Native American Film and Video Festival and Filmmakers Summit

Posted on March 30, 2009

International Programming Manager Cynthia Kane and Programming Manager Kathryn Washington recently attended the Native American Film and Video Festival and Filmmakers Summit, which was held at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York City through the weekend. In this report, Cynthia discusses her and Kathryn's work in the field and indigenous film projects.

Kathryn and I are here in the Big Apple at the Native American Film and Video Festival’s Filmmaker Summit. Rainy yesterday but glorious spring-like weather today as New York heads into its most lovely season. The location is the tip of Manhattan at Bowling Green at the National Museum of the American Indian. It’s an impressive building to begin with, massive in structure, and once you enter it’s no less so.

This festival and summit includes not only indigenous filmmakers from the United States, but all of North and South America. Kathryn is here to represent the domestic side of ITVS, including the Diversity Development Fund, which she manages as well as Open Call and LINCS for production funding for Native U.S. filmmakers. I am able to speak to those international indigenous filmmakers attending of which there are many.

The summit is organized by Elizabeth Weatherford, head of film and video at NMAI and festival director, and Michelle Svenson, programmer of the festival. It started off with a “Word from the Selectors,” a guest selection committee of Native producers and filmmakers, including Chris Eyre, whose We Shall Remain: Trail of Tears was the Opening Night Film.

Next up were Kathryn and I along with Shirley Sneve of National American Public Television (NAPT), Yance Ford of P.O.V., Francine Blythe of National Geographic’s All Roads Project and Tamir Muhammad from Tribeca All-Access. Together, we spoke about opportunities and funding sources for Native filmmakers and producers. It was a robust and lively panel with an equally hearty Q&A session.

Perhaps it’s a sign of the times when getting your films financed and made is more difficult than ever or perhaps there’s a growing number of Native filmmakers and projects. Let’s hope the latter. We all agreed we want more projects from this community––these stories and voices need more presence on both public and commercial television.

Lunch and one-on-one meetings was followed by a panel on new forms of distribution and new media. It was here that we heard from J. Carlos Peinado, filmmaker and head of the new media department at the Institue of American Indian Arts, Kelly DeVine of Renew Media and the Tribeca Film Institute, Maia Ermita of Arts Engine and Media that Matters Film Festival, Kelly Matheson of Witness and Australian Indigenous filmmaker and producer David Vadiveloo who recently created a wonderful online project called usMob with national Australian broadcaster ABC. Again much food-for-thought in this new arena for all of us in attendance.

Saturday morning Kathryn and I held a round table discussion with funders, festivals, broadcasters and distribution outlets to talk about how we can better serve Native American filmmakers. Several promising ideas surfaced and we'll meet again soon to start putting plans into action. Stay tuned.

-Cynthia

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