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First Indigenous Film Festival opens Nov. 3

Fancy Dance (Courtesy/ IFF)

Fancy Dance (Courtesy/ IFF)

Originally Published: November 1, 2023 1:05 p.m.

The Verde Valley Archaeology Center & Museum is proud to launch our first Indigenous Film Festival, in cooperation with the Sedona International Film Festival, on Nov. 3 and 4. It is the mission of this film festival to break systematic barriers by creating cultural understanding through film. Our vision for the future of cinema is one in which Native American and Indigenous perspectives are respectfully pictured, recognized and valued in a way that promotes authentic identities, economic outcomes, equity and wellbeing for our Indigenous communities.

The Festival opens on Friday, Nov. 3, at 5 p.m., with a reception catered by Moscato's Italian Restaurant. At 6 p.m., Ted Pavatea (Hopi/Tewa), a traditional drummer and singer, will perform on stage and bless the Festival. He will be followed by the Madthii Swaddi Boys (Salty Earth Singers), traditional bird singers and dancers and inter-tribal group of the Yavapai-Apache Nation. Performances will end with the Warriorettes, a Yavapai-Apache Nation youth dance group.

Following the performances, the opening film of the festival will be a Canadian First Nations film entitled Voices Across the Water about two of the last canoe builders. At a glance, these two men lead very different lives but they are connected as practitioners of the disappearing art of traditional canoe construction. Both are also visual artists of significant repute, with their life's work rooted in the landscapes of their distinct cultures. Each is 60-years-old reflecting on a life rich in experience and accomplishment, an age when people also think about legacy and succession. But does anyone care anymore about these disappearing art forms? Who will carry on making birch bark and dugout canoes? What happens to hundreds - or thousands - of years of knowledge when they are gone?

The Festival continues on Saturday, Nov. 4, with three sessions of films. At 1:30 p.m., the Festival will start with Burros from Executive Producer, Eva Longoria. This award-winning short was shot on location at the Tohono O’odham Nation in Arizona. In southern Arizona, twenty miles from the Mexico border, a young Indigenous girl discovers a Latina migrant her age who has been separated from her father while traveling through the Tohono O’odham Nation into the United States. Among the awards received was Best Narrative Short at the Santa Fe International Film Festival, and Best Dramatic Short at the Arizona International Film Festival

This short is followed by the feature film Fancy Dance. Fancy Dance, which premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. It was filmed on the Seneca-Cayuga Reservation in Oklahoma. Following the disappearance of her sister, a Native American hustler kidnaps her niece from the child's white grandparents and sets out for the state powwow in hopes of keeping what's left of their family intact. This film received 97% on RottenTomatoes.

The 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 4 session begins with Sousa on the Rez: Marching to the Beat of a Different Drum. This is a documentary short that profiles two contemporary Indian community bands: The Iroquois Indian Band from upstate New York and the Fort Mojave Tribal Band based in Needles, California. The documentary traces the origins of these groups from their founding over 100 years ago and uncovers a secret history of the 20th century when "All Indian Bands" toured the US and abroad.

This is followed by the feature film A Love Song, starring Academy Award Winner West Studi. In A Love Song, Faye (Dale Dickey) is a lone traveler biding her time fishing, birding and stargazing at a rural Colorado campground as she awaits the arrival of Lito (Wes Studi), a figure from her past who is navigating his own tentative and nomadic journey across the rugged West. Like the country music that has traditionally channeled the heartbreak and resilience of Americans in search of themselves and others, A Love Song weaves a lyrical and ultimately joyful refrain out of the transformative act of being alone -- and reminds us that love can nourish and mystify at any age.

The Festival concludes on Saturday, Nov. 4, at 7 p.m., beginning with Long Line of Ladies, from Academy Award Winner Rayka Zehtabchi and Shaandiin Tome. This documentary short tells the story of a girl and her community as they prepare for her Ihuk, the once-dormant coming of age ceremony of the Karuk tribe of Northern California. This film was the winner of the Best Short Doc at the 2022 American Indian Film Institute film festival. The feature film for Saturday evening is still in negotiations and will be announced on the website at www.verdevalleyarchaeology.org.

The Verde Valley Archaeology Center and Museum is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization and is the only organization in the Verde Valley region dedicated to the care, management and curation of archaeological sites and artifacts found throughout the Sedona/Verde Valley region. The VVAC is the official non-profit partner of the National Park Service for Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot national monuments. Additional information about the museum can be found on their website at www.verdevalleyarchaeology.org or by calling 928-567-0066.