July 15, 2007

Non-Natives who teach classes

Indians?  What Indians?You see, this instructor has been given a tacit endorsement as an Indigenous Film Expert by the mere fact that he teaches a college course bearing the title “Indigenous Filmmaking.” The point being that it is never really about the content of films but about the Native power behind the making of films, the Native power in control. The Native power behind the films that chooses the content and the imagery contained. That is the Native first-voice we Native movie makers are trying to promote and protect.

Why not let Native film makers teach the class? Asking Natives to teach the course would mean that he would have to relinquish that expertise about Native films to actual Natives. Something he is not about to do. He enjoys that “expert” label as it marks him an active participant in the Native Experience. Also, it excludes him from the continued cultural decay of Native peoples by the continual overtaking and de-powering of the Native voice, even though his activities contribute to that by continually speaking on behalf of his “Native” film. The course also covers Indigenous peoples from Australia and Africa, but the primary focus has been Native Americans, which shields the course from being exclusively Native American. Yet, it also lends an air of expertise on the indigenous cultures of Africa and Australia as well when there are no Indigenous Australians or Africans helping to teach the course.

posterI was very disappointed at this screening, in particular, with the actions of the Instructor. This exemplified for me the authorship of expertise and reminded me of something Sherman Alexie wrote in his review of Ian’s Frazier’s On the Rez; “…his formal use of ‘the rez’ marks him as an outsider eager to portray himself as an insider, as a writer with a supposedly original story to tell and as a white man who is magically unlike all other whites in his relationship to American Indians.” Is it the knowledge about Native moviemaking which he has providence over, that makes the Instructor and his documentary magically unlike all others as Alexie states?

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