To truly ensure that we preserve our Nation’s history, we celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day on this second Monday of October. One way you can support is through arts and culture engagement, like watching the 45th annual American Indian Film Festival. This year things are virtual! The program runs next month, November 6-14, and features shorts, student films, animated shorts, documentaries and feature films.
Though the festival will be virtual, it is hosting a 3-night drive-in theater event in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Over the course of the entire nine days, AIFF will show 102 films with 55 world premieres. Streaming packages request to “pay what you can,” starting at $10. You can browse through their film catalog here.
AIFF was founded in 1975 in Seattle by Michael Smith, but moved to its now home of San Francisco in 1977. The American Indian Film Institute officially became incorporated in 1979 with Will Sampson (“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “The White Buffalo”) as one of its founding members. Among its many goals, the institute aims to increase authentic representation of Native Americans on screen and in the creative economy workforce.
In 2017, the National Congress of American Indians called on the entertainment industry for its misappropriation of Native identity in film and television. “Hollywood diversity and inclusion efforts have failed to recognize and implement the concerns of Native People,” they said in a resolution. “Native people are concerned with our collective image, identity and acceptance and believe these misrepresentations jeopardize our future.”
The 2019 Hollywood Diversity Report by the University of California, Los Angeles found Native actors held just 0.4 percent of all film roles in 2017.
As we wait for the start of AIFF, we can take a note from Charitie Ropati’s Twitter thread, which you can open by clicking below, about acclaimed films and TV shows that feature Indigenous people. Ropati was a 2019 Champion for Change at the Center for Native American Youth.
In honor of Indigenous Peoples’ Day I wanted to provide a thread of acclaimed shows and films that feature Indigenous peoples! The film industry has such a violent legacy with native peoples, things need to be better. These are some of my favorite shows/films growing up.
— iceagebaby (@charitieropati) October 12, 2020
Spoiler: this list gets a Taika Waititi shoutout.