Shopping, 2013 Sundance Film Festival
Bird Runningwater, Director, Native American and Indigenous Program
The world of Native American and Indigenous cinema saw exceptional growth in 2012. Along with the rise of producers and women filmmakers, there has been an emergence of mainstream filmmaking by Native filmmakers. Through artist support and public programs, the Sundance Institute’s Native American and Indigenous Program facilitated the discovery, support, and word-of-mouth marketing around these artists and their films seen this year.
Critical acclaim from the Sundance Film Festival led to the theatrical releases of Andrew MacLean’s On The Ice (NativeLab Alumni and Festival Alumni), Taika Waititi’s Boy (Feature Film Program and Film Festival Alumni), and Aurora Guerrero’s Mosquita Y Mari (NativeLab and Festival Alumni). Guerrero received a nomination for the John Cassevetes Award from the Film Independent Spirit Awards and also received a Kenneth Rainin Foundation Filmmaking Grant from the San Francisco Film Society, while MacLean was awarded an Arts Fellowship by the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation. Kendra Mylnechuk, the lead actress from Brooke Swaney’s OK, Breathe Auralee, was awarded Best Actress from the NBC Universal Short Cuts Film Festival and received a talent holding deal from NBC Universal for her performance.
Last year also brought the PBS broadcast premieres of Sterlin Harjo’s Barking Water (Native Lab, Feature Film Program, and Festival Alumni) and Billy Luther’s documentary Grab (NativeLab and Festival Alumni), which also received DVD distribution. Both Barking Water and Billy Luther’s Miss Navajo were also among some of the first films to be digitally released by Sundance Institute’s Artist Services and made available on iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Microsoft Xbox Video, Sony Entertainment Network, SundanceNOW, VUDU, YouTube, Hulu, Netflix and SnagFilms.
The Sundance Institute Native Program itself was also honored this year by two Institutions for its ongoing commitment and support of filmmakers. First, with the Lake Arrowhead Film Festival’s Contribution to Native American Filmmaking Award; and, secondly with the Hawai’i International Film Festival’s Vision in Film Award. These awards acknowledge the ongoing commitment and support of Native American and Indigenous artists that has existed since the founding of Sundance Institute.
That commitment to Native artists was deepened this year when the Native American and Indigenous Program launched a new Native Producers Initiative. This initiative identifies emerging Native producers and supports the professional development of their careers and that of their projects. This was a response to the crucial need to cultivate more Native American producers who could manage production; oversee packaging, financing, and distribution; and engage with the marketplace. This Initiative aims to facilitate the sustainability and longevity of Native artists throughout their careers.
At the 2013 Sundance Film Festival in January 2013, Native American and Indigenous artists will be represented in several program categories:
- World Cinema Dramatic Competition: Shopping, Co-Director Louis Sutherland (Samoan)
- Shorts Program: The Captain, Co-Screenwriter Taika Waititi (Te Whanau Apanui), and Night Shift, Producer Chelsea Winstanley (Ngati Ranginui).
- Midnight: Ass Backwards, Producer Heather Rae (Cherokee) and Executive Producer Chad Burris (Chickasaw Nation).
While artist development has been a top priority of Sundance Institute for more than 30 years, our programs have been designed to help independent storytellers find and refine their distinctive voices. We have also helped to build their skills to successfully present their work to audiences around the world. The 2013 Sundance Film Festival marks an important shift forward in the landscape of Native American and Indigenous filmmaking — one that includes Native artists among the wider indie film community as well as opening the doors to future opportunities and successes across genres.