The University of Idaho’s annual Native American Film Festival is an opportunity for people to listen and watch contemporary stories from contemporary Native people, said Janice Johnson, an English and Native Studies professor at UI who helps plan the festival.
She said throughout the 11 years of the festival, they have tried to make sure the films shown are modern pieces that depict current life for native people.
“A lot of times we have these stereotypes of Indians in our minds,” Johnson said. “That they live in the past; that they live in teepees, but they share all the issues that mainstream society does.”
She said most Native American films are dramatic because they reflect real life. Two of the films that will be screened during the festival, “The Lesser Blessed” and “Winter in the Blood” are adaptations of novels by authors Richard Van Camp and James Welch.
Both of these movies reflect the experiences of young men who are having difficulty dealing with the lives they are living, she said.
Johnson said besides showing contemporary movies — “The Lesser Blessed” is a United States premier — the festival also includes question and answer sessions with various people — from John Trudell, a poet, artist, actor and activist, to directors such as Alex Smith and Ken White, a UI alum who is also a screenwriter.
She said they are really fortunate to have directors come and talk with the audience and listen to the audience’s comments.
Many of these filmmakers are young and up-and-coming in the industry and just want to get their films out there she said.
“They are usually very happy to come out and talk to an audience if they are able to,” Johnson said.
Though the festival is showing two main films, they also have a night of short films Friday, and on Wednesday a documentary about John Trudell created by UI students was screened.
Trudell said that for the documentary he mainly did a series of interviews, and there were a lot of archival aspects to it.
He said he didn’t want to put a lot of input into the documentary, especially because it was being created by people from a different generation.
“I want to see what this generation sees about that time period,” Trudell said.
Trudell is known as an activist, and said that he started as a Nativist working on Native American’s relationship with the American government.
Being a native activist encompasses so much — racism, sexism and environmentalism — he quickly became an activist for all of those things, he said.
He also said the most change he has seen from that time to present day is that the American government is now treating white people like the Indians.
He said that they are taking away jobs, money and there is no health care — in general, a way of life is being taken away.
“There is now equalization,” he said. “But not the equalization anyone wants.”
There is a positive change he has seen as well. He said the world is growing more environmentally conscious.
He said he was looking forward to interacting with everyone, and that this festival is important.
“Anything that encourages art and culture is healthy for a community,” Trudell said.
Johnson said the festival gets better and better every year and the audience grows as well.
“We want everyone to feel welcome to come,” she said. “It is a unique opportunity and experience for UI students.”
A series of short films will show at 7 p.m. Friday and “Winter in the Blood” shows at 7 p.m. Saturday, both at the Kenworthy Performing Arts Center.
Allison Griffith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org