Ningali Josie Lawford, Actress, Bran Nue Dae
I didn’t know what to expect when I was asked to represent filmmaker Rachel Perkins for the FILM FORWARD Oklahoma program. But my time here in Chickasaw Country was amazing. I was taken by the generosity of the Native American peoples and for this I am truly grateful.
The Chickasaw Cultural Center was a beautiful place with its structure and technology. On the first day, I attended the Native Summit and listened to the state of Native cinema in America. I enjoyed watching the short films that were presented, and one was particularly inspiring. Good Night Irene, directed by Sterlin Harjo, showed the comical side of Indian culture while also confronting the subject of death. The character’s were strong, especially Irene, who spoke her Native language. It is important that we as Native people keep our traditional languages alive, as film is the new way of archiving. It is a universal way of getting across to both the young and the old.
I was nervous when it was time for Bran Nue Dae to be screened because these people whose land I was standing on were also like me: Indigenous. We did, in some ways, experience the same things. I wondered if they would see the humor of being taken away from home, similar to the journey of the lead character, Willie. To my surprise, the audience loved it. I was asked so many questions about the movie and the aboriginal people of Australia. Audience members came up to me and hugged me and thanked me for coming all this way. I felt proud when I was approached by three Native girls and told that they loved the movie and would one day like to become filmmakers and actresses themselves.
Senna, directed by by Asif Kapadia, was also a powerful movie. It tracked the life of Ayrton Senna, a Formula 1 driver of whom I was a great fan. It was great to see this film with the director in the room and listen to him talk about the way he approached and made the movie.
I am inspired greatly by this trip and was very honored to have been asked to participate in such a great week of cultural dialogue.