Don't go for seconds on those romanticized Thanksgiving-settler stories. Feed your mind on these ingenious Indigenous films!
We've compiled a fresh batch of Indigenous cinema for you. No, Indigenous cinema is not a separate genre. In fact, in 2020, Indigenous filmmakers are pretty much pushing boundaries in every genre. Using innovative storytelling methods and important cultural perspectives, the following 10 Indigenous filmmakers and films that are must-stream right now in the following genres.
Watch their work and champion these filmmakers!
Disclaimer: it’s really hard to pick only 10 films for a list like this, and we recognize there are many other amazing films that aren’t mentioned here. Please share filmmakers we’ve missed in the comments below!
Blood Quantum directed by Jeff Barnaby (Mi'qmaq)
Having hit the film world with his 1970s styled dark heist feature, Rhymes for Young Ghouls, Jeff Barnaby (Mi'kmaq) is back to show that he’s a figure in horror here to stay. His latest film, Blood Quantum, is a deliciously bloody zombie flick, where a virus decimates all of Earth's population—except the Mi'kmaq community of Red Crow.
Sweetheart Dancers directed by Ben-Alex Dupris (Miniconjou Lakota, Colville Confederated Tribes)
Ben-Alex Dupris has a catchy style that is able to be fun while covering serious ground as well. You can see him at work in the now-playing PBS American Masters doc about iconic Indigenous artist Bunky Echo-Hawk, animated short Sister Wolves, or Sweetheart Dancers, which won the Grand Jury Award for Best Short at Outfest.
How Dupris explains Sweetheart Dancers: "Since the beginning of time, Indigenous people have respected and honored the roles of Two-Spirit people. They sat in our communities as artists, chiefs, medicine people, and intellectuals for centuries before Christianity began to shame tribal societies. This treatment has been passed down from the elder generations over the years. There is a skewed sense of normality in which some of our tribes continue to feel uncomfortable in today’s circles, where LGBTQ families are paving new ground for acceptance and equality.
Sweetheart Dancers is a short film that shows a slice of emotions from Adrian and Sean, as they are found to have been disqualified from the contest, because the rules state the contest is for, 'One man, and one woman.'"
Malni - Towards The Ocean, Towards The Shore directed by Sky Hopinka (Ho-Chunk/Pechanga)
Sky Hopinka is a filmmaker using incredible cinematography and language to reshape the ways his films are told.
Using the circular shape of the Chinookan origin of death myth, Hopinka seeks to re-imagine the linear storytelling conventions with an evocative experimental documentary.
Monkey Beach directed by Lorette Todd (Métis Cree)
While Loretta Todd has been making documentaries for years, it took her decades to get her debut narrative feature made. That is partly because she demanded it be shot in the remote Kitimat, British Columbia, where the story was set—her own community.
It paid off. Starring Adam Beach (Smoke Signals), Todd just won Best Director at America Indian Film Institute. As she explained in an interview with Seventh-Row, “You can’t survive colonialism and not be epic.”
Watch this film now at the virtual Red Nation Film Festival.
The College Athlete Running For Murdered Indigenous Women directed by Shaandiin Tome (Diné)
Shaandiin Tome is an emerging filmmaker proving herself capable across different types of filmmaking. From her narrative debut, a surreal narrative short Mud (Hastl’ishnii) that played Sundance (listen to our shorts podcast to hear about how she made it) to documentary human interest stories for the likes of KQED, VOX.
Above, in a spot for VICE, Tome creates a powerful short-form look into the epidemic of missing and murdered women, and how one college student is running to change things.
Parallel Minds directed by Benjamin Ross Hayden (Métis)
One of the best genres to see Indigenous filmmakers killing it right now is sci-fi. (Am I biased as the author of this list because this is pretty much my favorite genre? Yes!) In Indigenous sci-fi, futures are re-imagined in ingenious ways, with the likes of Jeneda Benally’s epic The 6th World or Danis Goulet’s apocalyptic thriller The Wakening.
As the youngest filmmaker accepted to the Telefilm Canada micro program, Benjamin Ross Hayden (Métis) has a new offering in the genre, which you can watch for the rest of the month through the Red Nation Film Festival.
Biidaaban (The Dawn Comes) directed by Amanda Strong (Michif)
Creating elaborately detailed sets (including one with 1,000 handmade skulls) to animate into breathtaking scenes that draw from the urban landscape, Native iconography, and historical images, Amanda Strong is a striking storyteller employing the art of stop-motion to tell stories that challenge notions of settler mindset and colonization.
Injunuity: Source of the Wound directed by Adrian Baker (Hopi)
Adrian Baker has been creating new animated episodes in his Injunuity series for over seven years. His latest iteration is The Source of the Wound, which incorporates a unique style of animation and real voices to explore the trauma of the Native American boarding school experience.
An Illustrated Mess—Native Drunk (Official Music Video) directed by Deidra Peaches (Diné)
After beginning her career with a $600 narrative short that played Sundance with Paper Rocket Productions collaborators Donavan Seschillie and the late Jake Hoyungowa, Deidra Peaches has gone on to make numerous documentaries (including a recent release from Jason Momoa) and excelled in inventive music videos for emerging Indigenous bands that play with subverting or reimagining Native traditions and imagery.
Low Rez News by Ryan RedCorn & the 1491s (Osage)
Whether taking dramatic portrait photographs, making videos for Buffalo Nickel Creative, acting at Shakespeare festivals and in Sterlin Harjo films, co-creating searing comedies with Steven Paul Judd, or producing videos from the intertribal, Indigenous sketch-comedy, The 1491s, Ryan RedCorn is an artist with many talents.
After being on hiatus along with the group, here’s RedCorn starring and producing in a new The 1491s video series of Low Rez News.
Little Chief directed by Erica Tremblay (Seneca–Cayuga)
As Erica Tremblay’s first foray into narrative, Little Chief shows off a delicate style that brings out humor in its details, even with struggle. (You can listen to how Tremblay started in doc and broke into fiction in our NFS shorts podcast here.)
Check out this film in the shorts program at the Red Nation Film Festival throughout November. Or go ahead and check out all the films in the block, as they $2.49 for one, and under $10 for five!
This is just a small smattering of talented Indigenous filmmakers with work you can watch right now.
Looking for more? Check out a few more talented Native American and First Nations artists we've profiled in the past, and all the offerings of the digital iteration of Red Nation Film Festival, which is streaming a plethora of gems from now until the end of November.
Keep an eye out for cool projects on the horizon. Filmmaker icons Sterlin Harjo (Love and Fury) and Taika Waititi (JoJo Rabbit) are shooting Reservation Dogs, likely destined to become a classic, Michelle Latimer is directing new TV show Trickster, and Sydney Freeland is set to co-create network TVs first-ever drama featuring a Native American family along with Ava DuVernay.
What filmmakers did we miss that would be great to add to this watch list? Please share in the comments!