Five Indigenous-Made Films Premiering at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival

Lily Gladstone and Julian Ballentyne appear in Little Chief
by Erica Tremblay, an official selection of the Shorts Programs at the
2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by
Marshall Stief

  • By Liz Hill

Following founder and President Robert Redford’s original vision, 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, five Indigenous-made films from Canada, Sweden and the United States will premiere at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. The Indigenous Program will also introduce its incoming fellows and announce the 2020 Merata Mita Fellow at this year’s Festival.



Charter (World Dramatic Competition)

Director and screenwriter Amanda Kernell (Sámi); producers Lars G. Lindström and Eva Åkergren; Sweden

After a recent and difficult divorce, Alice hasn’t seen her children in two months as she awaits a custody verdict. When her son calls her in the middle of the night, Alice takes action, abducting the children on an illicit charter trip to the Canary Islands. World Premiere

Little Chief (Narrative Shorts)

Director and screenwriter Erica Tremblay (Seneca-Cayuga/Wyandotte Nations); USA

The lives of a Native woman and a troubled young boy intersect over the course of a school day on a reservation in Oklahoma.

małni – towards the ocean, towards the shore (New Frontier)

Director, screenwriter, and producer Sky Hopinka (Ho-Chunk/Pechanga Band of Luiseño); USA

An experimental look at the origin of the death myth of the Chinookan people in the Pacific Northwest, following two people as they navigate their own relationships to the spirit world and a place in between life and death.

Lichen (Documentary Shorts)

Director and screenwriter Lisa Jackson (Anishinaabe); Canada

An otherworldly deep dive into the hidden beauty of lichens, asking what we might learn from them. Ancient and diverse, thriving in adversity, confounding scientists to this day, lichen is a model of emergence.

Now Is the Time (Documentary Shorts)

Director and screenwriter Christopher Auchter (Haida); Canada

On the 50th anniversary of the first new totem pole raising on British Columbia’s Haida Gwaii in almost a century, we revisit the day that would signal the rebirth of the Haida spirit.


Meet the current Indigenous Program Fellows whose film projects are being supported in their development.

Peshawn Bread, Native Filmmaker Lab Fellow

Peshawn Bread is a screenwriter, poet, and cinematographer from the Penneducah (sugar eater) and Yappaducah (root eater) bands of the Comanche Nation. Her writing explores Indigenous women, sexuality and humorous experiences. In the winter of 2015, she was selected as a Sundance Institute Full Circle Fellow. Her current project, The Diary of Mistress Red, is about a Native dominatrix for hire finds cultural healing in whipping apologies out of her white supremacist clients.

Kyle Bell, Native Filmmaker Lab Fellow

Kyle Bell (Creek-Thlopthlocco Tribal Town) is an Emmy award-winning filmmaker from Tulsa, Oklahoma. Since his filmmaking career began in 2015, Kyle has won numerous awards for his documentary and cinematography work. His current project is Spirits, about a young Native boy who is conflicted between making a choice of leaving his family and home behind for a future playing college basketball.

Shaandiin Tome, Indigenous Film Fellow

Shaandiin Tome (Diné) is a filmmaker from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Trained as an editor and cinematographer, she is a 2016 Sundance Full Circle Fellowship alumna and in May 2017 she was selected for the Sundance Native Filmmakers Lab with her short film project Mud (Hashtł’ishnii). Currently, she is working on Dibé, a film about a young sheepherder who goes through the depths of Navajo ways of life trying to figure out how to prevent her family’s herd from being taken.

Charine Gonzales, Indigenous Film Fellow

Charine Pilar Gonzales (San Ildefonso Pueblo) is from San Ildefonso Pueblo, New Mexico, and is currently a student at the Institute of American Indian Arts, where she is obtaining a BFA in Cinematic Arts and Technology. In 2019 Charine received a Sundance Institute Indigenous Film Fellowship for her script River Bank, about a young Pueblo girl robs a bar to support her family’s business as her grandmother waits in the car as the getaway driver.

The Merata Mita Fellowship

On Monday, January 27, 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 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.


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