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Festival highlights Native Americans in film industry

Native Americans involved in the film industry hold a panel discussion during the Native Reel Cinema Festival on Feb. 11 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood. From left to right are Shaadiin Tome, Justin Deegan, Graham Greene and Stevie Salas. (Calvin Tiger)

HOLLYWOOD — The Native Reel Cinema Festival rocked the big screen during the annual Seminole Tribal Fair & Pow Wow at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood from Feb. 10 to Feb. 12. The festival featured different Native American actors and filmmakers, such as Graham Greene, Shaadiin Tome, Stevie Salas, Justin Deegan, Martin Sensmeier, Billy Wirth and others.

In the grand ballroom, a meet and greet took place after the festival for the public to ask any questions about Native Americans in the film industry. Not only did the event provide opportunities for audiences to meet Native Americans from the film industry and view their works, but it also served as a way for those in the industry to connect and share ideas.

“These types of film festivals are always the best way to meet other filmmakers and also just see how incredible other filmmakers and actors and creators are doing in their work,” said Tome, a New Mexico-based Diné filmmaker. “I think it’s so meaningful to be able to gather with other people and share that space.”

“Long Line of Ladies,” directed by Tome and Rayka Zehtabchi, was among a handful of short films shown on a large screen in a ballroom. The film focuses on a girl from the Karuk Tribe of Northern California. She goes through her “Ihuk,” or flower dance, which is a coming of age ceremony for Karuk girls.

The film also covers darker times, including during the California Gold Rush when many Native American girls and women became victims of sexual violence which led to the ceremony becoming dormant for more than 120 years. The film shows the importance of preserving the Karuk’s culture and keeping traditions alive.

“I wanted to create a story for a younger version of me to feel empowered,” Tome told the audience after the film. “Long Line of Ladies” has won many awards, including a Golden Gate Short Award and from the South by Southwest Film Festival, the Indy Short Film Festival and the San Francisco International Film Festival.

Other Native American short films that were presented included “The Water Walker” and “Concrete 49.”

“The Water Walker,” directed by James Burns, is about Native American activism. It features Autumn Peltier, who is an Anishinaabe Indigenous rights advocate from the Wiikwemkoong First Nation on Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Canada. The film highlights ongoing efforts in water conservation and also sheds light on current water contamination situations in North America.

Deegan, a citizen of the Three Affiliated Tribes from the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, directed “Concrete 49.” It is about a Native American man living in New York City and the different street performers– who are also Native American – that he encounters on his way to an audition. “Concrete 49” mentions there are 30,000 Native Americans living in New York City. Deegan said he wanted to emphasize the Indigenous experiences of Native Americans living in the city.

Calvin Tiger
Calvin Tiger is an intern/reporter for the Seminole Tribune. He has worked with the Seminole Tribe of Florida since 2013. He has a passion for automotive journalism. Send him an email at or call him at (954) 985-5701, ext. 10739.