For The Generations: Native Story & Performance to Premiere
"You will be surprised by these performers," said OPB’s Sean Hutchinson who produced the documentary. "Though they all weave their tribal heritage in and out of their music and dance, their performances have appeal that extends beyond what might be too easily classified as ‘Native-American' music."
Part performance, part behind-the-scenes footage and interviews, the documentary profiles the personal stories of the artists in their own words--weaving a narrative through the performances that lends grit and personality to the beautiful artistry showcased.
Artist Bill Miller reveals the healing that music has brought to his life as he returns to his alma mater at University of Wisconsin, La Crosse to debut his latest release. "I’ve been through so much trauma in my life, I need to move on too. And I took this music, not knowing where it would go, but now I see the effect. It's a very healing piece of music."
A grant from the Spirit Mountain Community Fund, in part, has made the documentary possible. "As a tribal foundation, it is an honor to partner with Painted Sky and other funders to promote Native American arts and culture. As a terminated tribe, we know the value of honoring our culture to perpetuate our tribal history," said Fund Director Shelley Hanson. Portland’s Regional Arts and Culture Council provided additional funding.
The hour-long documentary has six segments, each 8-10 minutes long. They're just about the right length: long enough to present each set of performers, but not long enough to cause boredom.
The opening montage is especially nice. Thousands of images of Native artists coalesce to form an image of America. Message: Natives are a fundamental part of this country.
The show might've been subtitled "Song and Dance" rather than "Story and Performance," since that's what it is. Performers such as actors, comedians, poets, magicians, and jugglers aren't included.
The show features five well-known Native performers--well-known to Native audiences, that is--and Painted Sky. Not coincidentally, Oregon Public Broadcasting and Painted Sky co-produced it. The Spirit Mountain Community Fund, the charitable arm of an Oregon gaming tribe, paid for it.
This makes one wonder: Did Painted Sky make it into the documentary only because of the Oregon connection? Was the whole thing created just to provide a vehicle for Painted Sky?
Could be, but the Painted Sky segment is one of the most interesting ones. It would be difficult to say it doesn't belong with the other segments. Therefore, no harm, no foul.
Some specific thoughts on the segments:
I don't want to ever dwell on what's happened in the past. To me it's more about how to move forward, break down the stereotypes, and live like this country was based on.
Everyone understands that sex sells. The issue is whether Jana needs to sell herself as a sexy Indian princess--a stereotype--rather than as an attractive young woman. Perhaps this performance was an aberration; let's hope so.
Some tidbits about Greyeyes. He was a dancer until age 25, then became interested in acting. He recently had a role in a Canadian theatrical release, Passchendaele, a World War I epic. He's now a professor of theater in Vancouver, where he teaches ensemble creation and movement for actors.
Smith's dance company is called Kaha:wi, which means "she carries" in Mohawk. "It's also the name of her best-known dance composition, a personal narrative that portrays three generations of Iroquois women and the heavy lifting heredity entail."
The other segments are on Painted Sky, including R&B crooner Jaynez; Martha Redbone and the other Women of the Four Winds; and Robert Mirabal of Taos.
All in all, this is a fine performing arts documentary. Rob's rating: 8.0 of 10.
For more on the value of the performing arts, see Preserving Hopi Through Performing Arts and Ponca Actress Has Entertainment Epiphany.