ancestors, and social change. She is offering a multi-part course in the outstanding MasterClass educational series, teaching “how to find the language to express yourself and approach your art with deeper motivation…(how to) explore rhythm in art, navigate the world of revisions, and unlock your innate creativity to help you express your unique stories.”
A comprehensive online mapping project that identifies Indigenous lands is organized by Native Land Digital, a Canadian not-for-profit organization incorporated in December 2018. Native Land Digital is Indigenous-led, with an Indigenous Executive Director and Board of Directors who oversee and direct the organization. Numerous non-Indigenous people also contribute as members of our Advisory Council. The Board of Directors govern finances, set priorities, and appoint staff members as required. Native-Land.ca was created in 2015 by Victor Temprano, a settler hailing from Okanagan territory. Thanks to Tracy Rector at Nia Tero for this information.
AWARDS FOR CREATIVE PROJECTS
NDN Collective has announced its second annual grants to a cohort of Indigenous artists and storytellers selected for their ability to amplify Indigenous experience and use their art “to highlight a future that is more just and equitable for Indigenous communities, all people, and the planet.” Their projects focus on “community-based cultural expressions that propose solutions to our most challenging societal problems.”
This year’s Radical Imagination grantees are from Canada, Mexico, US and related island nations of Guam and Puerto Rico/Boriken. Each will receive a grant of up to $50,000 to support their community-aligned project. For detailed information about their projects go to the Radical Imagination Awards webpage.
- Nora Naranjo-Morse (Kha’p’o Tewa/Santa Clara Pueblo), contemporary artist
- Will Wilson (Diné), photographer and trans-customary artist
- Frank Waln (Sicangu Lakota), performer, speaker, and writer
- Jackie Fawn (Yurok, Washoe, Surigaonon), graphic illustrator
- Dimi Macheras (Athna Athabascan), comic book illustrator
- Peter Williams (Yup’ik), culture bearer, artist, designer and educator
- Marca Cassity (Osage), musician
- Dakota Alcantara Camacho (Matao/Chamoru), multi-disciplinary artist
- Nivialis Toro-Lopez (Taíno), potter
- Amadeo Cool May (Maya), radio host
2021/2022 Creative Capital Awards
Creative Capital Awards for the creation of innovative new artists’ projects in the performing arts, visual arts, film, technology, literature, and socially engaged and multidisciplinary practices. The projects receive varying amounts, up to $50,000 in direct funding, supplemented by career development and networking services to foster thriving artistic careers. For details about the projects go to the Creative Capital website.
In 2021, 35 projects were selected, the work of 42 individual artists. Two projects with Indigenous makers and another with strong Indigenous content reflecting on human rights were selected.
- Adam Khalil (Ojibway) and Bayley Sweitzer for Nosferasta.
- Sandy Rodriguez for Book 13: After the Conquest – Codex Rodriguez Mondragon
- Anna Tsouhlarakis (Navajo, Creek descent) for Indigenous Absurdities
In 2022, 50 projects were awarded with 59 individual artists. Five projects with Indigenous creators and others (from artists located in the US Protectorates) have Indigenous content and reflect on the impact of colonization were among those selected. Many are multidisciplinary including exhibitions, performances, and workshops, and are collaborations between the artist named and other artists, community organizations, choirs and performance groups,
- Steven Tamayo (Lakota) and the Mní Wičhóni Nakíčižiŋ Wóuŋspe (Defenders of the Water School) 4 Years
- Christopher K. Morgan (Native Hawaiian descent) N(8)tive Enough
- Karthik Pandian with Mike Forcia (Anishnaabe) Lucid Decapitation
- Sarah Rosalina (Huichol) Standard Candle
- Dakota Camacho (Matao-Chamoru) TÁTAOTAO
- Tam Sam Ham Te Moana Meridien
- Madeline Jiménez Santil and Ramón Miranda Beltrán Canibalia
NYU’s Asian Pacific American Institute has announced its Spring 2022 Artist-in Residence. Khaty Xiong, the daughter of Hmong refugees from Laos, is an award-winning poet and artist. On March 1 her piece Grief Garden will open in New York City, where visitors are invited to rest, meditate, and share their reflections on personal and collective loss and grief.
Indigenous Program Fellows whose film projects are being supported in their development.
- Miciana Alise (Tlingit) Mia, Too
- Doane Tulugaq Avery (Iñupiaq) Mama Dragon
- Bryson Chun (Kānaka Maoli) Poi Dogs
- Alexandra Lazarowich (Cree) Sweet Home Reservation
Full Circle Fellows
- Jamie John (Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians)
- Sarah Liese (Diné and an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians)
- Christina Zuni (Isleta Pueblo)
Native Lab - Artist in Residence
- Charine Pilar Gonzales (San Ildefonso Pueblo) Rosa (at Booth #515)
- Tommy Pico (Kumayaay) Sometimes
Sundance 2021 Documentary Production Grant
Untitled Muscogee Nation Documentary (Muscogee Nation, U.S.A.)Director: Rebecca Landsberry-Baker, Joe Peeler
Producer: Conrad Beilharz, Garrett Baker, Tyler Graim
After years of hard-hitting journalism, the Muscogee Nation’s landmark Free Press Act was suddenly repealed in 2018, forcing tribal journalists to publish a newly-censored version of The Mvskoke News. With the historic McGirt v. Oklahoma Supreme Court case looming, a dogged reporter takes up the fight to expose the corruption and bring their free press back.