September 13, 2006

NativeVue debuts

New Webzine Keeps it Live, Informative and EntertainingMost people, when asked what they know about Native American films will tell you Dances With Wolves or maybe a TNT western. Even those familiar with Native cinema have difficulty accessing information on movies, actors and directors, as well as finding out where they can actually see their favorite films.

Premiered this month, NativeVue Film & Media (www.nativevue.org) is a new online magazine dedicated to cultivating an interest in Native American cinema by featuring North America’s most innovative indigenous filmmakers and performers. The webzine includes feature articles, bloggers from the publishing, radio, and film industries, and a discussion forum—all with the purpose to communicate what’s out there, who’s doing it, and why it’s important.

17 comments:

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
From personal experience as a film writer who is Native, I have had my own encounters with 'Native cinema' and while I have not run into very much of it, some matters have has been downright discouraging.
The bright spots are that Chris Eyre for a time was one of my scriptwriting students through the Wordcraft Circle, Skye English and other new filmmakers are using all the resources and contacts that I have to offer as they begin their own film adventures, and Charles 'Boots' Kennedye (Crazy Kiowa Prods.) plans to make a film of my classic Native science fiction story, 'Rite Of Encounter.'
The dark spots are that many of the films that I have seen mostly are insular, uninvolving, and even incomprehensible. I have attended a few film festivals for Native American Public Broadcasting in Omaha when none of their personnel was free to attend. What I saw was far more pedestrian than pathfinding. The few films that communicated as films achieved their intentions admirably and I gave them good marks. Some, like "video verite" from a camera set up to capture a powwow, period, that could not rise above the 'home movie' level got a lot less.
Then I encountered an ersatz group calling itself 'The Native American Producers Guild.' At first, I was excited after hearing their spiel of purposes and goals. Once a member, however, their true intentions went far beyond what they had stated. First, membership was reserved only for those who already had made a film or had intentions to make a film, THEMSELVES. I asked how it was then that I was asked to join. The female leader said, "Oh, we're sure you eventually will make a film YOURSELF."
Sorry, Ma'am, but I am a writer and that's all I want to be.
She added (this was during one of their 'regular' meetings held at a Native film festival in Minneapolis) that writers would be tolerated but only as "junior" members. Then they began to discuss how they planned to institute lawsuits under the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, once the new Religious Freedom Restoration Act had removed any and all prior limitations, that would seek to establish the legal precedent that a given Native American tribe's culture was the exclusive intellectual property of that tribe. Thus, anyone not receiving permission to use or even mention such culture in publications or films and then paying for same, was in violation of Federal laws. I then asked if they honestly were serious about such a matter, and they said they were. I said I had written about the Taos Pueblo people in my story, "Fifth And Last Horseman," and so would I have been liable if their supposed 'precedents' had been in place? The woman asked, are you Taos? No, I'm Kiowa. Yes, you would be liable, to the full extent of the law!
Whereupon, I resigned right there in their session, told them that their plan was insane, and that writers were absolutely necessary to any film enterprise, unless the filmmakers intended to film nothing more than bison herds and beautiful sunsets. I got my money back, gave them the Chinese curse about 'interesting times,' and hit the doors.
Thereafter, upon hearing that Religious Freedom Restoration Act was being contested for constitutionality before the US Supreme Court, I wrote up my experiences and forwarded them to the group challenging the act. My remarks were presented as a part of the case, and the Justices later overturned the act, ending the possibility that the American Indian Religious Freedom Act could be loosed upon an unsuspecting world of writers, myself included, along with TV and film producers.
Enter the world of 'Native cinema' at your own risks, people. writerfella has been there, and almost been done in by that. It wasn't pretty...
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'

Not a Sioux said...

Very interesting. Does this Act still exist in such a form where it might protect freedom but defanged so it can't be used as a weapon to squelch freedom as you described? And by the way, is there a book available that has your stories collected in it?

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
Three books eventually will make their appearances: THE OWLS SANG AT DAY'S END, FIFTH AND LAST HORSEMAN, and HORSEMAN, STARMAN: The Native American In Science Fiction. OWLS will be a collection of various unrelated stories (such as the title story, and "Rite Of Encounter," and "Two Worlds Unseen," and "Beachhead", the teleplay "How Sharper Than A Serpent's Tooth" done for The Animated STAR TREK, etc.) and will chronicle the matter that I 'invented' Native American science fiction while hospitalized in the USAF back in the 1960s. HORSEMAN will be a loosely-related collection of stories that tells what happens when Native Americans began to try to recover culture and knowledge that became lost through time by war, disease, and attrition. Based on principles in John Storer's THE WEB OF LIFE and principles in Robert Ardrey's AFRICAN GENESIS, the stories follow several Native individuals as they journey toward a monumental 'discovery' that will result in Natives being the only survivors at the end of the world. It even will include a teleplay done for ABC's 1972 TV series, THE SIXTH SENSE, called "I Have Looked Into The Whirlwind."
STARMAN will be an anthology that collects the best of science fiction about Native people, by some of the field's top SF writers and by the top Native writers that I slowly and assiduously have been finding for the book. I might slip in a new story of my own.
Still at work, still in works, but still on the boards. Writerfella is a writer fella and has been for a very long time...
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'

Carole said...

"From personal experience as a film writer who is Native, I have had my own encounters with 'Native cinema' and while I have not run into very much of it, some matters have has been downright discouraging."~~Writerfella

Russ, where I certainly agree that much of what is being produced by fledgling Native filmmakers isn't always quality, at least there's MORE of it being produced nowadays. After all, a lot of ALL cinema sucks, if you really think about it.

What we hope to do at our site is to shine a light on what is out there~~yes, often it will be mediocre, some obviously produced by beginners. But it's truly a marketplace of ideas and creativity, and that's what we're cultivating.

Rob said...

The Supreme Court overturned the American Indian Religious Freedom Act? My initial thought is...mm, I don't think so. The Supreme Court may have ruled against Indians in cases brought under AIRFA, but that's a different matter.

The Hopi have talked about copyrighting or trademarking their intellectual property. When Navajos make kachina-like dolls and pass them off as genuine Hopi products, I tend to sympathize. When I write stories that mention Hopi people, places, and things, my sympathy tends to evaporate.

We can applaud the efforts of everyone to make more Native films while also deploring the continued use of stale, cliched, and stereotypical elements. Perhaps everyone should check with me before undertaking a major Native motion picture. I'll be glad to set them straight about what does and doesn't work.

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
POSTSCRIPTUM: "Rite Of Encounter" can be found in THE REMEMBERED EARTH ed. by Geary Hobson (Univ/New Mexico Press) or AMERICAN INDIAN LITERATURE ed. by Alan Velie (Univ/Okla Press) or NATIVE AMERICAN LITERATURE ed. by Lawana Trout (NTC Contemporary Textbooks) or A NATION'S VOICE ed. by John H. Timmerman (Harcourt Brace).
As far as I know, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act still exists as amended after an Oregon challenge about the use of peyote by others than Natives in their state. I assume the NAPG hoped any and all restrictions would be lifted and that their intentions would find an umbrella to make Native culture theirs and theirs alone to exploit. Nice work, if you can get it, and they didn't. I have heard from some Native filmmakers that the NAPG curses my name to this day. That umbrage and $3.95 might get me a small latte` at Starbuck's or Musso & Frank's on Sunset...
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
CLARIFICATION: what was overturned by the Supreme Court was the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which would have abrogated any and all restrictions passed by law against any institution of religion. It especially was being pushed by fundamentalist Christian groups who wanted Bob Jones University to regain its certification for various Federal student aid programs and such. It failed and deservedly so...
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'

Not a Sioux said...

From the description, I'd probably been in favor of the "Religious Freedom Restoration Act", just because I think institutions/etc should all be treated the same whether or not someone does not like the institution's "religion". That fits in best with the idea of the First Amendment that Congress should act with neutrality in religious matters.

In the same vein, I'd also revoke the tax exemption for churches. If they want tax exempt status, then let them meet a strict requirement as a charity. The standard of charity should be such that "ministries" like PTL, Oral Roberts, etc that are really for-profit scams end up taxed to smithereens.

Not a Sioux said...

By the way, what is the best way to pronounce "Kiowa" ?

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
It rhymes with 'Iowa,' and is an Arapaho word meaning 'the tall ones.' The Kiowa name for ourselves is the Khoy, 'the people' and is directly related to a Mayan word that means the same thing.
Tax exemptions for churches heavily have been reinforced by GW's 'faith-based initiatives,' another Republican assault on Constitutionality issues. Effectively, churches received government recognition as being both charitable and charities.
Hmm, I wonder how much they gave the Scientologists?
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'

Rob said...

"That fits in best with the idea of the First Amendment that Congress should act with neutrality in religious matters."

Unfortunately (for this position), the First Amendment says the government shall not do anything to establish any religion. It does not say it can establish religion as long as it's neutral between religions.

If you disagree, read the text and tell me where it says Congress can do something, anything, to establish religion in any way, shape, or form.

Not a Sioux said...

The related text of the First Amendment is "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof". The hands-off implication is quite strong. Of course it doesn't say it can establish a religion. I'm just arguing that it implies that Congress should not take religion into account at all.

Not a Sioux said...

If Scientology is a religion (created by a science fiction writer right after he proclaimed that making up fake religions was a good way for sci-fi writers to get money), then so is "Star Wars".

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
Watch out, the ghosts of Toshiro Mifune and Akira Kurosawa may come looking for you, as George Lucas freely acknowledges that STAR WARS is based on Kurosawa's films (usually starring Mifune) plus the history and disciplines of the Samurai. Even Han Solo was a Ronin...
Will have to tell my George Lucas story sometime, when writerfella was approached in 1972 at a San Diego sci-fi convention by a 'fan' and was asked to read his handwritten stories about 'Luke Starkiller'...
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'

Not a Sioux said...

"writerfella was approached in 1972 at a San Diego sci-fi convention by a 'fan' and was asked to read his handwritten stories about 'Luke Starkiller'..."

At which point you said: "This is pretty good, but what it REALLY needs is a camel-nosed comic side- kick with snail eyes, very long tongue, huge floppy ears, and quasi-Rastafarian annoying speech". The rest is history.

Rob said...

Yes, the hands-off implication is quite strong, which is why Jefferson spoke of the wall between church and state. In other words, the government can't do anything to establish or prohibit the establishment of religion. This is markedly different from establishing a selection of religions (usually Christianity and Judaism, not Wicca or Santeria) and being "neutral" between them. There's no such thing as neutrality unless you literally allow every single expression of religion on government property.

Our government hasn't done this and will never do it because it would violate the sensibilities of our God-fearing Christian majority. You'll never see government-sponsored Devil worship even if it's just as rational as God worship. Therefore, no religion is the correct solution--the solution that preserves everyone's rights equally.

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
Um, er, uh, wrong history. Jar Jar Binks was Qui-Gon Jinn's sidekick. Han Solo's sidekick was Chewbacca.
And the 18 stories were fairly well done, though I could see they more were outlines than full stories. The only advice I gave him was that 'Luke Starkiller' was kind of obvious as the character destroyed something called the Death Star. Change that name to something that the character is, rather than what he does.
Jeez, I just thought, I may be the only one who knows what happens after STAR WARS: RETURN OF THE JEDI! There were 12 other stories, you know.
And I didn't catch that, what religion did Rob say? Mongo Santa Maria?
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'