×

Native American Fest Gives Voice to Tribal Women

California’s American Indian and Indigenous Film Festival will shine a spotlight on Native American women who produce, direct and act in films and television. It will feature a powerful lineup of feature-length efforts, shorts and documentaries, many of which were made by and star Native American and indigenous women.

The sixth edition of CAIIFF runs Nov. 1-3 and coincides with the start of Native American Heritage Month.

“We are the largest Native American and indigenous persons film festival in the United States,” says executive director Joely Proudfit, who also serves as the director of the California Indian Culture and Sovereignty Center. “What started out as a seminar in my classroom at California State University, San Marcos, where I’ve taught for 24 years, has become something very special to a lot of people, and it’s a really big event for all of us.

CAIIFF aims to highlight American Indian storytelling traditions, which help to connect the current community to the future. CAIIFF is coordinated by the California Indian Culture & Sovereignty Center (CICSC) in partnership with many tribal and community and campus sponsors.

The importance of this year’s roster of films highlights the desire to get stories told from the point-of-view of the Native American female, a group that has become largely pushed to the side in terms of filmed entertainment.

“I’m a Native American woman myself, so I see the need to get these films out there for people to experience. Most of these films don’t have national distribution, so we’re looking to elevate women’s voices in the medium,” says Proudfit. “Most people’s interpretation of the Native American experience has been the wrong interpretation. The films we screen at the event look to correct that.”

The festival also offers stop motion-animation labs, and is putting an emphasis on engaging Native American youth within the world of cinema, and will screen a series of short films made by Native American student filmmakers.

This year’s film selections feature the U.S. premiere of Don McKellar’s “Through Black Spruce,” which tells the story of a young Cree woman whose disappearance triggers events in two worlds: in Moosonee, the remote Northern Ontario community she fled to years ago, and Toronto, where she modelled before vanishing.

“I’m greatly anticipating the release of the film,” says lead actress Tanaya Beatty. She “read the script as a teenager and was blown away by the themes, and I completely fell in love with the character of Annie. It’s a passion for me to support indigenous voices on-screen, so working on this project was a tremendous personal experience.”

The film recently had its world debut last month at the Toronto Film Festival, and on Nov. 3 American audiences will be able to see the pic for the first time.

At heart, “Through Black Spruce” puts a First Nations spin on the popular “girl-gone-missing” milieu and ties it into a larger social discussion.

“It’s very rare to read material that examines a more remote culture,” says co-producer/co-star Tina Keeper. The film “really resonates with indigenous women, and I’m so grateful that the festival is highlighting indigenous women in film. Missing women are a sensitive topic in Canada, and the film definitely has something important to say.”

And showcasing a film such as this ties into the overall message that the festival is trying to convey. “We’re looking to bring important and exciting films to the community that have something to say about the world we all inhabit, and this year’s selection speaks to the general quality of the work that was submitted,” says Proudfit.

The festival will also be taking a critical look at something that’s become an incendiary topic within Native American culture and indigenous tribes – the murders and disappearances of so many indigenous women.

“This is a tragic issue that we all face, and on opening night, we’ll be screening four incredible short films, all told through different points-of-view, all revolving around this issue,” says Proudfit. “It’s incredibly important that we get the message out that this is a part of our culture that’s become marginalized, and more people need to be aware of this painful and horrible reality.”

Proudfit is excited for “Kayaking to Klemtu,” which she says, “is a fantastic movie from filmmaker Zoe Hopkins,” while also reserving high praise for the acclaimed documentary “Warrior Women,” which she calls a “truly potent and remarkable character study.”

The festival, which is being held at the Pechanga Resort Casino in Temecula, Calif., also includes various youth activities and Q&A sessions.

“It’s wonderful that this festival is held on tribal land. We eventually moved the event from a smaller campus setting over to the casino, and since we’re only 90 minutes away from Hollywood, it’s the perfect distance for people to see some great films and support some very talented storytellers,” says Proudfit.

More Film

  • Apollo 11

    Film News Roundup: 'Apollo 11' Re-Release Set for Moon Landing Anniversary

    In today’s film news roundup, Neon is re-releasing “Apollo 11”; “Sesame Street” gets moved; “Supersize Me 2” is set for Sept. 13; Will Ropp gets a “Silk Road” deal; and Apple makes a movie deal. RE-LAUNCH Neon will re-release Todd Douglas Miller’s documentary “Apollo 11” in theaters on July 20, the 50th anniversary of the [...]

  • Michael B. JordanAFI Awards Luncheon, Los

    Michael B. Jordan's 'Just Mercy' Moves to Awards Season Slot

    Michael B. Jordan’s upcoming legal drama “Just Mercy” has been shifted forward three weeks from Jan. 17 to Dec. 25 for an Oscar-qualifying theatrical release. “Just Mercy” is based on the case of Walter McMillan, an African-American death-row prisoner who was exonerated in 1993 after being convicted five years earlier for a 1986 murder in [...]

  • Harry Styles to Play Prince Eric

    Harry Styles in Talks to Play Prince Eric in Disney's 'Little Mermaid'

    Harry Styles is going under the sea. The former One Direction frontman is in early negotiations to play Prince Eric in Disney’s live-action adaptation of “The Little Mermaid.” Halle Bailey will portray the Ariel, a mermaid princess who dreams of being a human, while Melissa McCarthy is playing her evil aunt Ursula. “The Little Mermaid” [...]

  • Stuber Movie

    Disney Left With a Slate of Film Flops After Fox Deal

    Is Disney having buyer’s remorse? The studio would be forgiven if it were having some regrets after absorbing 20th Century Fox, the company that once generated big box office with the likes of “Avatar,” “Life of Pi,” and “Bohemian Rhapsody.” After “Dark Phoenix” bombed earlier this summer, Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista’s action comedy “Stuber” [...]

  • Taika Waititi Returning to Direct 'Thor

    Taika Waititi to Direct Marvel's 'Thor 4'

    Taika Waititi is returning to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The filmmaker will write and direct the sequel to his 2017 blockbuster “Thor: Ragnarok.” Waititi’s take on the fourth “Thor” movie puts Warner Bros.’ long-in-development “Akira” adaptation on hold indefinitely. However, the studio hopes that “Akira” can get resume production with Waititi at the helm once [...]

  • Akira

    'Akira' Production Put on Hold by Warner Bros.

    Warner Bros. has put its long-in-development “Akira” adaptation on hold indefinitely, sources tell Variety. Sources indicate that after a brief delay, the studio has pulled the plug on production indefinitely for the classic anime adaptation, which was set to begin later this fall. “Thor: Ragnarok” helmer Taika Waititi was on board to direct, and the [...]

  • Sir Elton John, David Furnish. Sir

    New Elton John AIDS Foundation Gala to be Held in the South of France

    Elton John and David Furnish are launching a new gala for the Elton John AIDS Foundation. The two will host the inaugural A Midsummer Party benefit on July 24 in the south of France at the Johnny Pigozzi’s private estate, Villa Dorane, in Cap d’Antibes. A cocktail reception will be followed by dinner, a live [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content