Native Narratives

The 1St Annual Independent Indigenous Film Festival

Devin D. O'Leary
3 min read
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In many ways, the Guild Cinema is the perfect place to host the Independent Indigenous Film Festival. The word “indigenous” is defined as, “Belonging to a place: originating in and naturally living, growing or occurring in a region or country.” Being the only independent, locally owned movie theater left in Albuquerque, the Guild is a unique belonging of our local arts scene. Would you hold a festival celebrating and fostering indigenous cultural values and identity in a vast megaplex owned by an out-of-state corporation, or would you place it firmly on the screen of a theater that has been living and growing in our city for the last 40 years? … Yeah, so would the organizers of the 1st Annual Independent Indigenous Film Festival.

Shawna Shandiin Sunrise is another of New Mexico's indigenous treasures. She is a Dine and Santo Domingo filmmaker. Her mother is Pearl Sunrise, a weaver, soloist and professor at the Institute of American Indian Arts, and her father was Bill A. Sunrise, the original director of the famed Indian Village at the State Fair. Sunrise is currently the only Native American member of the City of Albuquerque's Arts Board and has been producing the cable access show “Nativezine” for the past 4 years. Who better, then, to serve as festival director for the Independent Indigenous Film Festival?

According to its manifesto, the festival will feature “a series of new oral chronicles told from an indigenous worldview through images in animation, experimental, documentary film and video.” The festival is designed to spotlight works from indigenous peoples all over the world, an alternative to what Sunrise calls, “the Hollywood Indian point of view.” The festival is being sponsored by Americans for Indian Opportunity and the City of Albuquerque Film Department.

Among the films screening this weekend will be three New Mexico premieres. “Raven Tales” is a computer-animated series written, produced, directed and voiced by an all-Native American team. The very first episode of the proposed series premiered locally at the Alibi Short Film Fiesta in 2004, went on to screen in the Governor's Cup Film Competition and ultimately claimed 22 film festival awards worldwide. The long-awaited second episode, following the further adventures of mythical trickster Raven, will be unveiled at the Indigenous Film Festival.

In an interesting bit of synchronicity, the festival will also have the local premiere of New Zealand's very first adult animated sitcom, “bro'Town.” The show is based on the proudly un-P.C. satire of the multitalented Naked Samoans theater troupe and fearlessly confronts issues like racism and violence.

Another highlight of the festival is sure to be Conversion. The film, by Navajo Nation filmmaker Nanobah Becker, is set in the '50s and shows how a visit by Christian missionaries has devastating consequences for a family in a remote corner of the Navajo Reservation “Hopefully, I'm creating something for my community–not just the Native community, but all of Albuquerque,” says Sunrise.

The Indigenous Independent Film Festival will take place April 15-16 at the Guild Cinema (3405 Central NE). Log on to for a complete schedule of films and times.

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