February 25, 2010

Easier to do "victim stories"

Film tells success story of native ballerina

By Adrian ChamberlainIn the world of independent documentaries, the fight against stereotyped views of indigenous people continues, says a native American filmmaker from Seattle.

"We're still in a struggle, a battle, really," said Sandy Sunrising Osawa, who shot a documentary on ballerina Maria Tallchief set to screen in Victoria on Monday.

As an indy filmmaker, she says it is easier to get funding for documentaries about the social issues Native Americans grapple with--such as poverty--than films about those who excel in a given field.

As well, U.S. public television and film festivals appear to favour social-problem documentaries.

"Again and again, the same victim story seems to be selected for prime time ... There's still some work to be done," Osawa said.

The veteran filmmaker--a Makah tribal member--travels to the University of Victoria for a free showing of Maria Tallchief: America's Prima Ballerina (2007). Osawa will give a talk about her documentary, which chronicles the journey of a native American who, in the 1940s and '50s, became a globally celebrated ballerina.
Comment:  I haven't seen the Tallchief documentary, so I don't know if it's any good. But I agree there are too many Native "victim stories" in documentaries and dramatic films. Not to mention other forms of fiction.

Unless you have a unique or innovative story to tell, give your money to someone else. We need less tragedy and more comedy, romance, and adventure.

For more on the subject, see Sherman Alexie on Stereotypes and Hollywood Loves Dying Indians.

Below:  "Documentary maker Sandra Sunrising Osawa made a film about aboriginal ballerina Maria Tallchief. In this photo, Tallchief dances in Orpheus."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow! She is beautiful.

Anyway, I wholeheartly agree with Rob and this article.