Indigenous Films to Watch at the Virtual Red Nation Film Festival

Jazz Tangcay
·5 min read

Now in its 25th year, the Red Nation Film Festival looks to shine a light on the voices, stories, contributions and assets of contemporary Native peoples in replacing dangerous stereotypes that Native peoples face in media and academia.

Festival curator Joanelle Romero says, “I have created a 25-year history of cohesive research-informed strategies, ground-breaking initiatives, though cinematic excellence, media and strong focus on partnerships.”

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the festival will be held virtually through the month of November, tying into Native American Heritage Month.

The festival will screen 105 films, 73 documentaries, 35 films directed by women, 12 student films and 10 experimental films.

Romero says, “I love Indigenous independent films, it’s a lens into life stories that we the people don’t usually do not get to experience. Their courage and insight to tell their perspective is of utmost importance in creating systemic change through film.”

She adds, “As a curator of native film for the last 44 years of my career, what I am most proud of is that each year films screened at RNIFF go on to receive accolades from AMPAS, The Spirit Awards, Tribeca Film Festival and the Sundance Film Festival.

Below, Romero has picked out her selection of films and guide to the film festival. Romero explains, “All films selected have a different perspective of everyday life of American Indian and Indigenous peoples. For me, all 105 films speak to me for different reasons from courage to speak the truth, to listening to the spirit world, food sovereignty, women rights, to generational trauma and environmental awareness.”

The films can be viewed at the Red Nation Film Festival website.

Features:

“Monkey Beach” [2020] – Director Loretta Todd (Métis Cree)

In an effort to turn her life around, a young indigenous woman returns to her hometown and discovers how dysfunctional her family has become.

“Parallel Minds” [2020] – Director Benjamin Ross Hayden (Métis)

In the near future, an A.I. called URM is investigated by a detective and researcher for a lab about to release a contact lens with the power to record what the eye can see to recreate memories.

Documentaries:

“Gather” [2020] – Director Sanjay Rawal

“Gather” is an intimate portrait of a growing movement amongst Indigenous Americans to reclaim their spiritual and cultural identities through obtaining sovereignty over their ancestral food system, while battling against the historical trauma brought on by centuries of genocide.

“Revolution Moosehide” [2020] – Director Lesley Johnson

In Dene culture, the newly created earth was made beautiful by a moosehide. Revolution Moosehide follows Melaw Nakehk’o’s journey of cultural revitalization and self-acceptance by learning the practice of moosehide tanning, inspiring a resurgence movement across Denendeh (Northwest Territories) and beyond.

“Uma: A Water Crisis In Bolivia” [2020]

Director Ana Llacer (Spanish) tells the story of three Andean indigenous communities in the highlands of Bolivia who are fighting to protect their water from diversion and contamination amid a national water crisis.

Documentary Shorts:

“Without A Whisper – Konnón: Kwe” [2020] – Director Katsitsionni Fox (member of the Mohawk Community of Akwesasne)

The untold story of the profound influence of Indigenous women on the beginning of the women’s rights movement in the United States.

“Yakonnhéhkwen (It Sustains Her)” [2020]- Director Candace Maracle (Mohawk)

One woman’s journey from the depression that brought her to the brink of suicide, to the realization of her value as an Onkwehonwe woman and artist.

“One Word Sawalmem” [2020] – Director Natasha Deganello Giraudie and Michael “Pom” Preston (member of the Winnemem Wintu)

Finalist of the short film program of the Tribeca Film Institute, One World Sawalmem is born from one question: what is one word from your ancestral language which changed your life and which you can offer to humanity to heal our relationship with the Earth?

“Future Ancestor” [2020]- Director Josue Rivas (Mexica/Otomi)

Indigenous scholar and poet Lyla June challenges the status quo when she decides to run for House of Representatives in New Mexico’s District 47.

“In The Shadow Of The Tugtupite” [2020]Director Inuk Jørgensen (Indigenous) A poetic documentary questioning the rationale behind past and future mining prospects in Greenland and how they are linked to the search for identity of the fledgling nation in a post- colonial world.

Live-Action:

“Iniskim [2020]” – Director Daniel Glick

“Iniskim” is a young girl’s journey from trauma to recovery. By reconnecting with the ancient power of the buffalo, the timeless landscape of her ancestors, and the wisdom of her culture, her life is changed forever.

“Blackwater” [2020] – Director Boise Esquerra (Hopi)

Native American country singer Birdie Blackwater is court-ordered to attend 180 days of wellness therapy after 10 years of reckless alcoholic abuse.

“Little Chief” [2020]- Director Erica Tremblay (Seneca–Cayuga)
The lives of a Native woman and nine-year-old boy intersect over the course of a school day on a reservation in Oklahoma.

**Little Chief is supported by the Sundance Native Lab 2018Program**

Animation:

“Hop Along Hang On” [2020] – Director Cobra Collins (Métis)

“Hop Along Hang On” blends the genres of spoken word poetry, music and animation to explore and acknowledge the deeper history and long-term effects of the removal of culture within Indigenous peoples of Canada.

“Maii” [2020] – Director Bayete Chinwendu

Ma’ii is a folk tale, inspired by Navajo Culture, about how Coyotes first formed packs. It follows the life of a young cub, Ma’ii, as he braves the world on his own, until the day a mysterious spirit greets him.

“The Origin Of The Dreamcatcher” [2020] – Director Cassandra Ambroise-St-Onge (Mani-Utenam) and Donavan Vollant (Mani-Utenam)

Haunted by an evil spirit that keeps him awake, a hunter discovers the secret power of dreamcatchers.

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