January 23, 2011

Sundance incubates Native film

Initiative encourages indigenous voices

Native American filmmakers make personal stories

By Kathy A. McDonald
Whereas Native American stories were often told through the prism of anglos in the past, Sundance has helped incubate modern Native American media.

The progress is incredibly satisfying to Sundance founder Redford.

"Our efforts have had a level of success in the form of nurturing and launching the careers of several generations of native filmmakers," he says, "from the early generations of the late Phil Lucas, Chris Eyre and Sherman Alexie, to the newer generations of Sterlin Harjo, Taika Waititi and Andrew Okpeaha MacClean."

According to Runningwater, although no film has yet to match the breakout success of Eyre's "Smoke Signals" (released in 1998 by Miramax, the film earned $6.7 million in the U.S.), Sundance-fostered native projects now travel a lot farther on a global scale. In 2010, the Institute had five films in distribution, including Harjo's "Barking Water" and Waititi's "Boy" (New Zealand's all-time box office champ).
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Preview of On the Ice and 11 Native Films at Sundance.

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