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15 Indigenous films part of Sundance Film Festival

“Mobilize,” directed by Caroline Monnet (Anishinaabe), is one of 15 films from Indigenous artists at the Sundance Film Festival that runs Jan. 20-30. The event will be virtual only. (Courtesy image)

The 2022 Sundance Film Festival, which has shifted to a virtual-only event amid the rise of the Omicron variant, will have 15 projects by Indigenous artists. The event, based in Utah, was scheduled to be a hybrid festival with both in-person and online options, but the nonprofit organization announced Wednesday that it will be online only.  

“While it is a deep loss to not have the in-person experience in Utah, we do not believe it is safe nor feasible to gather thousands of artists, audiences, employees, volunteers, and partners from around the world, for an eleven-day festival while overwhelmed communities are already struggling to provide essential services,” according to a statement on its website.

The 11-day festival will start Jan. 20. Ticket sales will resume Jan. 13. For more information visit sundance.org.

Here is the lineup of films by Indigenous artists and descriptions from the festival:  

THIS IS NOT A CEREMONY

Lead Artist: Ahnahktsipiitaa (Colin Van Loon) (Niitsitapi)  Section: New Frontier

The buffalo spirit Inii and two trickster poets serve as the guides in this immersive experience that transports you to a place transcending time, where an elder beams down from the stars to invite you to  become a part of the human ledger. The elder makes space for us to collectively bear witness to tragic events in the lives of two Indigenous men — Adam North Peigan and Brian Sinclair — and entrusts us to share what we’ve seen and heard. Part performance, part participatory media, This Is Not a Ceremony asks us to consider our role in engaging with documentaries about social injustice and to confront modern notions of empathy and personal responsibility. Darkly humorous and occasionally caustic, This Is Not a Ceremony offers contemporary insights into the lived experience of Indigenous men, and extends a chance to embrace responsibility and the meaningfulness of redemption.

EVERY DAY IN KAIMUKĪ

Director: Alika Tengan (Kānaka Maoli) Section: NEXT

Naz, a cynical and charismatic 20-something, has spent his entire life in tranquil O’ahu, Hawaiʻi, skateboarding with his friends and hosting a nightly radio show where he spotlights emerging musicians. When his girlfriend, Sloane, nabs the chance to move to bustling New York, Naz begins preparing for their big move, planning every detail down to his cat’s absurd flight plan. Even when dreaming about what life outside the island might look like, however, Naz wonders whether uprooting his world is the right decision, and if anywhere will ever really feel like home when he’s always been an eternal outsider.

ᎤᏕᏲᏅ (UDEYONV) (WHAT THEY’VE BEEN TAUGHT)

Director: Brit Hensel (Cherokee Nation) Section: Shorts

This film explores expressions of reciprocity in the Cherokee world, brought to life through a story told by an elder and first language speaker.

THE HEADHUNTER’S DAUGHTER

Director/Screenwriter: Don Josephus Raphael Eblahan (Ífugão, Visayan)  Section: Short Film Program 4

Leaving her family behind, Lynn traverses the harrowing roads of the Cordilleran highlands to try her luck in the city as a country singer.

ON THE MORNING YOU WAKE (TO THE END OF THE WORLD)

Lead Artist: Dr. Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio (Kānaka Maoli), Mike Brett, Steve Jamison, Arnaud Colinart, Pierre Zandrowicz Section: New Frontier

This powerful virtual reality documentary series allows audiences to experience the alarming events of January 13, 2018, in Hawai’i. This first chapter opens on an ordinary Saturday morning, when the entire population of Hawai’i received a startling text message from the state Emergency Management Agency: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAI’I. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” As cellular communication networks collapsed and panic took hold of the population, 1.4 million people — as well as their friends and relatives across the globe — came to understand the real, growing, and urgent nature of today’s nuclear threat.

LONGLINE OF LADIES

Directors: Shaandiin Tome (Diné), Rayka Zehtabchi Section: Short Film Program 1

A girl and her community prepare for her Ihuk, the once dormant coming-of-age ceremony of the Karuk tribe of northern California.

KICKING THE CLOUDS

Director: Sky Hopinka (Ho-Chunk Nation/Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians) Section: Documentary Shorts Film Program 1

An experimental documentary, Kicking the Clouds is centered on a 50-year-old cassette tape of a Pechanga language lesson between the director’s grandmother and great-grandmother, and contextualized by an interview with his mother in his Pacific Northwest hometown.

ATUA

Lead Artist: Tanu Gago (Samoan), Jermaine Dean (Māori) Section: New Frontier

If your gods could whisper in your ear, what would they say? ATUA reimagines the realm of Pacific gods in this sculptural AR experience that claims space for gender-diverse identities impacted by colonial first contact, and creates an intimate portal for users to see themselves reflected as vital to their cultural heritage and an intrinsic part of the cosmos.Enabled through handheld devices, the ATUA experience begins with Te Kore, the void — a space of abundance and limitless potential. Activated through the power of augmented reality, witness as Te Kore is manifested into the physical realm as a cosmic being, forged of ancestral memory and adorned in cultural navigation. Become immersed in an expansive tale of time and space, in this intimate user experience that reframes Pacific cosmology through a queer Indigenous lens.

MAIDENHOOD

Director/Screenwriter: Xóchitl Enríquez Mendoza (Zapoteca)  Section: Short Film Program 2

Catalina submits to the tradition of her people to demonstrate her purity and worth as a woman to her beloved, but her body betrays her and she fails to demonstrate her chastity.

FROM THE COLLECTION: ANNIVERSARY SHORTS

The 40  “From the Collection” shorts have all screened in Park City previously. This selection will play on demand on the Festival’s online platform through the Explorer Pass and available to all passholders from January 20–30 and complement the 59 short films that are premiering in-person and online as part of the 2022 Festival program.

SIKUMI

Director/Screenwriter: Andrew Okpeaha MacLean (Iñupiaq) 

An Inuit hunter inadvertently becomes a witness to a murder.

SHIMÁSÁNÍ

Director/Screenwriter: Blackhorse Lowe (Diné) 

When Mary Jane finds a geography book that shows her an entirely new world, she must decide whether to maintain her traditional Navajo reservation lifestyle with her grandmother or go out into a larger world.

MOBILIZE

Director: Caroline Monnet (Anishinaabe) 

Guided expertly by those who live on the land and are driven by the pulse of the natural world, this story takes us on an exhilarating journey from the far north to the urban south. 

GESTURE DOWN (I DON’T SING) 

Director: Cedar Sherbert (Kumeyaay)  Screenwriters: Cedar Sherbert, James Welch (Niitsitapi, A’aninin) 

A graceful and personal adaptation of the poem “Gesture Down to Guatemala” by the late Native American writer James Welch. 

TWO CARS, ONE NIGHT

Director/Screenwriter: Taika Waititi (Māori) 

A tale of first love. While waiting for their parents, two boys and a girl meet in the car park of a rural pub. What at first seems to be a relationship based on rivalry soon develops into a close friendship. We learn that love can be found in the most unlikely of places.

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