Sundance Institute Celebrates Indigenous Voices and Perspectives During Native American Heritage Month

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Filmmaker Kyle Bell and creative advisor Shaandiin Tome at the Indigenous Program's 2019 Native Filmmakers Lab. © 2019 Sundance Institute | Photo by Austin Madrid

In 1990, U.S. president George H. W. Bush declared November as American Indian Heritage Month. Given this rich history of acknowledgement of Indigenous peoples who have contributed greatly to the cultural fabric of the United States and to cinematic storytelling, Sundance Institute is proud to stand with tribal Nations, states, and Americans across the country acknowledging the month of November as Native American Heritage Month.

Sundance Institute has included and supported Native American artists through Robert Redford’s mandate since its founding in 1981. More than 110 films by Indigenous filmmakers have premiered at the Festival, and over the past 10 years, the Institute has welcomed nearly 90 different Indigenous tribes and nations from around the world. The Institute’s Indigenous Program is proud to contribute to the growing diversity, creativity, and talent of Indigenous storytellers, bringing the richness of our histories, cultures, and traditions to the public year-round.

Join us in celebrating National Native American Heritage Month by attending one of our special events and celebrating our Indigenous Program alumni who have been invited to join the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences this year.

Special Events

In addition to celebrating the accomplishments of four generations of Indigenous storytellers, in November the Indigenous Program will continue its strong tradition of introducing Indigenous films and filmmakers to audiences in theaters across the U.S.

On Saturday, November 23, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., the Indigenous Program will partner with the American Film Institute (AFI) in Los Angeles to present a program of shorts from the Native Filmmakers Lab. The program will include a Q&A with filmmaker Erin Lau (Native Hawaiian) and a reception following the screening.

A special collaboration with Art House Convergence, a North American coalition of community-based, mission-driven movie theaters, was announced in September by Indigenous Program director N. Bird Runningwater. The collaboration will bring six Indigenous short films from Sundance Institute fellows to 26 AHC theaters in the U.S. (from Maine to Hawai’i), timed to coincide with Native American Heritage Month.

Indigenous Program News

Visibility and appreciation of Indigenous films and the artists in the mainstream film world also has been steadily increasing over the years.

As a testament to the significance and accomplishments of these artists and to the work of the Indigenous Program, in 2016 three Indigenous Program alumni were invited to join the prestigious Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The group included Sherman Alexie (Spokane/Coeur d’Alene), Heather Rae (the first Indigenous director of the Indigenous Program), and Taika Waititi (Te Whānau-ā Apanui).

Recognition of Indigenous artists by the Academy continued in 2017, when Indigenous Program invitees included Zacharias Kunuk (Inuit), Andrew Okpeaha MacLean (Iñupiaq) and Alanis Obomsawin (Abenaki). In 2018, Academy invitees with a Sundance Institute connection included Warwick Thornton (Kaytej Nation), Rachel Perkins (Arrernte/Kalkadoon Nations), and Danis Goulet (Cree/Métis).

We are proud to announce the 2019 Academy invitees:

Diane Obomsawin (Abenaki)—Academy Category: Short Films and Feature Animation, I Like Girls

N. Bird Runningwater (Cheyenne/Mescalero Apache)—Academy Category: At-Large

Ivan Sen (Gamilaroi Nation)—Academy Category: Director, Beneath Clouds, Toomeleh, Mystery Road

Read more about the Indigenous Program here.


Lead photo:

Filmmaker Kyle Bell and creative advisor Shaandiin Tome at the Indigenous Program's 2019 Native Filmmakers Lab. © 2019 Sundance Institute | Photo by Austin Madrid