April 15, 2007

Too many serious, sad stories

LA WEEKLY feature about Native American FilmmakersSmoke Signals director Eyre agrees. “I don’t think a lot of people see value in telling stories about modern Indians,” he says. “But I don’t see the value in films that show the past. They all end the same way—the Indians die.”

The blame doesn’t fall entirely on the industry, however. Palm Springs Native American Film Festival programmer Thomas Harris, who screened all 360 of this year’s entries, says many Native filmmakers rely too heavily on the tragic realities of reservation life and not enough on substantive storytelling. “Right now, the ratio of documentaries to narratives is about 80/20,” he notes. “Which makes sense, because, with digital technology, documentaries can be made very cheaply. But there just aren’t enough narrative features out there.”

Podemski feels that the desire to inject activism into cinema has hampered the ability of many Native filmmakers to tell compelling stories. “I think our natural instinct is that we have to fight for something or communicate something on a larger level—to change society’s consciousness about Native Americans,” she says. “But I do think there is a need to focus on story and character and the craft of filmmaking, as opposed to a political or social statement that sometimes gets tied up in the narrative.”

Sherman Alexie is more blunt: “If I see one more fishing-rights documentary, I’m going to scream.”

7 comments:

russell said...

Writerfella here --
All of which vindicates writerfella's posts heretofore -- Native-made films about Natives almost all are about 'Rez' life and its enervation, thus making them insular and extremely limited. Are there no other subjects existing for such films or is that all that the filmmakers know? There has to be an answer and it would appear to be that someone somewhere has decided that, like the Jews, the only topic that exists for such films is 'The Holocaust' or its results. It may even be that the filmmakers selected their topics too easily, instead of looking forward to what can or could evolve from such beginnings. Whatever, so far they seem to be stuck with their decisions...
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'

russell said...

Writrfella here --
POSTSCRIPTUM: writerfella does not write such stories, but he long has known (since 1993) that Native filmmakers refuse to embrace his kind of storytelling and so he has opted out of their game. He is not so much right as he is wise...
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'

Rob said...

Yes, well, I've striven to publish Native superhero comics since 1990, so I agree with you on the need to break genre boundaries and tell nontraditional Native stories.

russell said...

Writerfella here -
Rob, if you were here right now in The BatesMotel, writerfella would kiss you! 'Course, that wouldn't mean we'd be taking warm showers together, would it?
SECRET: now writerfella will reveal the source of that statement -- it comes from the film HEARTBREAK RIDGE, when Marine Colonel Clint Eastwood is in jail with ordinary dudes because he got picked up for public drunk. The phrase is his way of dealing with other men whose existences are ruled by no experience with the 'real' world as a combat-experienced man must know. His own sexuality is determined by how much more he knows than anyone else. It is one of writerfella's favorites and so he uses the line for his own purposes. Sorry to have fooled any posters here that it meant much more than that...
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'

Rob said...

Fortunately, there are no kisses in the blogosphere.

russell said...

Writerfella here --
At least as far as has been your experience, right? That should say quite a lot, Rob...
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'

Rob said...

I haven't heard anyone say they've been kissed through the blogosphere. If you have any evidence that it's happened, or that it's possible, please provide it.