2016 Native FilmFest

Now in its fifteenth season, Native FilmFest presented by Agua Caliente Cultural Museum is one of the most highly regarded festivals of its kind ̶ showcasing the best in films by, about, and starring Native Americans and other Indigenous peoples. Guest Programmer Elizabeth Weatherford is Director of the Film and Video Center at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.

In celebration of the 25th Anniversary of Agua Caliente Cultural Museum founded in 1991, and with the approval of the Board of Directors, admission to the 2016 Native FilmFest will be free of charge to the general public -- a special thank you for support the community has given the Museum over the past quarter century. The cost of providing the complimentary tickets this year has been underwritten by two members of the Board of Directors who requested that their sponsorship gifts be used for this purpose.

The free tickets are required for admission to each screening through Saturday, March 5 at Camelot Theatres Box Office at 2300 East Baristo Road, Palm Springs, CA 92262 (760.325.6565). Seating is limited. Ticket availability is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Seating for the Sunday screening at the Annenberg Theater of Palm Springs Art Museum is reserved seating only. Tickets for this screening are available at the Annenberg Theater Box Office (760.325.4490) at 101 North Museum Drive in downtown Palm Springs. Seating is limited. Ticket availability is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Ticket holders are invited to enjoy tasty moderately priced meals and light refreshments for purchase at the Camelot Internationale Cafe in the upstairs lounge of Camelot Theatres on Wednesday through Saturday.

Festival Schedule

TUESDAY, March 1
Camelot Theatres
7:00 PM

Views on Native Film
- A Panel Discussion

Opening the festival on Tuesday evening is Views on Native Film - a free-ranging discussion with Sterlin Harjo (Muscogee Creek and Seminole), the director of Mekko – the featured festival screening on Wednesday evening. Joining him will be Steven Paul Judd (Kiowa and Choctaw) whose two shorts, Round Dance and Ronnie BoDean, lead off the Thursday afternoon International Short Films screening. Guest Programmer Elizabeth Weatherford, Founder and Director of the Film and Video Center at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, will facilitate the discussion. Sterlin Harjo and Steven Paul Judd are part of 1491s, a sketch comedy group; excerpts of their work will be screened in this session. 

Camelot Theatres
8:00 PM

Presentation of the Richard M. Milanovich Award
 for Distinguished Contributions to Indigenous Film

The late Chairman of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, Richard M. Milanovich, loved film and took special effort to attend Native FilmFest each year. In 2013, the Museum established the Richard M. Milanovich Award for Distinguished Contributions to Indigenous Film to honor those who have distinguished themselves by their meritorious work in Indigenous film. The award, this year, will be presented to acclaimed actor and director Sterlin Harjo (Muscogee Creek and Seminole).

Mekko – United States, Dramatic Feature, 2015, 90 minutes (Adult Content)

Mekko is the story of a Native man (Rod Rondreaux) who is recently released from prison and ends up living on the streets in the rough homeless community of Tulsa. Here he encounters friendship, but also something dangerous and dark. Tragedy is inevitable, but in this telling, the outcome is shaped by traditional Native understandings of how evil may become embodied and what is then required to root it out.

Director: Sterlin Harjo (Muscogee Creek and Seminole) In Attendance

Camelot Theatres
5:00 PM

International Short Films

Round Dance – United States, Music Video, 2014, 1 minute and 
Ronnie BoDean – United States, Short Drama, 2015, 13 minutes

Two films shaped by the delicious humor of Steven Judd. Round Dance encourages us all to do the right thing. In Ronnie BoDean, an apparent slacker (Wes Studi) reluctantly takes responsibility for his neighbor’s precious kids with results that are by turns alarming and life-affirming.

Director: Steven Paul Judd (Kiowa and Choctaw) In Attendance

Advice to Myself 2: Resistance – United States, Experimental, 2015, 5 minutes

In this video poem, a figure Bear (written and performed by Louise Erdrich) moves through a frozen landscape, offering a message of personal, political, and universal resistance. 

Director and Writer: Heid E. Erdrich (Ojibwe)

2 Spirit Introductory Special 19.99 Canada, Experimental, 2015, 5 minutes

This work is a send-up of selling “Native” ways and a celebration of Native queerness. If you are just coming out as a 2 Spirited person, this spoofy offer for a monthly subscription to “traditional” knowledge may or may not be what you need.

Director: Thirza Cuthand (Plains Cree and Scottish)

Dance to Miss Chief – Canada, Experimental, 2010, 5 minutes and
Casualties of Modernity – Canada, Experimental, 2015, 14 minutes

By popular demand, celebrity artist Miss Chief Eagle Testickle returns to Native FilmFest! In two works, performing artist Kent Monkman overturns layers of outsiders’ fascination with Native people. A sexy video of club music celebrates her on-screen romance with the leading man, Winnetou, a fictitious “Indian” from Karl May’s German Westerns. Casualties of Modernity is a high-camp gem in which Miss Chief Eagle Testickle tours a hospital specializing in the treatment of conditions afflicting modern and contemporary art.  

Director: Kent Monkman (Cree)

Goodnight Irene United States, Short Drama, 2004, 14 minutes

This film features two young men and an elder who encounter each other in an Indian Health Service waiting room in Oklahoma.

Director: Sterlin Harjo (Muscogee Creek and Seminole)

Jáaji Approx. – United States, Experimental, 2015, 8 minutes

Jáaji Approx. focuses on themes of memory, familial relations, and the subtle meanings in Indigenous language. The director pairs audio recordings of his father with footage of landscapes separately traversed by father and son. 

Director: Sky Hopinka (Ho-Chunk) In Attendance

Stoerre Vaerie (Northern Great Mountain) – Sápmi/Sweden, Short Drama, 2015, 15 minutes, in Swedish and Sámi with English subtitles

Seventy-eight-year-old Elle does not like Sámi people, claiming she is completely Swedish. But when she returns reluctantly for her sister’s funeral, she comes to terms with her shame and reaches for the identity buried in her memory.

Director: Amanda Kernell (Sámi)

Camelot Theatres
8:00 PM

What We Do in the Shadows – Aotearoa/Austrailia • New Zealand/Comedy Feature, 2014, 85 minutes

This work is a savvy and hilarious send-up of all vampire movies. Viago (Taika Waititi), Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), and Vladislav (Jemaine Clement) are vampires finding out that modern life has them struggling with the mundane – like paying rent, keeping up with the chore wheel, trying to get into nightclubs, and overcoming flat-mate conflicts.

Directors: Jemaine Clement (Maori), Taika Waititi (Maori)

FRIDAY, March 4
Camelot Theatres
5:00 PM

Tungijuq – Canada, Experimental, 2009, 6 minutes

An immersion into the deep significance of the flow of nature and humans’ relationship to it, this work is a testimony to the eternal reality of hunting for the Inuit. The haunting background music and the role of the hunter’s wife are performed by jazz throat singer Tanya Tagaq. The hunter is played by filmmaker Zacharias Kunuk.

Directors: Feliz Lajeunesse, Paul Raphael

Producer: Igloolik Isuma Productions

SOL – Canada, Feature Documentary, 2014, 76 minutes

While investigating the suicide of Solomon Uyarasuk, the film richly presents the life of this young Inuit man and follows his growth by using footage from a film project he participated in as a child and documentation of his active involvement as a teen with a circus troupe. SOL is an inquiry into the high suicide rate of Inuit people in Nunavut, and how it affects people in these small communities; and, in celebrating a life lost, the film focuses on their resolve to create a better future for their youth.

Directors: Marie-Hélène Cousineau, Susan Avingaq (Inuit)
Producer: Arnait Video Productions, Igloolik

FRIDAY, March 4
Camelot Theatres
8:00 PM

Gone with the River/Lo que lleva el rio – Venezuela, Dramatic Feature, 2015, 104 minutes, in Warao and Spanish with English Subtitles

Beautifully filmed in the Orinoco River delta in northeastern Venezuela, Gone with the River presents Dauna, a Warao woman, and the back story over three decades of her transition from a young woman reared in a traditional way into a national leader. Eager for education, she is befriended by a priest and goes to school. She also plans a life in her community with her future husband, Tarsicio. Perhaps not quite understanding the consequences, she struggles to carve out a modern identity for herself, with some tragic outcome. Through the story of one woman who persists, the film looks thoughtfully at the way many Indigenous women and men have had to confront the interface between cultures life presents them.

Director: Mario Crespo

Camelot Theatres
5:00 PM

Theme: The Way of Aloha

Opening this screening session will be a live performance by the Ka Pa Hula I Mana hula ensemble of Palm Springs.

Hawaiian/Maori/South Pacific Islander Films – United States, Shorts, 58 minutes

Lahaina NoonUnited States, Short, 2014, 15 minutes

Three stories woven together reflect on a traditional Hawaiian belief that when the sun passes directly overhead, an annual event, our shadow goes back into our body and gives us extra spiritual power or mana.

Director: Christopher Kahunahana (Kanaka Maoli/Native Hawaiian)

INC’d – Aotearoa/Australia • New Zealand, Short Drama, 2014, 16 minutes

INC’d is a tale about living within two worlds – the modern day business world and the traditional ways of one’s Maori ancestors. Which will win?

Director: Darren Simmonds
Producer: Rob Mokaraka (Maori)

Coral Western Samoa/Aotearoa/Australia • New Zealand/Italy, Short Drama, 2014, 15 minutes

Trespassing on a forbidden coral lagoon, a young Samoan man makes a shocking discovery. Its consequences will be determined by the struggle between his conscience and his cowardice.

Director: Giacomo Martelli
Producer: Fulmacino Aloalli Alex Wright (Samoan)

Rolling Down Like Pele – United States, Short Drama, 2004, 4 minutes

Mixing animation and live action footage, Rolling Down Like Pele explores the world of traditional hula and chant. Lush oil paintings, water colors and pencil drawings illuminate sections of three Hawaiian dances in unique and surprising ways.

Director: Laura Margulies

Kumu Hina (A Place in the Middle) – United States, Short Documentary, 2014, 25 minutes

Eleven-year-old Ho'onani dreams of leading the hula troupe at her inner-city Honolulu school. The only trouble is that the group is just for boys. But her teacher understands exactly what it is like to be “in the middle.”

Director: Dean Hamer

Writer: Hina Wong-Kalu (Kanaka Maoli/Native Hawaiian)

Camelot Theatres
8:00 PM

The Dead Lands – Aotearoa/Australia • New Zealand, Dramatic Feature, 2014, 107 minutes

Young Hongi (James Rolleston), the son of a great Maori chief, is being trained as a strategist and peace leader. But a rival tribe harbors treacherous intentions. Hongi is accused of violating a tribal tabu, and his warnings are not heeded. Eventually he is thrust into defending his people, venturing into the dangerous and mythical Dead Lands where the fearsome Warrior (Lawrence Makoare) dwells and where he is given guidance by the spirit of his grandmother (Rena Owen) to face the enemy.

Director: Toa Fraser (Fijian and British)

SUNDAY, March 6
Palm Springs Art Museum
Annenberg Theater*
5:00 PM

Coming to Light: Edward S. Curtis and the North American Indians – United States, Feature Documentary, 2000, 85 minutes

We are pleased to partner with our colleagues at Palm Springs Art Museum for this closing film of the 2016 Native FilmFest. After the Q&A with Anne Makepeace, you are invited to view the Curtis exhibition on display at the Palm Springs Art Museum and enjoy a reception in the Museum Atrium.

We are pleased to partner with our colleagues at Palm Springs Art Museum for this closing film of the 2016 Native FilmFest. After a Q&A with Anne Makepeace and Guest Programmer Elizabeth Weatherford, you are invited to see the Curtis exhibition Edward S. Curtis: One Hundred Masterworks on view at Palm Springs Art Museum and enjoy a reception in the museum atrium.

Coming to Light chronicles one of the iconic figures of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the masterful photographer Edward S. Curtis. Obsessed with the desire to document Native American ways of life before they disappeared, Curtis remains a controversial figure ̶ both providing unforgettable images, and being a focal point in the ongoing debate about the impact on Native peoples of the many imaginary portrayals of them.

Director: Anne Makepeace In Attendance

*Tickets for Coming to Light at the Camelot Theatres Box Office and also at the Annenberg Theater Box Office located at 101 North Museum Drive in downtown Palm Springs (open Wednesday – Friday 10:00 am – 4:00 pm and two hours prior to the screening). Seating is limited. Ticket availability is on a first-come, first-served basis.