Cree Films like Charlie Makes a Drum and The Winter Chill raised the profile of both sides of James Bay recently as the 13th Native American Film and Video Festival wrapped up in New York City.
Rezolution Pictures International was well represented with two films, Mohawk Girls and the aforementioned Charlie Makes a Drum. Both films were well-received.
From the west coast of James Bay, renowned First Nations director Paul Rickard brought two of his latest films, The Winter Chill and Aboriginal Architecture to screen as well.
“It’s been very successful,” said Assistant Festival Manager and Kahnawake Mohawk Reaghan Tarbell. “It’s certainly one of the largest. In 2003, they showed 80 to 85 works and had about 120 filmmakers who attended. This year we showcased over 120 works and had over 150 participants come to the festival.”
The festival ran from November 30 to December 3 at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of the American Indian. It also attracted Indigenous Sami from northern Norway, Native Hawaiians and Maori from New Zealand.
A large contingent of South American artists from countries like Guatemala and Bolivia also attended and displayed their films. They shared their songs and participated in panels to teach more people about their plight at home.
“There is a lot of networking that goes on world wide,” said Tarbell. “When you go to the various festivals, you see the same people everywhere. At the same time you get a chance to exchange ideas about works.”
Though the Sami and the Maori were not part of the festival, their exemplary works were still presented there.
Tarbell talked about the importance of the festival and how it has adapted over the years.
“We’re not so much just a festival, we promote Native American film and video throughout the year,” she said. “We have an extensive website as well. There’s so much we do throughout the year that doing a festival of this size is very time consuming and we need a lot of staff resources which we unfortunately do not have.”
The amount of work and the relative short staff is the principal reason behind the festivals’ appearance every two years since 1979 as opposed to annually.
Although Tarbell couldn’t give the attendance figures at press time, she was very pleased with the turnout.
“It’s great to see the amazing talent we have as Native American filmmakers. And it’s only getting better,” she said.
Tarbell is an aspiring filmmaker herself and is currently working on a feature-length documentary as well. Three years into the development stage, Little Caughnawaga: to Brooklyn and Back is set to shoot in the summer of 2007.
The film is a take on the Mohawk ironworkers who lived and worked in Brooklyn many years ago. It will be mainly about her family and their history in the area. Thanks in part to the Mohawk society being matrilineal; the story will be told through the eyes of the women.
The next festival will be in 2008 in New York City. Filmmakers interested in participating can submit their works next fall. For more information go to www.nativenetworks.si.edu/eng/blue/nafvf_06.htm.