Introduction to Native American/indigenous film

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Date: Summer 2010
From: Post Script(Vol. 29, Issue 3)
Publisher: Post Script, Inc.
Document Type: Essay
Length: 5,411 words

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I watched academics, some of them Indians, contort their psyches in ways that would make an acrobat wince, racing to establish a Native aesthetic, often to the exclusion of what they saw with their own eyes.... Only by looking at a large body of work and with the benefit of hindsight can you begin to untangle the myriad themes, patterns, politics, subtext, metaphors and informal elements that run through the films of even a single filmmaker, much less a globe full of them. And even then, half the time the maker will be surprised by your conclusions.... Why jump to conclusions? Let Native Cinema come to term. Why give it a c-section?--Randy Redroad (Cherokee) 2009 (1)

A native filmmaker has ... the accountability built into him. The white man doesn't have that. That's the single big distinction. Accountability as an individual, as a clan, as a tribal, as a family member. That's where we're at as Indian filmmakers. We want to start participating [in] and developing an Indian aesthetic. And there is such a thing as an Indian aesthetic, and it begins in the sacred.--Victor Masayesva, Jr. (Hopi) 1991 (2)

What is Native American or Indigenous cinema? Such a seemingly simple question opens a myriad of answers and possibilities. Embedded into its naming are the politics of Indigeneity; the global scope of Indigenous film; the continuum of reference for what constitutes Indigenous film and Indigenous/Native filmmakers; and the complications of performing the "c-section," as Randy Redroad describes the process of those writing about it (Marubbio). Native American / Indigenous film does not simply fit into or reject First Cinema (North American or Hollywood), Second Cinema (Independent or Art House cinema), Third Cinema (the cinema of the Third World), (3) or Fourth Cinema (cinema of Indigenous peoples); rather it is the referencing, morphing, and reaching across all or focusing on just one of these forms, historical periods and geographical demarcations in a heteroglossic meta dialogue about Indigenous representation. For some, like videographer Victor Masayesva, Jr., Native film is linked to tribal identity, to a particular non-Western ontology and aesthetics, to a sovereign gaze. For others, Native film is defined as being a filmmaker who identifies as Indigenous, but whose work is created for multiple audiences--both Indigenous and non-Indigenous--and which may embrace Hollywood narrative fictional style or a variety of western cinematic modes of expression. In all, however, Native film is about employing and centering Native voices in the act of media self-determination and representation.

The term "Native film" is generally used to refer to the group of filmmakers linked with the United States and Canada. It emerges out of term popular in the 1990s--Native Cinema, which applied to the film work of Native American and First Nations people in the United States and Canada. As Indigenous filmmakers around the world took up the struggle of media sovereignty, the terms Indigenous Cinema and Indigenous Film took center stage. Their meaning encompasses a variety of forms, including but not limited to, documentary, docudramas, narrative shorts, narrative fiction, multimedia, animation, community-focused productions, and government sponsored-productions. Thus, Indigenous film movement, Indigenous film, and Indigenous filmmaker often are used when the focus broadens more globally, or when the politics involved necessitate the usage of the term. (4)

Like the terms that name it, the field of Indigenous film is an expansive global phenomenon in which regional and community aesthetics exist alongside pan-tribal/pan-Indigenous issues, highlighted in the work of groups as distantly located as Canada and Bolivia, Mexico and Australia. The underlying current of North America's Native film and media movement emerged in the 1960s and 1970s during the Civil Rights era: a period marked by heightened Indian activism and the burgeoning of independent film and video as an alternative to Hollywood. (5) Private and government sponsored film projects provided new access to media for Native American and First Nations peoples, fueling a growing movement. (6) A number of pioneering Native filmmakers from this period illustrate the variety of media approaches at work in the 1970s: Alanis Obomsawin (Abenaki), one of Canada's most well-known documentary filmmakers whose socially conscious work with First Nations peoples for the National Film Board of Canada won her the Order of Canada and international recognition; Victor Masayesva, Jr. (Hopi) whose work as a photographer and filmmaker illustrates the power of Native storytelling as a verbal and visual art form; Sandy Osawa (Makah), the first Native filmmaker in the United States to be hired for mainstream television as director/writer/co-producer of "The Native American Series," an NBC sponsored program that ran in 1975; and George Burdeau (Blackfoot) who became the "first Native American member of the Directors Guild of America" and director of the National Center for the Production of Native Images. (7) Their Native-centered work dramatically shifted viewers' perceptions of how Native peoples should be represented, how Native film should look, and what were Native stories, ways of seeing, and ways of telling.

Victor Masayesva, Jr.'s words in the epigraph point toward the driving force behind this North American and global Indigenous film movement: visual sovereignty and self-determination regarding media representation. As in other forms of Indigenous activism, visual sovereignty talks back to the residual legacy of colonialist and neo-colonialist actions toward Indigenous peoples. It is a mechanism through which Indigenous filmmakers and communities reply to histories of oppression, misrepresentation, and silencing by outsiders. Collective Native voices articulate across North America: "Colonialism has not worked! We are not colonized! We are not your exotic other! And we will decide what stories we will share, how we will tell these stories, and to whom we will tell them." With this in mind, Indigenous film exhibits a growing self-determination and product that in many cases evokes the concepts of cinema of sovereignty and visual sovereignty.

Cinema of sovereignty as outlined by Randolph Lewis in Alanis Obomsawin: The Vision of a Native Filmmaker, and based on the thirty-year legacy of her documentary work, includes in part the belief that Indigenous people have the right to access media; to represent themselves and their histories; to expose racism and deception on the part of local, state, and federal governments in their dealings with Native peoples; to challenge public memory; and to refuse the stereotypes of the Indigenous primitive so cherished by First Cinema. (8) Lewis' cinema of sovereignty also envisions the importance of cultural continuity, the embracing and celebrating of Indigenous worldviews and ways of knowing, and the presentation of Native diversity. Ultimately, cinema sovereignty would be complete Indigenous autonomy over every aspect of production no matter what the genre (156-194). Similarly, Michelle Raheja introduces the term visual sovereignty:

   a reading practice for thinking about the
   space between resistance and compliance
   wherein indigenous filmmakers
   and actors revisit, contribute to, borrow
   from, critique, and reconfigure ethnographic
   film conventions, at the same
   time operating within and stretching
   the boundaries created by these
   conventions.... lit is a] strategy [that] offers
   up not only the possibility of engaging
   and deconstructing white-generated
   representations of indigenous people,
   but more broadly and importantly how
   it intervenes in larger discussions of Native
   American sovereignty by locating
   and advocating for indigenous cultural
   and political power both within and
   outside of Western legal jurisprudence
   (1162).... Under visual sovereignty,
   filmmakers can deploy individual and
   community assertions of what sovereignty
   and self-representation mean
   and, through new media technologies,
   frame more imaginative renderings of
   Native American intellectual and cultural
   paradigms (1168).

Both these concepts help frame the essence of Fourth Cinema while recognizing the reality that Indigenous filmmakers in North America are also participants in multiple cultures and media forms, navigating between, across, and within various states of media representation.

This special issue of Post Script celebrates the burgeoning field that is Indigenous film in North America, offering the reader models of both cinema of sovereignty and visual sovereignty at work through Native cinema, examples of key films and filmmakers, and a variety of approaches to studying and writing about Indigenous film. This introduction and the essays that follow offer paths into the myriad of conversations around Indigenous film and interviews with both well-established and emerging filmmakers about their work. There is not a driving methodological structure imposed across these essays; to do so would limit our ability to see the dynamism of Indigenous film as it navigates between popular culture, individual, national, and community realms. Rather, I embrace a multidisciplinary framework that allows greater scope for this expanding area of film, and use the introduction as a space to highlight strategies for explicating the patterns and dynamics of Indigenous media that emerge across the collection.

Common threads do, however, weave loosely through these essays. The first four concentrate on First Nations filmmakers in Canada providing historical context and examples of Fourth Cinema praxis in documentary and video histories at the individual and group level. The focus then shifts to a contrasting example in Mexico that examines state supported media projects with Mayan videomakers and the implications this has on conversations about media sovereignty. Relocating attention to the United States, our last two essays continue the exploration of centering Indigenous history, stories, and contemporary issues through a fusion of documentary and narrative fiction styles. Two interviews, which introduce new and established voices in Native Cinema, bookend the majority of the collection providing the artists voices in a reminder that the scholarship on Indigenous film does not exist without the filmmaker's vision and agency.

The essays begin with Jennifer Machiorlatti's "Indigenous Women in Film and Video: Three Generations of Storytellers and an Interview with Emerging Filmmaker Sally Kewayosh." Machiorlatti provides readers with an overview of the rise of Native Cinema in the 1970s. She points toward the role of state funded media projects in providing training, production funding, and distribution and venues for Indigenous media. Out of this bedrock moment in Indigenous cinema emerged a cadre of Native and First Nation women, the founding matriarchs of Indigenous cinema whose groundbreaking work enabled a second generation of women to move into formal institutional realms of filmmaking, and then a third group whose work is just now being recognized in a variety of film festivals, television, and webcasts venues. Machiorlatti introduces us to key names from each generation and concludes with an interview with Sally Kewayosh, a third generation filmmaker whose first video, Smoke Break (2005), is a "bittersweet, often humorous, exploration of the 'Native' as an object of tourism."

Braided through Machiorlatti's historical overview and interview are a number of trends that are worth highlighting and tracking: 1) the very clear demarcation between Canada and the United States in terms of State support of Indigenous filmmakers, with Canada taking a decisive lead in funding, organizations, and Indigenous television networks; 2) the growing commitment to Native media as an extension of oral storytelling traditions in Indigenous communities; 3) an increasing engagement over generations with media as a more personal narrative form of expression and storytelling; and 4) the importance of Indigenous women in North American Indigenous film.

This last point has substantial implications to women filmmakers globally and particularly in the United States where the industry is still dominated by men. While historically, Native women's voices have been virtually silenced in western history, they have always been powerfully present in Indigenous history and activism. Thus, while the realization that a significant number of First Nations filmmakers are women may not be revolutionary, their influence across colonialist media may be. Certainly we see the impact that Alanis Obomsawin's documentaries have had in shaping the National Film Board of Canada's productions.

Alanis Obomsawin and Loretta Todd, the first Nations filmmakers highlighted in Jennifer L. Gauthier's "Dismantling the Master's House: The Feminist Fourth Cinema Documentaries of Alanis Obomsawin and Loretta Todd," have committed themselves to creating documentaries that "seek to empower First Nations people through the act of giving voice to the voiceless, bearing witness to Canada's acts of racism and challenging official history." The cultural work they do embodies Masayesva, Jr.'s conceptualization of Native media as being accountable to Native peoples, their history, and their stories. As Gauthier elucidates, while their approaches differ---Obomsawin employing more observational and participatory modes of documentary; Todd embracing a postmodern, poetic and reflexive mode--both infuse documentary with an Indigenous aesthetic shaped by accountability and made manifest through visual sovereignty. Gauthier's exploration into their work gives shape to what she calls "their unique feminist Fourth Cinema aesthetic as it responds to the [John] Grierson tradition." Such an aesthetic includes an Indigenous women's gaze--a gaze that disrupts the traditional hierarchies of knowledge residing behind cameras pointed at Indigenous peoples. Their gaze exposes national histories of racism, preferences their Indigenous subjects to speak for themselves, and underscores Indigenous women's experiences through an intimate style that only occurs when cinematic sovereignty is achieved through the language of equals.

Gautheir's close readings of the work of Obomsawin and Todd draw out techniques for Indigenizing documentary and infusing it with a Fourth Cinema essence. In addition to those already mentioned, Fourth Cinema approaches include: the act of listening and using the camera as an attentive witness; the engagement in cross-cultural dialogue that bridges different worldviews, historical realities, and cultural realities; and the weaving of multiple generic conventions (such as the horror film) to evoke mood and visceral reactions to historical and cultural material. (9)

Similar to the ways in which Obomsawin and Todd re-imagine western cinematic traditions, Dana Claxton's multimedia productions takes on the important cultural work of decolonizing Indigenous social memories in order to indigenize them. Carla Taunton describes it as Claxton intertwining "her Indigenous worldviews with contemporary Aboriginal realities to create a visual language that exposes legacies of colonization, critiques settler histories, and asserts previously silenced Indigenous perspectives." Taunton's "Indigenous (Re) memory and Resistance: Video Works by Dana Claxton" explores the ways in which Claxton critically re-frames our readings of history through a juxtaposition of traditional documentary forms, such as archival photographs and films, with strategically placed personal interviews and popular cultural texts such as iconic Western imagery, national and Indigenous monuments, burlesque, and popular music. Such a process enables Claxton to participate in a post-colonial project of destabilizing historical Canadian narratives through the foregrounding of Indigenous voices--both past and present.

Taunton argues that Claxton's videos are part of a process "rooted in sovereignty, self-determination, and survivance." "Survivance" is a term coined by Anishinabe writer and theorist Gerald Vizenor that reflects the concept of Indigenous survival, perseverance, and an ongoing "active presence" that cannot be ignored (15). (10) According to Taunton, Claxton's work is not simply about identity politics or historical trauma; it is about Indigenous survivance and the ongoing process of decolonization, self-determination, and reclaiming of Indigenous stories as historic truths. The intimate and multimedia aspect of her work also reminds us of the permeability of media forms and the meshing of personal / community voice as testimonial in Indigenous film.

Survivance and certainly almost complete autonomous control over the entire media process characterizes the work of Igloolik Isuma Productions, an artists' video and film collective founded in 1990 in response to Canadian television programming. In 1990, the company known globally for its award winning film Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner (2001), founded itself around a particularly sovereign media mission to "produce independent community-based media--films, TV and now Internet--to preserve and enhance Inuit culture and language; to create jobs and economic development in Igloolik and Nunavut; and to tell authentic Inuit stories to Inuit and non-Inuit audiences worldwide." In "Structuring Knowledges: Caching Inuit Architecture through Igloolik Isuma Productions," Erin Morton and Taryn Sirove explore three films that span time and geographical space in order to understand how the collective's mandate informs the films' preservation of architectural knowledge as "Indigenous memory caches for active cultural preservation." The manifestations of survivance and cinema of sovereignty are found in the production and dramatic re-construction that result in the caching and using of cultural knowledge. Their process and products are not simply archiving historical ethnographic information; rather, as Morton and Sirove uncover, they are re-activating and perpetuating traditions through the act of re-learning, re-living, performing, filming, and screening. The collaborative process of creating the films also provides social interaction that transfers across generations such important cultural knowledge as roles within a tribal community, the building of cultural architecture, language, traditional hunting and survival skills, adaptation, and collective decision making processes.

With its mission to "preserve and enhance" cultural knowledge, to tell Inuit stories locally and globally, and to provide training and jobs for the community, Igloolik Isuma Productions may offer the most powerful example of cinema of sovereignty in the United States and Canada. Perhaps more common, and certainly indicative of early Indigenous community film initiatives in North America, are government sponsored programs: the National Film Board of Canada's Challenge for Change program, the National Public Television collaboration with Native media makers-the Native American Public Broadcasting Consortium--in the United States, and Mexico's Centro de Video Indigena (Center for Indigenous Video). Today more independent programs, some emerging out of government initiatives and others from artistic and grass-roots collaborative visions, exist throughout North America as training programs, regional based activist media organizations--the Chiapas Media Project in Mexico for example, and programs such as documentary filmmaker Manon Barbeau's Wapikoni mobile media project in Quebec, Canada.

Catherine Laurent Sedillot's anthropological study "Why Make Movies?: Some Atikamekw Answers" focuses on the Wapikoni mobile media project with participants from the Atikamekw Manawan Reserve in Canada. Basing her theoretical model on the media anthropology of Faye Ginsburg and Terence Turner, and through the lens of Raheja's visual sovereignty, Sedillot offers an analysis of how a community perceives and engages media production. Through interviews and participation in community dialogue, Sedillot ascertains that different perspectives on use and approach exist within the community. For some it offers mediating potential to improve relations within the community and across generations, to preserve cultural memory, and to stop cultural appropriation. For others, particularly the youth, media is a lens through which to express themselves to each other and outsiders about their relationships to Manawan, the problems they face, and the life they see themselves leading as contemporary Native peoples. Nevertheless, the resulting projects are strongly self-deterministic; they resist the idea of Indigenous people being victims to colonization, they focus on the strengths of Atikamekw lifestyle and community, and they "bear witness to the persistence of certain values and ideologies in the community."

The Manawan example of cross-cultural media collaboration between non-Indigenous filmmakers and emerging Indigenous filmmakers provides a contrast in terms of purpose, participant ideology, and media product to the work produced by Mayan videomakers participating in the state-implemented indigenous media programs. In 2009, Jose Ramos Rodriguez and Antoni Castells-Talens were invited by the Mexican government's National Indigenist Institute (INI) to conduct a seminar with Mayan video-makers in the Yucatan Peninsula. The seminar was not one designed to train videomakers; rather, it was to ascertain the role of state indigenous video in Mayan cultures and identity. Their article, "The Training of Indigenous Videomakers by the Mexican State: Negotiation, Politics and Media," provides a theoretical explication of the "debates and definitions around indigenous video," analyzes the history of media policies in order to present the complex relationship between the Mexican state and Indigenous peoples, and offers Mayan videomakers' conflicting reflections on what is Indigenous video. Their essay explores ways in which the concept of Indigenous video as promoted by the state was both "reproduced, but also challenged or contested by Maya participants" in terms of "language, topics, genres and format, target audience, community involvement, and sustainability." Their findings, however, indicated that CDI sponsored projects continue to promote a representation of Indigenous people trapped in time, and that many of the Mayan videomakers created videos for outsiders, a conclusion that fit with the neoliberal economic individualism of contemporary politics; thus, sovereignty in media representation is outweighed by assimilationist pressure.

The article points our conversation about Native film towards the politics of Indigeneity and highlights the tensions around what is "Indigenous" media and the role or participation of non-Indigenous agencies and governments in Indigenous film production. Rodriguez and Castells-Tallens' article prompts a number of questions in relation to our ongoing inquiry into what is Native film: To what extents do government sponsored projects promote assimilation and to what extent do they foster self-determination? What are the cross-cultural values that traverse between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities in these collaborations and how do they manifest themselves in film? Is the cross-pollination of ideas and values multidirectional? How do Indigenous filmmakers working within state systems of media negotiate between production structures that reify representations of Indigenous people and those that create visual and cinema of sovereignty?

The ethics engrained in Masayesva, Jr.'s statement, "A native filmmaker has ... the accountability built into him," surfaces as a tension for the Maya filmmakers working within the CDI program. In contrast, the concept of a filmmaker's accountability to Indigenous histories, stories, and cultural issues frames the filmic strategies of a number of filmmakers in the United States whose feature-length works are created for multiple audiences. In "Fact or Fiction? (Genre) Border Crossing in American Indian Film," Lee Schweninger analyzes the ways in which the films Imagining Indians (Victor Masayesva, Jr.), Skins (Chris Eyre), Tkaronto (Shane Belcourt), and Wounded Knee (Stanley Nelson) blend documentary and fiction genres as a heteroglossic strategy for inserting historical information that re-educates viewers, making fluid the boundaries between fiction and documentary in the process. Bakhtin's literary term heteroglossia is reframed by Schweninger to provide a lens through which to understand the visual rhetorical ploys that create levels of discourse in the films. The moments of embedding and genrecrossing generate multiple sites of meaning that subvert mainstream history or "set the record straight," challenge stereotypes, and offer transformative sites for viewers. The process of genre-crossing offers Indigenous filmmakers creative methods for engraining Indigenous texts within First Cinema modes without sacrificing either accountability to Indigenous community or participation in popular cultural cinematic modes.

Within Native Film is a growing body of work dedicated to voicing Two-Spirit and queer Native experience within Indigenous communities and in a larger multicultural context. The term Two-Spirit became popular in the 1990s to indicate people who embody male-female spirit and who hold traditionally respected spiritual roles in their communities because of their Two-Spirit nature. While many Two-Spirit people also self-identify as gay, lesbian, tansgender, or bisexual, one does not determine the other. The effects of colonialism and Christianity on Native America cultures and the syncretism of cultural attitudes and practices between Native and non-Native worldviews have challenged traditional tribal acceptance of Two-Spirit people. There is, however a strong respect for Two-Spirit traditions resurfacing as self-determination and cultural revivals of traditional ways continue. Gabriel Estrada applies a fusion of Two-Spirit and queer Native film criticism in his essay "Two-Spirit Film Criticism: Fancydancing with Imitates Dog, Desjarlais and Alexie" to three films: The Business of Fancydancing (Alexie), Two-Spirits, One Journey (Imitates Dog), and Two-Spirited (Desjarlais). His analysis emphasizes the differences in approaches between the two theoretical strategies, indicates how Two-Spirit film criticism allows us to understand the complexity and spirituality of the tradition, and helps us recognize the difference between Two-Spirit and queer approaches to film narrative. Estrada applies the tenants of cinema of sovereignty and visual sovereignty through Two-spirit and Native queer theory to Native Film. In so doing, he extends the responsibility of accountability to the theorists and scholars as well as to filmmakers.

As we round out this special edition, we move from the analysis of film back to the site where Native film and theory have their roots, the filmmaker. Joanna Hearne's interviews "Remembering Smoke Signals: Interviews with Chris Eyre and Sherman Alexie" offer readers the unique opportunity to listen in on a conversation about the landmark film that opened the door for Native filmmakers working in feature length popular culture genres. Smoke Signals, directed by Eyre and written by Alexie, took on the popular culture stereotypes of Native Americans and the legacy of misrepresentations a la Hollywood in a road buddy adaptation about fathers, friendship, and family. As Joanna Hearne points out in her introduction to the interviews, "It is a film about the power of storytelling to shape our memories and our realities--and also about the importance of Native voices in cinematic storytelling." Hearne's interviews offer Eyre and Alexie the chance to reflect on the process of collaborating on the film, on aspects of film production such as casting, scripting, and editing, on its legacy as a Native film that has popular appeal to Native and non-Native audiences, and on the impact that it has had on Native film and their careers ten years later.

Randy Redroad cautions us that "Only by looking at a large body of work and with the benefit of hindsight can you begin to untangle the myriad themes, patterns, politics, subtext, metaphors and informal elements that run through the films of even a single filmmaker, much less a globe full of them. And even then, half the time the maker will be surprised by your conclusions" (Marubbio). The interviews with Eyre and Alexie begin to illuminate the complexities of a seemingly simple film as a Native film, as a popular cultural text viewed globally, and as a testament to Native visual sovereignty. Put in context with the other films discussed throughout this collection, we begin to understand the scope and depth of Indigenous film: the "myriad themes, patterns, [and] subtexts" involved in Indigenous film. Across their differences in genre, subject matter, and cinematic approach runs the commonality of Native voice and self-determination in Native media.

I invite you to become part of a growing network of people interested and invested in the burgeoning field of Indigenous film. I also wish to thank Post Script for giving me this opportunity to share with you a small sampling of the exciting work that exists on Native film, and the opportunity to allow me to work with such a wonderful group of scholars. I thank also my reader whose thoughts on the essays and knowledge of the field are impressive and humbling. Enjoy!


Aleiss, Angela Maria. "A Race Divided: The Indian Westerns of John Ford." American Indian Culture and Research Journal 18:.3 (1994): 167-186.

-- "From Adversaries to Allies: The American Indian in Hollywood Films, 1930-1950." Dissertation, Columbia University, 1991.

--. "The Indian in Film." In The Native American Almanac: A Portrait of Native America Today, edited by Arlene B. Hirschfelder and Martha Kreipe de Montano. New York: Prentice Hall General Reference, 1993.

--. Making the White Man's Indian: Native Americans and Hollywood Movies. Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc., 2000.

Barclay, Barry. "Celebrating Fourth Cinema." Illusions 35 (Winter 2003): 1-11.

Bataille, Gretchen M. and Charles L. P. Silet, eds. The Pretend Indians: Images of Native Americans in the Movies. Ames: The Iowa State UP, 1980.

Bird, S. Elizabeth, ed. Dressing in Feathers: The Construction of the Indian in American Popular Culture. Boulder, CO and Oxford, England: Westview P, 1996.

--. "Tales of Difference: Representations of American Indian Women in Popular Film and Television." In Mediated Women: Representations in Popular Culture, edited by Marian Meyers. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton P, 1999. 91-109

Friar, Ralph E. and Natasha A. Friar. The Only Good Indian ... The Hollywood Gospel. New York: Drama Book Specialists, 1972.

Kilpatrick, Jacqueline. Celluloid Indians: Native Americans in Film. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1999.

Leuthold, Steven. Indigenous Aesthetics: Native Art, Media, and Identity. Austin: U of Texas P, 1998.

--. "Social Accountability and the Production of Native American Film and Video." Wide Angle. 16.1-2 (August 1994): 41-59.

Lewis, Randolph. Alanis Obomsawin: The Vision of a Native Filmmaker. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 2006.

Marubbio, M. Elise. "Wrestling the Greased Pig: An Interview with Randy Redroad." Interview conducted June-July 2009.

Older Than America. Dir. Georgina Lightning. Perf. Georgina Lightning, Adam Beach, Tantoo Cardinal, Rose Berens, Wes Studi. 2008.

Raheja, Michelle. "Reading Nanook's Smile: Visual Sovereignty, Indigenous Revisions of Ethnography, and Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner)." American Quarterly. 59.4 (December 2007): 1159-1185.

Schiwy, Freya. Indianizing Film: Decolonization, the Andes, & the Question of Technology. New Brunswick, N J, and London: Rutgers UP, 2009.

Singer, Beverly. Wiping the War Paint off the Lens: Native American Film and Video. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2001.

Vizenor, Gerald. Manifest Manners: Post-Indian Warriors of Survivance. Middleton, CT: Wesleyan UP, 1994.

Weatherford, Elizabeth. "Currents: Film and Video in Native America." Native Americans on Film and Video, Volume II. New York: Museum of the American Indian, 1988.


(1) Marubbio, 2009.

(2) In 1991 Victor Masayesva, Jr. along with other Native producers such as Bob Hicks and George Burdeau participated in The Two Rivers Native Film and Video Festival in Minneapolis, MN--a conference for Native American media professionals. This seminal conference provided an opportunity for sharing ideas about Native media and the challenges Native filmmakers and video artists faced in the marketplace. Steven Leuthold has written about this conference in the essay "Social Accountability and the Production of Native American Film and Video," and Masayesva, Jr. is famously paraphrased and re-quoted from that conference; but, I take the quote as Leuthold prints it in Indigenous Aesthetics: Native Art, Media, and Identity (1998): 1.

(3) I refer here to Barry Barclay's definition of Third Cinema as he defines it in "Celebrating Fourth Cinema." Although Barclay does not explicate the term past the idea of cinema of the Third World, I understand it as emerging in the 1960s in connection with the decolonization movements globally and proposing alternatives to commercial and auteristic cinema; cinematic forms that often include social, cultural, and political critique, a commitment to access to media, and new modes of spectatorship.

(4) The writers within this journal use a combination of these terms depending on their training and identity. The reader will also note that some authors choose to capitalize the terms Indigenous and Native, others do not; this tends to indicate political positioning or disciplinary training. I support their choices by not editing these terms, which provide readers with another indication of the complexity that is the study of Native film and media.

(5) For a good collection of works that focus on Hollywood and Native reaction and activism within Hollywood, dating from the silent period through the mid-1970s see, Gretchen M. Bataille and Charles L. P. Silet's The Pretend Indians: Images of Native Americans in the Movies. The work also includes an annotated checklist of articles and books on popular images. Historical researchers will find that it pairs nicely with Friar and Friar's The Only Good Indian, which also includes an extensive appendix on Indian actors, white actors who played Indians, and film titles categorized by term. In addition, Angela Aleiss's Making the White Man's Indian: Native Americans and Hollywood Movies sheds new light on the behind the scenes making of Hollywood films through her use of scripts, publicity materials, and published critiques.

(6) For excellent historical background on Native film and media see Beverly Singer's Wiping the War Paint off the Lens, particularly pages 33-60 for this early period, and Elizabeth Weatherford's "Currents: Film and Video in Native America."

(7) Singer, 49. Beverly Singer's chapter 4, "Native Filmmakers, Programs, and Institutions," provides background on individual programs and an extensive set of short biographies on Native filmmakers, and chapter 5, "On the Road to Smoke Signals," offers a good discussion of early important works by Victor Masayesva, Jr., Sandy Osawa, Randy Redroad, and Beverly Singer in Wiping the War Paint off the Lens. See also Randolph Lewis, Alanis Obomsawin: The Vision of a Native, Kilpatrick's Celluloid Indians, pp. 208-216, on Masayesva, and Steven Leuthold, Indigenous Aesthetics: Native Art, Media, and Identity, for analysis of the filmic work and techniques of Victor Masayesva, Jr., and George Burdeau.

(8) The long history of misrepresentation of Native Americans in mainstream media and film has been clearly articulated and responded to in the following works: Angela Alleis's "A Race Divided: The Indian Westerns of John Ford," "From Adversaries to Allies: The American Indian in Hollywood Films, 1930-1950," "The Indian in Film," and Making the White Man's Indian: Native Americans and Hollywood Movies; Gretchen M. Bataille and Charles L. P. Silet's The Pretend Indians: Images of Native Americans in the Movies; S. Elizabeth Bird's Dressing in Feathers: The Construction of the Indian in American Popular Culture, and "Tales of Difference: Representations of American Indian Women in Popular Film and Television;" Friar and Friar's The Only Good Indian; Jacqueline Kilpatrick's Celluloid Indians: Native Americans in Film; M. Elise Marubbio's Killing the Indian Maiden: Images of Native American Women in Film; and Beverly Singer's Wiping the War Paint off the Lens.

(9) Freya Schiwy's seminal work, Indianizing Film: Decolonization, the Andes, & the Question of Technology, examines how Indigenous film in South America embraces First Cinema generic forms, such as the horror film, within a narrative that is intrinsically Indigenous as a way to evoke particular visceral and cultural reactions from the audience. A number of North American narrative fiction filmmakers, Georgina Lightning's Older Than America in particular, also utilize aspects of the horror genre to evoke the feeling of fear and trauma that accompanies memories of the boarding school eras by generations of Indigenous people.

(10) Vizenor's work is foundational to an American Indian Studies and includes poetry, prose, screenplays, and memoirs and semiotic / activist theory.

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A247034905