Following Founder and President Robert Redford’s original vision, the Sundance Institute has remained committed to supporting Indigenous artists throughout the Institute’s history. This has established a rich legacy of work and has supported more than 350 filmmakers through labs, grants, mentorships, public programs, and the platform of the Sundance Film Festival. The Institute’s Indigenous Program has a global focus and through its work strengthens Indigenous Cinema. This year, four Indigenous-made films from Canada, New Zealand, Hawai'i, and the United States will premiere at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. The Indigenous Program will also introduce its incoming fellows and announce the 2021 Merata Mita Fellow at this year’s Festival.
SEE THE FILMS
Director/Screenwriter: Alisi Telengut (Mongolian)
Section: Short Animation Spotlight
An exploration of the Indigenous worldview and wisdom based on ancient shamanistic traditions and animistic beliefs in Siberia and Mongolia. With handcrafted animation, a testament of reclaiming animism for environmental ethics and nonhuman materialities.
Director: Ciara Lacy (Native Hawaiian)
Section: Documentary Shorts Program 1
An exploration into the creative process, following Native Hawaiian slam poet Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio, as her art is reinvigorated by her calling to protect sacred sites atop Maunakea, Hawai’i.
Director/Screenwriter: Lyle Mitchell Corbine Jr. (Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians)
Section: U.S. Dramatic Competition Feature
Makwa, a young Anishinaabe boy, has a rough life. He often appears at school with bruises he says he got falling down, but no one believes him. He and his only friend, Ted-O, like to escape by playing in the woods, until the day Makwa shockingly murders a schoolmate. After covering up the crime, the two boys go on to live very different lives. Now, as adult men, they must face the truth of what they have done and what they have become. In his feature debut, writer-director Lyle Mitchell Corbine Jr. (Shinaab and Shinaab, Part II, 2017 and 2019 Sundance Film Festivals) tells a story that spans centuries and the continent in a film destined to be a touchstone in Indigenous cinema. Leading an impressive cast, Michael Greyeyes delivers a gripping, enigmatic performance as a modern Native American man who has done terrible, unforgivable things. With a strong and compelling visual style that evokes both fascination and dread, Wild Indian considers the cost of survival in a world as cruel as our own.
Director: James Ashcroft (Ngā Puhi/Ngāti Kahu/English)
Section: Midnight Feature
Winding down a desolate road through an endless valley, Alan and Jill stop their car to take their teenage boys on a hike through the New Zealand wilderness. As they rest for a picnic at a clearing overlooking the water, two ominous-looking drifters appear out of nowhere, silently surrounding the peaceful clan and radiating a threat of imminent danger. With a swift act of violence, these men take the family by force, a seemingly random decision that sets them all on a maddening collision course with the ghosts of their pasts—from which there is no escape. With its menacing performances and calibrated stakes, director James Ashcroft’s ruthless crime thriller careens into an unhinged road trip that leaves the viewer breathless through every piercing curve. Ashcroft pulls absolutely no punches in his feature debut, an astonishingly lean and relentlessly paced descent into the heart of brutality, building tension from a single speck to an avalanche with uncommon precision. Contains extreme violence and gore.
MEET THE FELLOWS
Meet the current Indigenous Program Fellows whose film projects are being supported in their development.
Amanda Strong (Métis/Michif), Native Filmmaker Lab Fellow
Amanda Strong is a Michif (Métis, Cree, Chippewa, Assiniboine, European and Polish Ancestry) interdisciplinary artist with a focus on filmmaking, stop motion animations and media art. She is currently living and working on unceded Coast Salish territories of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), səl̓ílwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Nations. Strong received a BAA in Interpretative Illustration and a Diploma in Applied Photography from the Sheridan Institute. With a cross-discipline focus, common themes of her work are reclamation of Indigenous stories, lineage, language and culture. Strong is the Owner/Director/Producer of Spotted Fawn Productions Inc. (SFP). Under her direction, SFP utilizes a multi-layered approach and unconventional methods that are centered in collaboration on all aspects of their work. Strong’s work is fiercely process-driven and takes form in various mediums such as: stop-motion, 2D/3D animation, Virtual Reality, gallery/museum installations, published books and community-activated projects. She was selected by renowned filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin to win the Clyde Gilmour Technicolour Award. In 2017 she won the Victor Martyn Lynch-Staunton Mid Career Artists award, the Vancouver Mayor’s Arts Award for Emerging Film and Media Artist in 2016 and, in 2013, Amanda was the recipient of K.M. Hunter Artist Award for Film and Video. Her films have screened across the globe. Fellowship for Indigenous Canadian film artist made possible with support from the Indigenous Screen Office.
Keanu Jones (Navajo), Native Filmmaker Lab Fellow
Keanu Jones is Mexican Clan born for Big Water Clan and is from Grand Falls, Arizona. He is a member of the Navajo Nation. Surrounded by family and the way of living on the Navajo Nation, his artistic identity has been greatly informed by his upbringing. This will continue to be reflected in the narratives he wants to explore. In 2015, he was recognized with 15 other young filmmakers at the Student White House Film Festival. Then in 2018, he was recognized for his short film at the Navajo Film Festival. Keanu graduated from Navajo Technical University with a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing and New Media.
Rob Fatal (Mestiza/o/x, Ute, Rarámuri, Pueblo), Native Filmmaker Lab Fellow
Rob Fatal [they/them] is a Two Spirit Mestiza/o/x filmmaker, new media artist and storyteller exploring decolonial aesthetics. Working in multiple analog and digital mediums allows Fatal to reimagine their own multi-lineage indigenous storytelling tradition for our current time which Fatal refers to as the “Indigenous post-apocalypse”. Fatal is often drawn to mediums such as filmmaking and performance which bring together community and people to achieve a desired vision or work. Fatal finds community and culture to be their greatest artistic inspiration. To create with the collective minds of unique individuals is a practice that brings to them a great spiritual catharsis; a feeling of joy and power tied to the realization of what people working together can accomplish when in harmony: a home, a shared reality, justice and healing. Fatal’s work has been screened internationally at the British Film Institute Flare Festival, Fringe! Queer Film & Art Festival in London, Vancouver Antimatter Media Arts Festival, Frameline SF LGBTQ Film Festival, Outsider Fest Austin, Institute of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, and the Broad Museum. Fatal’s films are distributed by Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Center.
Cole Forrest (Nipissing First Nation), Artist in Residence
Cole Forrest is an Ojibwe artist based in Toronto, Ontario. Originally from Nipissing First Nation, he strives for compassion and acceptance within the arts. Cole trained and honed his craft at the “Big Medicine Studio” while working with the group Aanmitaagzi and has written, directed and acted in various student/independent short films, theatre pieces and a musical. Cole’s films have been screened at various film festivals including ImagineNATIVE and Toronto Queer Film Festival, and he is a recipient of the Ken and Ann Watts Memorial Scholarship and of the James Bartleman Indigenous Youth Creative Writing Award. Cole is the 2019 recipient of the ImagineNATIVE + LIFT Film Mentorship, and a graduate of the Video Design and Production program at George Brown College, and is currently a Grants Assistant at the Toronto Arts Council. He is grateful to represent his community in all of his artistic pursuits. Residency for Indigenous Canadian film artist made possible with support from the Indigenous Screen Office.
Petyr Xyst (Laguna Pueblo), Artist in Residence
Peter Xyst is an Emmy-nominated American human from Albuquerque, New Mexico, whose work focuses on themes of class, institutional failures and the people who cope with them, and the strangeness of coming of age in the 21st century. His work spans genres and formats, exploring comedy, drama and experimental forms in short film, music video and new media. He’s been featured at the National Film Festival for Talented Youth, NATAS NW, AAHSFF, on PBS, and others. In his quarantine time, he likes to read nonfiction and stare at the wall for an indefinite period. He’s also a Sundance Institute Full Circle alum and a third-year student at the University of New Mexico.
The Merata Mita Fellowship
On Friday, January 29, the Sundance Institute will announce the recipient of an annual fellowship named in honor of the late Māori filmmaker Merata Mita, New Zealand's first Indigenous female filmmaker. Each year the Sundance Institute identifies an Indigenous filmmaker from a global pool of nominees to award a cash grant and provide a yearlong continuum of support with activities, which include a trip to the Sundance Film Festival, access to strategic and creative services offered by Sundance Institute artist programs, and mentorship opportunities.