Native American writer-director Tai Leclaire joins IllumiNative's Indigenous House launch

Native American writer-director Taietsarón:sere "Tai" Leclaire (Mohawk/Mi’kmaq) has several reasons to celebrate this year's Sundance Film Festival. For starters, he'll be debuting his film Headdress in the short film program at the independent film festival, which runs through Jan. 29 in Park City, Utah. He'll join a panel organized by Native-led social justice organization IllumiNative for its inaugural Indigenous House gathering space to celebrate Native filmmakers at the festival. "the discussion will explore how filmmakers of color observe and celebrate the joys of existing within their communities and amplify it through their work". In Leclaire's film, the main character (also named Tai) is stunned when he sees a non-Native person wearing a headdress. While the headdress is considered sacred among Native tribes, . it has often been seen on runways and at festivals atop people who can't claim tribal citizenship — considered an egregious form of disrespect toward Native people. Instead of getting angry — at least outwardly — Leclaire injects humor into a subject that is a painful one among Natives. In addition to being a standup comedian, Leclaire served as a writer and actor on sitcom Rutherford Falls. As Leclaire tackles issues of Native identity in Headdress and other projects that are in the works, he says he wants to do so in a way that shows all of its complexities. "The best way to represent Native ingenuity is to just do it authentically. And sometimes the authentic thing is very messy," Leclaire says. "But I think it's in that honesty that we can find the true portrayals of what it is to be a modern Indigenous person. It's in the mess where all the fun is"

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