Upcoming NMAI (NYC) screenings November 5 & 7

The NYC National Museum of the American Indian located at 1 Bowling Green will be hosting two events next week. First, they’ll screen the documentary Rebel Music: Native America on Thursday November 5 at 6pm which will include a discussion with journalist Simon-Moya Smith and documentary creator Nusrat Durrani and a musical performance by Frank Waln On Saturday November 7 at 6pm, they’ll screen the feature film Edge of America. Although you may have seen the film already, it will be a special event because director Chris Eyre, actress DeLanna Studi and actor Eddie Spears will be on hand for a discussion. The events are free but seating is on a first-come-first-served basis, so be sure to get there early!

Maoriland Film Festival – Call for Submissions

Submissions by indigenous filmmakers are being accepted for the third Maoriland Film Festival now through December 11th. A $25 late fee will be charged for submissions received December 12, 2015 through January 15, 2016. The Festival will be held March 23 – 27, 2016 in Otaki, New Zealand.

1920 Silent Film “Daughter of Dawn”

During the process of discovery, acquisition, and restoration of Daughter of Dawn, the Oklahoma Historical Society realized it owned one of the tipis from the film.

Daughter of Dawn, a 1920 silent film with an all-Native (Kiowa and Comanche) cast, will be released for home video by Milestone Films in the fall of 2015 with a score by Comanche classical composer David Yeagley. Although there were American Indians cast as leads and actors in early silent film, there are not many existing examples, which makes this film rather unique. This film has also struck a chord because it includes rare footage of ceremonial dances, a buffalo chase/hunt (to make it even more interesting, these were the progeny of an original 15 buffaloes shipped from the Bronx Zoo in New York City!), and it was filmed in Oklahoma rather than, say Monument Valley (the setting for many Westerns). It’s also notable because no costumes were used; the actors brought and wore their own regalia. This is no small detail in Hollywood, where Westerns have been heavily criticized for largely using Plains clothing to depict all types of American Indian nations. Interestingly, some elements of the movie (its love story and and the urgency of hunting for food) are reminiscent of another silent movie from 1930 with a Native cast called The Silent Enemy. Catch a few minutes of Daughter of Dawn below.

Thanks to fellow AILA member Debbie West of Troy University in Montgomery, Alabama for sharing this!

Clip from Daughter of Dawn

Navajo Film Showcase in NYC this Week

The trailer for Drunktown’s Finest, the opening night film at this week’s Diné Spotlight: A Showcase of Navajo Film, looks really good! The showcase is hosted by the National Museum of the American Indian in collaboration with the NYU’s Center for Media, Culture and History, and all films will be shown at the NMAI Auditorium. There will be an opening reception on Thursday at 5pm and several screenings will be followed by discussions with the filmmakers. Admission is free of charge but RSVPs are recommended ( or 212-514-3737). Take the 4/5 to Bowling Green, R to Whitehall or 1 to South Ferry to the NMAI located at One Bowling Green near Battery Park.

MAY SUMAK: Quichwa Film Showcase in NYC

May Sumak / Quichwa Film Showcase: Indigenous Media from the Andes and Beyond is coming to New York City this week (March 26-28, 2015). It’s really great to see that the screenings and discussions will be hosted not only in three boroughs (Manhattan, the Bronx, and Queens), but also by several institutions: the National Museum of the American Indian, New York University, Lehman College of CUNY, and the Queens Museum. Please note that many of the films will be in Kichwa, the Ecuadorean dialect of Quechua, with English subtitles.

American Indian Acting in Hollywood and Online

Tonto Plays Himself

In June of 2013, I spoke about the depiction of American Indians in Hollywood on a panel at the American Library Association conference and more recently, published an article about how these films are still prevalent in academic libraries (Domínguez, Daisy V. “American Indians in Feature Films: Beyond the Big Screen.” Collection Building 33, no. 4 (2014): 121-126.). As a result of this research, I learned that a number of American Indian directors have made documentaries about this topic. The most recent and probably well-known is Reel Injun, directed by Canadian filmmaker Neil Diamond (Cree), Catherine Bainbridge and  Jeremiah Hayes (available for personal home use via and for institutional use via VisionMaker). Less widely known are the 1979 five-part series Images of Indians directed by Phil Lucas (Choctaw) and Robert Hagoplan and Victor Masayesva Jr.’s Imagining Indians (1992).

The Longest Walk Through Hollywood

There are also at least 3 films you can check out online. The most recent are Jacob Floyd’s entertaining Tonto Plays Himself (2010) and the Screen Actors Guild’s short American Indian Actors. Check out Indian Country Today Media Network’s interview of Charlie Hill, the late Oneida comedian featured in Reel Injun which also references The Longest Walk through Hollywood, a short featuring Hill and actress Kateri Walker (Saginaw Chippewa and First Nations Ojibway). In this short, the two celebrities stroll through the Hollywood Walk of Fame pointing out American Indian actors and making some recommendations along the way. All three videos are embedded. Enjoy!

American Indian Actors

Winter in the Blood Coming to NYC June 5

At long last, Winter in the Blood will premiere in New York City on the closing night of the inaugural The Americas Film Festival of New York! Several actors, including Julia Jones, David Morse and Michael Spears, and director Alex Smith will attend the screening, to be held the evening of June 5th at the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) at One Bowling Green. I look forward to sharing my thoughts after. For now, check out the trailer and come on out! NMAI and the Festival’s entire program is free; only an RSVP is requested.

Winter in the Blood (Official Trailer) from Andrew & Alex Smith on Vimeo.

Star Wars in Navajo

If you are in the NYC or Washington D.C. area this week, you may want to check out Star Wars in a whole new light … or sound. The film has been dubbed into Navajo and will be showing at the NMAI in D.C. on Friday, November 1 at 7pm and at the NMAI in NYC on Sunday at 2pm. Also, if you dress as your favorite character at the NYC location, you may win a prize (call the Film and Video Center at 212-514-3737 or e-mail them at to place your reservation). Both screenings are free and open to the public, but those of you heading to the NYC screening should plan around the NYC Marathon that day!


CCNY/CATC Ethnographic Filmmaking Course in Oklahoma – Deadline: 4/30/13!

Yesterday, I attended a full screening of the documentary Spirit Road, the first of an eight-part series called “Becoming Indian in Oklahoma. ” The series will delve into the history and contemporary lives of peoples from the 39 different American Indian nations in Oklahoma. The screening and the accompanying panel discussion was one of the public’s first encounters with a project that has been years in the making, and which took concrete steps forward with the  interdisciplinary collaboration started by City College of New York (CCNY) Prof. Campbell Dalglish of the Media and Communication Arts Program and Prof. Lotti Silber of the Anthropology Department. Last summer, Prof. Dalglish, Prof. Silber, and Mr. Robert Vetter traveled to Oklahoma to begin filmmaking and research and build more formal ties with the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribal College (CATC) in Oklahoma. This summer, CATC students will work in collaboration with CCNY and other students who register for an Ethnographic Filmmaking course to take place June 3-28. There are four tracks, for 3-6 credits or no credits, and involve combinations of study both here in NYC and in Oklahoma. For more details, please contact Prof. Dalglish at and post and/or share widely to spread the word!

In the last two weeks, the City University of New York (CUNY), has hosted several conversations related to indigeneity and filmmaking. In attendance and dialog at yesterday’s screening were honored guest CATC President Henrietta Mann; CCNY President Lisa Staiano-Coico; Humanities Dean Eric D. Weitz; Anthropology Department Chair Prof. Diana Wall; Mr. John Haworth, Director of the NMAI Gustav Heye Center; Prof. Silber; Prof. Dalglish; and Mr. John Vetter, who has collaborated with Prof. Dalglish for some time and whose close relationship and work in Indian Country has opened many doors for the “Being Indian in Oklahoma” and other projects. Last Friday, April 19th, the City College of New York (CCNY) Center for Worker Education hosted “Indigeneity in the Americas: A Transnational Roundtable and Workshop” right across from the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) Gustav Heye Center to begin a formal discussion on creating an Indigenous Studies program at CUNY. Panelists included Prof. Circe Sturm, author of Becoming Indian: The Struggle over cherokee Identity in the Twenty First Century (2011, SAR Press);  Mr. John Haworth; Prof. Marcia Esparza, author of the upcoming Silenced Communities in the Aftermath of War and Genocide in Guatemala; Prof. Erica Wortham, author of the forthcoming book, Indigenous Media in Mexico: Culture, Community and the State; Prof. Campbell Dalglish; and moderated by Prof. Silber. I missed the Monday, April 22nd Decolonizing Methodologies event, but suffice it to say that between all these events; the programming at the NMAI Gustav Heye Center; and the bigger focus on Andean Studies (not to mention “Quechua Nights”) at NYU, it’s been a good month for people interested in indigeneity in the NYC area.

I want to make sure that anyone out there reading meets the April 30th deadline for the Ethnographic Filmmaking class, so I won’t elaborate on the discussions at these events (although I hope to in future). Please share the call for registration. Remember, registration for credit is not required.


Warriors of the Sun

Warriors of the Sun is one of the more unique documentaries I’ve seen, not for its subject matter, which is the Totonac ritual of flying dancers, or voladores – men who climb an extremely high pole and propel themselves around it with ropes as an offering to God and a “service to the community.” Like some pow wow dancing and American Indian sports like lacrosse, many activities that may be interpreted as merely recreational have deeper spiritual significance to indigenous peoples. The voladores ritual is actually treated in a more polemical way in the short film Voladora/Flying Woman by Chloe Campero, which follows the emotional journey of a young woman trying to penetrate this all-male establishment. (I did not notice whether the dates of these two films coincided, but I think so. I would be interested in knowing more about the community’s take on the young woman’s efforts.)

No, Warriors of the Sun was intriguing because it lies somewhere between documentary and home movie – and I don’t mean that in a negative way. It is one of the rare movies where a director, in this case Bruce “Pacho” Lane, clearly inserts himself into the movie and establishes his positionality vis-a-vis the Totonac community being filmed. He has had a long relationship with the community, having filmed a previous documentary on the ritual and along the way, becoming godfather to the son of Don Salvador, who takes on the task of reviving the voladores ritual with four young men. Don Salvador takes on the task, “on the condition” that anthropologist Albert L. Wahrhaftig continue research on the topic and that Lane makes another documentary, this time on the process of revitalizing the ritual. Beyond that, Lane makes obvious his close ties to the community by naming not only the protagonists of the film, but also children of his compadres’ family, for example, or brief exchanges that other documentary filmmakers would not think to include. A pretty straight forward treatment of the subject matter, but in a more personal, and therefore interesting, way.

Another unique quality was the somewhat awkward but much appreciated explanation of the English subtitles. Subtitles in yellow font, we clearly read, are for translations from Spanish, while subtitles in white font are for Totonac. This clarification, along with references to the “Americans” and the roles of Lane and Wahrhaftig, signals the various cultures that are in communication in this film. Language is of course especially important since language loss is a concern for many indigenous communities. But beyond that, Lane’s godson makes frequent references to having previously denied his Totonac heritage and seems to be on a quest to regain it in his own life. Some of the more memorable scenes for me are when Lane’s godson and wife visit archaeological ruins and are asked to comment on their ancestors’ accomplishments. It was one of the few times I’ve seen indigenous people pictured next to their cultural heritage like that. Another memorable scene is when a priest (presumably Totanac) gives a homily from the altar and references the voladores ritual and actually names indigenous gods after which the voladores ritually dance around the alter.

This brings me back to the beginning of the film, which is actually introduced by Ivan, a high school student whose dream leads him to ask Don Salvador to teach him to be a volador. This introduction set the stage for the film in terms of its reason for being, its pace, and also reinforced the importance of dreams in indigenous culture.

Several documentaries made by indigenous filmmakers are filmed for community use and not necessarily for external consumption. Warriors of the Sun straddles the line, being both something for the community but also for English speaking audiences. It was enjoyable,  interesting, and even exciting when the young men and Don Salvador took to the skies. I think this documentary would be useful for anthropology classes discussing positionality; those interested in Totonac culture, including the importance of dreams and spirituality; cultural revitalization; intercultural exchanges and possibly, religious syncretism.