Asif Kapadia, Director, Senna
When I was about ten years old I remember doing a project at school about Native Americans. I remember drawing a picture of the different tribes and being particularly proud of the illustration. Since then, I’ve always wanted to know more about Native American people. As a kid I loved to watch westerns, but something always troubled me about how the old B/W American Westerns depicted the Native people, I always found myself siding with the Indians!
As I began my career in filmmaking, I was often drawn to the Western genre, I directed a one minute Western while at film school. My first feature, The Warrior, was an ‘Eastern,’ made in the desert and Himalaya of India. It’s long been a dream of mine to make a film about Native people in the US.
Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time travelling in the US. I have lived there, worked there, shot movies there but have knowingly only met or spoken to a handful of Native people over the years. So when FILM FORWARD offered me the chance to show Senna at the Chickasaw Nation in Sulphur, Oklahoma, I jumped at the chance.
The Chickasaw Cultural Center’s huge IMAX style theatre was a wonderful place to screen Senna. Before a screening, I normally ask the audience to raise their hands to see how many of them have previously heard of Ayrton Senna. It’s typically a fifty-fifty split between those who had heard of him and those that have not. But with both of the screenings at the Chickasaw Cultural Center, hardly anyone in the audience raised their hand. No one had heard of Ayrton. No one knew about Formula One. FILM FORWARD was certainly bringing Senna to a new audience!
The film seemed to go down very well. Many people were moved by the Ayrton’s journey. There was an interesting Q&A after both screenings, with a lot of unique questions. In the end each discussion had to be stopped, so the next screening could begin.
The whole trip to Oklahoma has been a real education for me. I’ve had the opportunity to see some great Native short films from around the world. I’ve met fantastic Native filmmakers like Sterlin Harjo, Chad Burris and the wonderful writer/actress Ningali Lawford from Bran Nue Dae. I hope I’ll keep in touch with them all and maybe even collaborate with them on a project in the future.
The best part of the trip has been the chance to engage with the local audience–Native people from different tribes all with their own unique stories to tell. I had many interesting conversations with people who had driven for two or three hours to attend, or with people who came all the way from Texas to see the films.
Quite a few audience members pitched me their own stories which they hoped to make into films, these stories were powerful, unique and tragic. I hope FILM FORWARD returns to Oklahoma and the Chickasaw Nation and in the future can help connect members of the audience who may have stories to tell with creative writing courses, workshops or film groups, so people can meet, discuss ideas and receive help to write their ideas as screenplays, maybe even collaborate and start making their own short and long films. That would be a great legacy for FILM FORWARD, not only bringing independent films and filmmakers to new audiences but helping the audience to become independent filmmakers of the future.