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Native American Film Festival a first at FGCU

FORT MYERS — Florida Gulf Coast University is hosting its first Native American Film Festival Oct. 25 – Nov. 15 on its Fort Myers campus. Tribal member and FGCU grad Bryce Osceola helped organize the festival.

As an FGCU student, Osceola always knew she wanted to organize an event during National Native American Heritage Month. She worked with a few professors on a Seminole patchwork exhibit and broached the idea to them.

Film director Chris Eyre talks to film fest attendees before the screening of his classic film “Smoke Signals” at the opening night, Oct. 25, of the FGCU Native American Film Festival. (Photo Beverly Bidney)

“We agreed a film festival would be a great way to introduce Native American history, culture and contemporary issues to students,” Osceola wrote in an email. “It is important to me that students can learn about Native American issues through film because there are so many great Indigenous people in the film industry. I believe events like these open the doors for a better opportunity to learn about Indigenous people.”

The film festival committee, which included Osceola and FGCU professors Noemi McDonald, Tatiana Schuss and Jeffrey Fortney, chose six films which show a range of Native American filmmaking. Each film deals with Native American stereotypes and characters that break away from them.

“Storytelling captures the soul of a people and it survives through storytelling,” said James Llorens, FGCU provost and vice president for academics. “Filmmakers are the continuation of those storytellers who tell us who we are, where we’ve been and keep us together.”

The goal of the festival is to counter stereotypes about and advance understanding of the culture, traditions and issues of Native Americans. Tribal member Tina Osceola will lead a discussion Nov. 15 after the closing night films, along with Miccosukee Tribal member Houston Cypress.

About 50 film buffs turned out for opening night Oct. 25 for the screening of “Smoke Signals,” which won the Filmakers’ Trophy and Audience Award at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival. The film was the first to be written, directed, co-produced and acted by Native Americans. Director Chris Eyre, Cheyenne/Arapaho, spoke at the screening.

“I made this film 20 years ago and I’m still screening it now,” Eyre said. “As corny as it sounds, it’s all about people’s voices being heard. To me it’s important that all voices are heard and this is the voice of Indian Country. Native Americans should be represented on screen, if not we are invisible.”

Members of the FGCU Native American Film Festival committee pose with director Chris Eyre on opening night Oct. 25. From left are FGCU professor Tatiana Schuss, Seminole Tribal member and FGCU graduate Bryce Osceola, director Chris Eyre, FGCU professors Jeffrey Fortney and Noemi McDonald. (Photo Beverly Bidney)

“Hostiles,” directed by Scott Cooper, was shown Oct. 26. All of the remaining films in the line-up will be screened at 6 p.m. The rest of the festival’s schedule is:

  • “Naturally Native,,” written and directed by Valerie Red-Horse, Cherokee – Nov. 2 in Edwards Hall 112
  • “Te Ata,” directed by Nathan Frankowski – Nov. 8 in Marieb Hall 10
  • “Reel Injun,” directed by Neil Diamond, Cree – Nov. 9 in Edwards Hall 112
  • “So We May Grow” and “We Must Not Forget,” documentaries about the Miccosukee Tribe, Nov. 15 in Sugden Hall 115.

Seminole and Miccosukee Tribal members Tina Osceola and Houston Cypress will lead a discussion after the films. The festival is free and open to the public.

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Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at beverlybidney@semtribe.com.

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