3 Native American– and Indigenous-Directed Films Premiering at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival

“In Football We Trust,” premiering in Documentary Premieres at the Sundance Film Festival.

Sundance Institute

In 2014 Sundance Institute celebrated the 20th Anniversary of the formal existence of its Native American and Indigenous Program though the commitment has been consistent since the Institute’s founding. Through sustained and continuous support of filmmakers with grants, Labs, mentorships and the platform of the Sundance Film Festival, great strides have been made in nurturing an Indigenous-created body of cinema which did not exist before the Institute’s involvement.

Twenty years later, we continue to support Native American and Indigenous filmmakers through grants, labs, fellowships and the platform of the Sundance Film Festival. In addition to the core work of investing in emerging filmmakers with the NativeLab Fellowship and the Time Warner Native Producers Initiative, we are excited to launch the new Full Circle Initiative, which provides fellowships to youth filmmakers from Michigan and New Mexico. Full Circle is supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

In the spirit of supporting Indigenous filmmakers, we are pleased to share the titles of the Indigenous-made films that will be premiering at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival this month. These films competed against a pool of 12,166 submissions, to be selected among the 181 films playing at the Festival.


In Football We Trust (USA; directors Tony Vainuku, Erika Cohn): Four young Polynesian football players struggle to overcome gang violence and poverty as they enter the high-stakes world of recruiting, competitive athletics and family pressures.


Great Northern Mountain (Sweden; director and screenwriter Amanda Kernell): Elle, 78, doesn’t like Sámi (Laplander) people — even though she is Sámi. Pressured by her son, she returns north for her sister’s funeral. When she realizes he’s planned for them to stay with their relatives, Elle checks into a hotel.

Tupilaq (Denmark; director and screenwriter Jakob Maqe): The Tupilaq is both a symbol of the spirit of a forefather and a curse. This personal and moving short film revolves around the themes of cultural alienation, abuse and the contrast between mythological Greenlandic nature and western urban culture.

Isabelle’s Garden (United States, director Jeffrey Palmer): An uplifting story of a community coming together in reciprocity, through the hopes and dreams of a young Choctaw girl and her garden.


In addition to these filmmakers and films making up the Native Forum at the Sundance Film Festival, the Native Forum will also be hosting 13 Native Fellows as a part of the year-round, ongoing support of individual artists. Participating in different tracks while at the Festival, the filmmakers are being supported on their individual projects and in their careers as filmmakers.

The filmmakers will be participating in the following Sundance Institute Fellowships: the NativeLab Fellowship; the Time Warner Native Producers Initiative; the Full Circle Initiative; the Time Warner Fellowship; the Sundance Institute Women Filmmakers Fellowship and the Sundance Institute Short Film Challenge. The Fellows and their projects are.

NativeLab Fellows

These four Fellows participated in the NativeLab last May and will continue their year-long Fellowship journey at the Festival with screenings, guided film discussions and networking events.

Carmen Tsabetsaye (Zia and Zuni Pueblos)

“Puebloan In Praha”: After moving to the Czech Republic, a young pueblo woman learns that her brother has died and her family is torn apart, through new found friendships she cultivates a new sense of family.

Chris Kahunahana (Native Hawaiian)

“The Karaoke King” – Set in Hawai’i, Karaoke Kings is a love story disguised as a gritty underdog story about the trials and tribulations of the contestants of a karaoke competition.

Daniel Flores (Yaqui)

“Viva Diva” – Rozene, a young Native American, plans to confront her father for kicking her out as a child for being transgender.

Missy Whiteman (Arapaho/Kickapoo)

“The Coyote Way Trilogy: (Going) Back Home” – Reality and ancient lore merge in a vivid, dream-like voyage for a Charlie, a young boy and his time traveling bicycle on a quest for his identity as Coyote the Trickster.

Time Warner Fellows

These fellows will be supported on their projects while at the Festival and participate in screenings, networking events and individually tailored meetings with industry leaders.

Blake Pickens (Chickasaw)—Producer Fellow

“The Land”: The brotherhood of four friends is tested when they try to escape the shackles of Cleveland by becoming drug dealers for a summer.

Christopher Nataanii Cegielski (Navajo)—Producer Fellow

“Movement Through the Valley” – A pair of elusive and dangerous creatures terrorize the rural residence of the Navajo Nation.

Ciara Lacy (Native Hawaiian) – Time Warner Fellow

“Out of State” – Out of State is a documentary profiling a group of Hawaiian prisoners keeping their traditional practices alive despite being behind bars in Arizona.

Full Circle Fellows

These fellows will be given an immersive experience in the world of Independent film and attend screenings, participate in guided film discussions and connect with leaders of the Indigenous film community.

Arlan George (Saginaw Chippewa) was born in Lansing, MI on June 13th, 1996. He grew up on the Saginaw Chippewa reservation in central Michigan until he was 16, when he enrolled in a private sports academy in Oregon. Two things have had a direct impact on him throughout high school: skateboarding and film. They both have gone hand in hand for him, taking him places that he never would have imagined. He is currently enrolled at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham, OR working towards a degree in Advertising.

Autumn Rose Billie is from New Mexico and comes from the Taos Pueblo, Acoma Pueblo and the Navajo Nation (Diné) Tribes. She aspires to practice the core beliefs of her culture by being a positive role model. As a staff member at the non-profit Tewa Women United she has the opportunity to do so through many community projects. She attends the Santa Fe Community College in Santa Fe, New Mexico and has been involved in environmental and social justice/activist work since high school. She is double majoring in journalism and experiential education. During her free time she is writing poetry, being an avid photographer, and helping at her grandfather’s cornfield.

Forrest GoodLuck (Dine, Mandan, Hidatsa & Tsimshian) first began directing at age ten for a school play and at age twelve he made a commercial for a Bosque School project. This is when he fell in love with filmmaking. He has participated in Longhouse Media’s “Superfly Workshop” and was awarded the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian and SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market Class X Youth Winner in 2013 for Sun Kink and in 2014 for Malady’s Muddy Waters. His films have premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival, Taos Shortz Film Festival, LA Skins Festival, and NM Film Showcase. Most recently he has landed a supporting role with the upcoming movie, The Revenant due out in December 2015, directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu (Birdman, Babel, Biutiful) opposite Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson and Will Poulter.

Peshawn Rae Bread (Comanche, Blackfeet and Kiowa) was born in the great state of Oklahoma, and is 18 years old. She is a freshman at the Academy of Art in San Francisco where she is a film major. In 2014 she participated in a Leadership Institute internship at the Museum in Indian Arts & Culture (MIAC). She also worked as an intern under the esteemed Director Chris Eyre for the Surdna funded MIAC Youth Film Camp. In addition to her intern duties she wrote, directed and produced the short film Blood Blessing. Peshawn was invited to participate in Sundance Institute’s Native American Writer’s Workshop with Joan Tewkesbury held during the 2014 Indian Market. And, in 2013 she made her film acting debut in the acclaimed Sundance feature film Drunktowns Finest where she also worked behind the camera as the Director’s Assistant. In 2010 she wrote, produced, directed and acted in her first short film The Misadventures of Tatanka Girl made in 2010 which is on YouTube.

Additional Fellows

These fellows have been supported through grants or fellowships through the Sundance Institute’s Women’s Initiative and the Short Film Challenge.

Sydney Freeland – Sundance Institute Women’s Initiative Fellowship

Sydney Freeland (Diné) is an independent feature film writer/director. Her first feature, Drunktown’s Finest, premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and has since gone on to win a number of awards including the 2014 LA Outfest Grand Jury Prize for Narrative Feature and the HBO Outstanding First Narrative Feature. Sydney is also a recipient of the following awards: 2014 Time Warner Fellowship, 2010 Annenberg Foundation Feature Film Fellowship, 2010 George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation Feature Film Directors Fellowship, 2010 Sundance Screenwriting Fellowship, 2010 Sundance Directing Fellowship, 2009 Sundance Native American Lab Fellowship, 2008 Disney Fellowship semi-finalist, and 2007 Disney Scholarship recipient, and is a 2004 Fulbright Scholar.

Jeffrey Palmer – Sundance Institute Short Film Challenge

Jeffrey Palmer is an Indigenous (Kiowa) filmmaker and media artist. As a Dean’s Fellow at the University of Iowa, he received his M.F.A. in Film and Video Production in 2012, with an emphasis in documentary film and video installation. He received his M.A. in Native American Studies, focusing on Native American exploitation in early cinema and his B.A. in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Oklahoma. And, he is an alumni of the 2012 Sundance Institute NativeLab Fellowship. He currently is an assistant professor of Mass Communication at the University of Central Oklahoma.

The Sundance Institute Native American and Indigenous Program is supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Time Warner Foundation, Surdna Foundation, Ford Foundation, SAGIndie, NBCUniversal, Cindy and Alan Horn, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and CBS.

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