By Brian Hendershot

We’re celebrating the contributions made by indigenous people in film with a three-part movie series. Accurate, onscreen representations of native peoples are few and far between, which makes this series all the more important. We hope you'll join us for a look at this frequently overlooked but critical component of American cinema and culture. The program is being offered in conjunction with the Museum’s Native American exhibitions.

Each movie will be preceded by a short film from the Sundance Institute and an introduction by Maya Austin (Pascua Yaqui/Blackfeet/Chicana), formerly of the Sundance Institute. An audience discussion will follow each screening.Tickets cost $8 for members, $10 for students (limited availability), or $16 for nonmembers. A series pass is available for $20.

Merata: How Mum Decolonized the Screen

Thursday, October 3
6:30 PM

Merata Mita (1942 – 2010) was the first Maori woman to write and direct a feature film. She went on to become one of New Zealand’s best-known filmmakers, with movies like Patu! (1983), Mauri (1988), and Hotere (2001). In Merata: How Mum Decolonized the Screen, filmmaker and son Hepi Mita, explores the barriers she broke and the sacrifices she made to become a voice for indigenous people worldwide. The movie includes interviews with those she influenced, including Taika Waititi, noted filmmaker, actor, and comedian.

The movie will be preceeded by a screening of Fast Horse, an award-winning film that follows Indian Relay horsemen Allison RedCrow and Cody BigTobacco. The little-known sport is called “North America’s original extreme sport” by its fans and features bareback riders who jump from horse to horse. The fast-paced and thrilling documentary follows RedCrow and BigTobacco’s team for a year and concludes at the “the greatest outdoor show on Earth”, the Calgary Stampede.

Click HERE to purchase tickets or a series pass!

Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World

Thursday, November 7
6:30 PM

We’re commemorating Native American Heritage Month with award-winning documentary, Rumble. The movie details Native American contributions to rock music and how indigenous musicians helped shape the soundtrack of American pop culture. The film features interviews with music legends Steven Tyler, Slash, Tony Bennett, Iggy Pop, and more. Most importantly, it examines a missing chapter in the history of American music.

The screening will be preceded by Jaaji Approx., a dreamy contemplation of Sky Hopinka’s relationship with his father. The young filmmaker tells the story through beautiful shots of landscape and recordings of his father speaking in their native Hočak language. The film’s title is near translation for directly addressing a father in the Hočak language.

Click HERE to purchase tickets or a series pass!

Drunktown’s Finest

Thursday, December 5
6:30 PM

The debut feature film of Navajo filmmaker Sydney Freeland, Drunktown’s Finest tells the stories of three young Native Americans who live on a reservation. Each one – a young father, a girl adopted into a white family, and a transgender woman – has their own obstacles to overcome and dreams of life outside the reservation. A transgender woman herself, Freeland tells these stories with nuance and sensitivity. The film offers an honest, unflinching look at life on a reservation and creates a “delicate balancing act between heartbreaking realism and sincere optimism” (The Wrap).

Drunktown’s Finest will be presented in conjunction with Shinaab. The eight-minute film follows a young Anishinaabe man experiencing alienation as he struggles to feel a sense of belonging in his people’s land.

Click HERE to purchase tickets or a series pass!

A scene from Drunktown's Finest. The Wrap called it a “delicate balancing act between heartbreaking realism and sincere optimism”.

About the Curator

Maya Austin (Pascua Yaqui/Blackfeet/Chicana) works as an arts program specialist for the California Arts Council. There, she coordinates the Arts and Public Media program, Organizational Development, Professional Development, and Statewide and Regional Networks programs. She also serves as vice-chair on Vision Maker Media’s board of directors and as a creative consultant for the New Zealand Film Commission and 21st Century Fox-Global Inclusion Initiatives.

Austin has spent most of her career advocating for indigenous groups on a national and international level. She worked for the Sundance Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to the discovery and development of independent artist and audiences for nine years. While there, Austin served as the manager for the institute’s Indigenous Program. She also managed the Sundance Institute’s investment in Native American and Indigenous screenwriters, directors, and producers and helped build a global Indigenous film community.

Prior to that, Austin was as a grants administrator for the U.S. Department of Interior’s Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act Program (NAGPRA). She worked closely with Native American tribes to supply them with resources, grants, and programs. She has also worked for the Southern Ute Cultural Center & Museum in Ignacio, Colorado; the Academy Film Archive in Los Angeles, California; and the University of California, Los Angeles’s Cataloging and Metadata Center.

Image: Jimmy Luis Gomez, AKA Taboo, of the Black Eyed Peas speaking about his heritage in Rumble.

About the Author: Brian Hendershot serves as the Crocker's primary support editor, writer, and occasional audiovisual editor. Before joining the Crocker, he was the Head of Communications at the Museum of the Red River in Oklahoma. He also sat on the McCurtain Country Historical Society's Board of Directors and previously sat on the Crocker's MASS Action Committee. He received his MA in Communications at Drury University in Missouri.