August 24, 2008

From documentaries to feature films

Tribal elders guide director's visionWhile today's young Native American filmmakers are still interested in making documentaries, many of them make films that are very specific to a certain audience, such as films made in their tribe's language, or they tell stories that are non-Native, Runningwater, a Cheyenne and Mescalero Apache, said.

This change from Hamilton's generation of filmmakers, where they are interested in making only Native American-themed stories, is attributable to the younger generation growing up in a different time and wanting to tell stories about issues they can relate to, Runningwater said.

"It goes beyond the Native American label," she said.

Documentaries that tell the stories of their people are something Hamilton fears will be replaced by this trend of young directors producing non-Indian feature films.

For director Georgina Lightning, feature films are the only way for Native Americans to reach a larger audience and showcase their talent in front of and behind the camera.

"(With documentaries) your audience is so small," Lightning, 45, said. "It's a very select group, especially for Native documentaries. If we're ever going to make an impact we have to make feature films."

Lightning, who is Cree, knows all about the limited opportunities Indians have in Hollywood. She moved from Canada to Los Angles in 1990 and started out as an actress. Frustration with the limited roles for Native American actresses led her to co-found Tribal Alliance Productions.

Her aim with the company is to showcase talent in front of and behind the camera. She is making the film festival rounds with her directorial debut, "Older than America," a film about the Indian Boarding School system, starring Adam Beach.

Despite loving documentaries, Hamilton said she is ready to make her fiction-film debut.

The story centers on young superheroes who, instead of having powers like Superman, use their education as their power as they go about the world cleaning up environmental problems.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Movies.

1 comment:

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
Ya mean, there's hope yet for Native filmmakers in that (gasp!) they actually want to evolve into FILMMAKERS, period? A similar (and likely no less controversial) sea change happened among Native artists when many of the younger ones either wanted to adapt more modern artforms (such as nude studies) into Native paintings or (gasp!) even wanted to do ART, period. They were called traitors to their people and accused of wanting to be white. writerfella knows that story well, as barely half of his science fiction short stories over the past forty years were Native-themed, if at all. But then again, writerfella does not allow ANYONE ELSE to determine how he feels about his craft...
All Best
Russ Bates