In November, organizations across the United States observe National Native American and Alaska Native Heritage Month. During this month and throughout the year, Sundance Institute acknowledges the ancestral keepers of the land in the communities where we work and supports the important artistic contributions that Native and Indigenous storytellers have made in film, theatre, film music, episodic storytelling, and emerging platforms.
As part of this month’s celebration of the ongoing and enormous creativity and vitality of Native and Indigenous artists, Sundance Institute and the Native Program pay tribute to five outstanding Native and Indigenous artists who have been invited to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. All five invitees have a Sundance Institute connection.
“Sundance Institute has been committed to the Native and Indigenous presence in film since the Institute’s founding in 1981,” notes N. Bird Runningwater (Cheyenne/Mescalero Apache), director, Native American and Indigenous Film Program. “The Native Program has played an important role in elevating the work of Native and Indigenous storytellers.”
Visibility and appreciation of Native and Indigenous films and the artists responsible for their creation has been steadily increasing over the years. Since 2016, eight Native Program alumni — five in 2016 and three in 2017 — have been invited to join the Academy.
“It’s immensely gratifying to see our Native and Indigenous artists from around the world receiving such well-deserved recognition for their artistic achievements,” says Runningwater. “Our circle of Native and Indigenous artists who have either had direct participation in Sundance Institute programs or with Sundance Film Festival, in general, continues to flourish.”
This year’s Academy invitees include:
Irene Bedard (Iñupiat, Yup’ik, Inuit, Cree, Métis)
Academy Branch: Actors
Sundance Institute Connection: Smoke Signals, 1998 Festival
Tantoo Cardinal (Métis)
Academy Branch: Actors
Sundance Institute Connection: Smoke Signals, 1998 Festival; Wind River, 2017 Festival
Warwick Thornton (Kaytej Nation)
Sundance Institute Connection: Greenbush, 2005 Festival; Sweet Country, 2018 Festival
Rachel Perkins (Arrernte /Kalkadoon Nations)
Academy Branch: Directors
Sundance Institute Connection: One Night the Moon, 2002 Festival; Bran Nue Dae, 2010 Festival
Danis Goulet (Cree, Métis)
Academy Branch: Short Films and Feature Animation
Sundance Institute Connection: Spin, 2004 Festival; Wapawekka, 2011 Festival; Wakening, 2014 Festival