Indian Times
10:25 pm
Fri February 7, 2014

Native Crossroads Film Festival To Premier Native Made Films

The 2nd Annual Native Crossroads Film Festival is bringing several feature and short films that will explore the theme of this year's festival – links between land and indigenous cultural identities. Assistant Professor Joshua Nelson (Cherokee) said this year’s top three films to be screened are making their Oklahoma premier.

This festival pairs screenings of feature length and short films with roundtable discussions intended to inspire conversations between filmmakers, campus scholars, community and tribal organizations, as well as writers and performers.

“We've got a lot of fantastic films heading to Norman Feb. 27 through March 1,” Nelson said.

Winter In The Blood is a film based on the novel of the same name by James Welch (Blackfeet/Gros Ventre). It made its debut at the L.A. Film Festival last summer.

Its stars Chaske Spencer, from the Twilight movies, as the lead character, Virgil First Voice. Virgil is a young man fighting many demons, including alcoholism and a failed marriage, in order to find who he is and survive. It also stars David Morse, whose credits are too numerous to mention, most recently seen in the HBO series “Treme.”

Chaske Spencer
Chaske Spencer
Credit musicgrl87 / Flickr.com

“We were really excited to pull that one in. The director, Alex Smith, will be in attendance as well as a couple of the actors we hope,” Nelson said. “We anticipate that Richard Ray Whitman for sure will be there. We're pulling for others too.”

Nelson is also enthusiastic about two other films unlikely to hit Oklahoma movie screens, The Lesser Blessed by Richard Van Camp and Satellite Boy, an Aboriginal film from Australia. Writer/director Catriona McKenzie will attend the screening.

“It’s a story about two Aboriginal boys who are undertaking a giant journey to save their homelands and they have to employ some the skills that they learned for navigating the Outback in order to survive,” Nelson said.

This three day event is also bringing some diverse speakers that will address the theme of this year’s festival: Homelands and the links between land and indigenous cultural identities.

“We're looking at exploring some the economic dimensions of land, the spiritual and cultural dimensions, ecological dimensions. We thought there is nobody better to give us an overview of what land means to indigenous peoples than Winona LaDuke,” Nelson said.

LaDuke (Anishinaabe) is an American Indian activist, environmentalist and former vice presidential candidate of the Green Party on a ticket headed by Ralph Nader. She will speak at 4:30 p.m. on Friday Feb. 28.

Also speaking will be one the leading film scholars in Indian country, Dr. Michelle Raheja (Seneca), who currently teaches at the University of California, Riverside.

Besides these films, documentaries with panel discussion are also on the agenda.

“One is by Julianna Brannum (Comanche) called The Creek Runs Red. This came out a couple of years ago but it tells about the town of Piker in northeastern Oklahoma, in Quapaw country,” Nelson said.

“Then we've got some other really exciting new documentaries that you really don't get a chance to see if you're not on the film circuit,” Nelson said.

In a state with thirty-nine federally recognized tribes, it would seem a built-in audience would warrant bringing these kinds of films to Oklahoma theaters.

“I think it must depend in a lot of ways on distribution networks,” Nelson said. “It’s hard for these films to get picked up by distributors and so when they do, whether it’s by Sundance or some of the others, everyone gets really excited.”

But Nelson said it’s just so difficult to persuade distributors that there is a market for indigenous film and so many Native made films go by the wayside.

“Hopefully we'll see that even as American Indian people are starting to work more in production and they're starting to make more films, maybe somebody out there has a good business head about them and will find that yes indeed there is a very large audience for these films,” Nelson said.

Assistant Professor Joshua Nelson
Assistant Professor Joshua Nelson
Credit Karl Schmidt

“These films reach across boundaries, they're not just for native audiences, they're for people who like good movies.”

The second annual Native Crossroads Film Festival takes place from Feb. 27 through March 1. All films will be shown at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History in Norman. Admission is free and the public is invited.

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