Talking Stick Film Festival

All-Native Festival Tells The "Difficult Stories"

Simon McCormack
4 min read
Talking Stick Film Festival
Horse You See
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She made hundreds of phone calls and sent tons of e-mails, but Talking Stick Film Festival Director Karen Dallett got what she wanted: an event where more than 100 Native stories are told.

"To my knowledge, there hasn’t been an indigenous festival, to this level and degree, ever in the West," Dallett says. "We’re counting on this event to bring a new awareness and attention to the state of New Mexico."

One-hundred-and-seven films will be showcased at Talking Stick over six days, including five world and two American premieres. Most of the works are by Native Americans, but there are also pieces by indigenous Canadian and Australian directors.

The festival will include short and full-length dramatic features, documentaries and animation. Talking Stick will also feature 12 workshops on everything from how to finance a film to production and collaboration. There will also be four panel discussions hosted by some of the festival’s filmmakers.

For Dallett, Talking Stick offers an opportunity for the public to see films that are unlikely to wind up in mainstream movie cinemas. "Ninety-nine percent of the films we’re showing will not make it to a theater near you," Dallett says. “We always ask, Why is that? For me, the answer is these stories are difficult to hear."

Dallett says the films are tough to handle because many of them deal with the contemporary injustices suffered by Native peoples over the last 50 to 60 years. "We tell these stories not to judge or point a finger," Dallett says, "but so that everyone can heal, understand and become aware. We can learn something about society and culture through these films."

One of the politically charged pieces is Jerry Clown’s
Spirits for Sale. Clown’s film documents what he sees as a negative trend among the Lakota people in his home state of South Dakota. Clown says some Lakota have begun charging an entrance fee to the sweat lodges where prayer ceremonies take place. Clown denounces this practice as “the selling of our ceremonies.”

“The Lakota ways are very sacred,” Clown says. “If we continue on this path, our children will learn the same bad virtues that are being taught today.”

New Mexican filmmaker Melissa A. Henry takes a lighthearted approach with her film “Horse You See.” Henry says her piece is designed to remind people that there is more to animals, including her horse Ross, than meets the eye. “I think at times we humans forget that there are other living creatures on this Earth,” Henry says. “I guess I get tired of the way animals are treated and wanted to show Ross as being alive, too.”

The spectrum of films in the festival is broad by design, but Dallett says each one offers insight into the visions of Native filmmakers. “People will see the different perspectives of the original people of this land,” Dallett says. “They’ll see that Indian people are pretty cool and we can all walk together in this world, because we do all share it.”

Film Festival Preview

The Talking Stick Film Festival runs from Saturday, June 21, through Thursday, June 26, at Hotel Santa Fe. Tickets are $8 per film, or $5 for seniors and students. An all-festival pass, which gets you into all films, workshops and panel discussions, is $295. To buy tickets, stop by the festival’s ticket office at 529 Cerrillos across from Hotel Santa Fe. You can also call (505) 792-2900 or visit, where you can get more information, including a complete schedule of events.
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