This year the 7th North American Native Film Festival took place in Stuttgart, Germany, and some members of One Spirit Germany decided to visit it. The festival is a good opportunity to strengthen our network by making contacts with other organizations which are also active for Native Americans. At the same time this festival offers a lot of interesting documentaries and movies and the opportunity to exchange ideas and opinions with other people.
We were three persons. After we met on Friday and moved into our room, we headed toward the film festival. When we arrived, the first part of the Standing Rock documentary by Michelle Latimer had already started. The great number of viewers impressed me deeply. We entered the cinema hall and almost all seats were occupied. There were so many people who were interested in this subject and also so many young people!
Since the subject of this year's festival was UP|RISE – Earth and Water, a lot of the documentaries were dedicated to the subject Nature and Protection in connection with the Native Americans, however, not entirely. There were so many good and inspiring documentaries and movies and each one of them was worth to be seen.
What makes the festival special is that there are always attendees, who made documentaries, are part of a documentary or are involved in different ways and so it is possible to talk to them about the documentaries.
This included this year:
„Dancing Salmon Home“, a film about the Northern Californian tribe of the Winnemem Wintu and their attempt to resettle the salmon.
The contact persons were Chief Caleen Audrey Sisk from the Winnemem Wintu, Michael Preston and Will Doolittle.
Chief Caleen Audrey Sisk is a real good and impressive spokeswoman for her tribe, which is federally not recognized, although they are working toward federal recognition.
„Tatanka vs Montana“, a film about the Buffalo Field Campaign, which is supported by Goodshield Aguilar, songwriter and activist, who also attended the festival.
„Angry Inuk“, a film about the disastrous consequences of the ban of the seal hunt and the unsuccessful attempts to talk about it with animal welfare organizations.
The author couldn't be present, but a friend of her, producer Jerri Trasher came to Stuttgart.
„Trapped in a Human Zoo“, based on the diary of the Inuit Abraham Ulrikab, about the fate of a group of Inuit from Labrador. In 1880 they were brought to Europe for anthropological display (like a Human Zoo) and died there. It was possible to talk to the publisher of the diary, Hartmut Lutz.
Rise - Sacred Water, Rise - Red Power: Standing Rock Part I+II
We started with a touching report about Standing Rock. „Rise - Sacred Water: Standing Rock Part I“, and „Rise - Red Power: Standing Rock Part II“. Although there were no new facts shown that I had not known before, it was very touching to see the people’s engagement and emotions. A „Wow“-moment was, when a young Native woman called the Governor for help. The officer at the phone first did not get her point. He said if the police were already there everything was ok. She said no, it is the police that is attacking us. At first he was speechless. - Yes, a good reason to be speechless. And then to rise up!
On Friday evening we saw the wonderful story of „Te Ata“, Mary Frances Thompson (1895 – 1995), who was a Native artist, an actress at first, a storyteller later. It was „real big cinema“, with Graham Greene, Q‘Orianka and Gil Birmingham (the latter and Greene being two of my favorite actors). I wonder why I had not seen it in Germany at a movie. But this film is out on DVD and Blue Ray and can be seen at Amazon prime. This is said from the Festival about the film: „Te Ata overcame many cultural barriers in her more than six decades of her carrier. … She travelled the world and even performed before president Roosevelt and European nobles. In 1987 she was accepted into the Oklahoma and Chickasaw Hall of Fame.
USA 2016, Director: Nathan Frankowski, actors: Q’Orianka, Kilcher, Gil Birmingham, Graham Greene, Brigid Brannagh, a. o., 105 Min, English
On Saturday a short film from the Inuit was very amusing. „Quallunaat - white people are funny“. In Inuit were „exploring“ whites, like me, scientifically. For example one guy had to put his head on a copying machine or the scientists took their measurements. I wondered how they all could act without laughing all the time. To place a mirror against someone's behavior can be a good method to make him reflect his actions.
The Festival explains: The Film makes fun of the exoticization of Inuit in taking a closer look at the strange behavior of the Quallunaat (which is the Inuit word for White folks). Quallunaat greet each other with foreign gestures, suppress their body functions, complain about feeling cold and want to rule the world. Their strange dating manners, mislead excursions to the arctic, exuberant bureaucracy, police and the obsession to possess many things are really funny.
Canada 2006, Director: Mark Sandiford, 52 Min, English
In the early evening they showed „Shiloh“, a great film about a young woman, mother and fighter who is training for the Ringside World Championship 2016. It is very inspiring how she makes her way. She is a great role model and shows lots of determination! I wish her all the best!
Songs my brother taught me
On Saturday night they showed „Songs my brother taught me“, a film about growing up in the reality of Pine Ridge. It is a really special film for every German who is interested to get an insider view into modern NA life. This sensible drama was mostly played by non-professional actors.
Then we saw the movie “The Haumania” from Hawai’i about a very sympathetic leader of a Waikiki Polynesian dance group that rediscovers the sacredness in his culture by his work, a view he had lost many years ago. It was a very beautiful film and great cinema.
Meeting with Corinna Veit
Then I had the honor to be invited to a meeting with Corinna Veit from www.begegnungs-reisen.de, a friend that works for the Native matter in organizing individual trips for people deeply interested in different cultures. Her guests where Chief Caleen Audrey Sisk, spiritual leader and hereditary Tribal Chief of the Winnemem Wintu, her son Michael Preston (Pompahatot Tuiimyali), a Cultural Preservation Officer caring for the Safety of the Culture of the Winnemem Wintu. He is as traditional dancer and makes his regalia himself. Jamie Ward is also a member of the Winnemem Wintu and a traditional dancer. Michael Smith is founder and director of the San Francisco American Indian Film Festival. Milestones and inspiration in his work are Chief Dan George (Little Big Man, one of my favorite films) and Will Sampson (One flew over the Cuckoo’s nest). He met both in the early beginnings of the festival. Michael is a Sioux Native. Goodshield Aguilar, an Oglala-Lakota singer and musician who sang for us. Since he grew up in California, far away from his homeland, it was a challenge to keep in touch with his cultural roots – a task he mastered. He now uses his music to create awareness for the last wild buffalos living in Yellowstone National Park.
In between I had the opportunity to meet and talk to author and human rights activist Michael Koch. I bought his book “Ein Leben für die Freiheit: Leonard Peltier und der indianische Widerstand (A life for freedom: Leonard Peltier and the Native resistance)“. Michael met with many important NA personalities and gained an inside view as far as possible. We discussed if Leonard is an innocent man … . My conclusion is that he was accused and imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. Therefore he is a political prisoner and that is a form of juridical racism.
Music was also part of the festival. So there were concerts with Raye Zaragoza, who is known for her song supporting Standing Rock „Fight for you“, Goodshield Aguilar and Kholan Studi and the visitors had the opportunity to choose the best music video from 15 videos.
After that I had to travel back to Bonn since my work was waiting on Monday. So I missed „Rumble: The Indians who rocked the world“, but I had seen it before on the German/French TV-station „Arte“. Before I did not know how much influence Native musicians and Native music had on Rock Music! A must for everyone being seriously interested in good “classic” (=rock) music and/or Natives.
There is so much you could tell about the weekend. There was such a lot of information, so much to watch, so many talks and it's quite impossible to do justice to the festival. It was of course a little bit exhausting to see one film after another, but it was worth it and we wanted to miss as few films as possible. It was great being surrounded by so many people who are all interested in Native Americans and Inuit, especially so many young people. Probably the incidents at Standing Rock show their impact here. There were indeed so many people interested in the festival that the organizers even had to add more seats.
We went there as private persons, but recognizable as representatives of One Spirit Germany because of our One Spirit buttons. It was not able to set up an information stand because of insufficient space, but a friendly organization (Tokata e.V.) laid out our flyers. This shows how important it is that different organizations work together and support each other.
It was a satisfying weekend and we will certainly attend the next film festival. We are already looking forward to it!
Report by Barbara Kull and Monika Fitzner, One Spirit Germany
Link: Indianer Inuit - Das Nordamerika Filmfestival for further information