Indie Lens Storycast
Inspired by Jeff Chang’s acclaimed collection of essays, this series asks the questions: why and how did we become so divided? What can we do now to be alright?
Examines the enigmatic life and mind of Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, Navarro Scott Momaday, one of Native America’s most celebrated authors.
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 also received his M.A. in Native American Studies, focusing on Native American exploitation in early cinema and his… Show more B.A. in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Oklahoma. He was a visiting professor at Cornell University and is currently an assistant professor of Mass Communication at the University of Central Oklahoma. His films have screened at the Sundance Film Festival, Berlinale European Market, Berlin Independent Film Festival, PBS Online Film Festival, Winnipeg Indigenous Film Festival, Maoriland Film Festival, SWAIA Class X Film Festival, Film 2 Farm Aid Film Festival, Borneo International Film Festival, INDIANER INUIT: DAS NORDAMERIKA FILM FESTIVAL, deadCENTER Film Festival, imagineNATIVE, ICDOCS, and Festival International du Film Ethnographique du Québec (FIFEQ) Annual International Festival of Ethnographic Film. His work has also been featured in Indian Country Today, Native American Times, Art Focus and Dreamcatcher Magazine. He is also a recipient of the Sundance Institute Creative Producers Award, Sundance Institute Native Program Lab fellowship. Show less
Words from a Bear examines the enigmatic life and mind of Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Navarro Scott Momaday, one of Native America’s most celebrated authors of poetry and prose. Words from a Bear visually captures the essence of Momaday’s writings, relating each written line to his unique American experience representing ancestry, place, and oral history. Cinematically this story takes audiences on a spiritual journey through the expansive landscapes of the West, when Momaday’s Kiowa ancestors roamed the Great Plains with herds of buffalo, to the sand-painted valleys of Jemez Pueblo, New Mexico where his imagination ripened and he showed superior writing skills as a young mission student.
The film gives a thorough survey of Momaday’s most prolific years as a doctorate fellow at Stanford University, his achievement of the Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 1969, and his later works that solidified his place as the founding member of the “Native American Renaissance” in art and literature, influencing a generation of Native American artists, scholars, and political activists. Although his unique heritage is a central theme, Momaday’s work asks the questions every audience can relate to: what are our origins and how do we connect to them through our collective memories? Through his literature and the cinematic visuals, Words from a Bear illuminates how Momaday has grappled with these basic questions of human existence and his own identity. The film reveals intimate details of the writer’s personal life through his literary texts, along with the trials and tribulations he faced as a Native American artist in the 20th and 21st century.