2013 Native Cinema Showcase
Monday–Sunday, August 12–18, no charge

Visit for a complete schedule.



Lights, camera, action! The 2013 Native Cinema Showcase is a free, multi-day celebration of indigenous directors, screenwriters, producers, actors, and crewmembers co-presented by the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.

The showcase includes an expanded selection of feature films, shorts, and documentaries, as well as a handful of experimental-video entries. Through film and experimental media, indigenous communities are developing new and innovative ways to preserve their languages and heritage, and this year’s program has something for every moviegoer.


A major highlight of the annual showcase is the daily screening of documentaries submitted by filmmakers that span generations. Emerging artists and seasoned film pros converge to discuss differences in technical, artistic, and cultural approaches. The showcase provides documentary programming on par with years past, zeroing in on both the shifting role of traditions, and Native people who make a difference in their communities by shattering social expectations and stereotypes.

In the documentary television series Working it Out Together, which is featured as part of the 2013 showcase’s Sunday-morning programming, Mohawk athlete Waneek Horn-Miller—a co-captain of Canada’s 2000 Olympic women’s water polo team who overcame a horrific childhood tragedy—makes a difference in her community by empowering six fellow Mohawk through her lifelong love of high-performance sports and fitness.

Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee’s beautifully photographed short film Yukon Kings focuses on Yup’ik grandfather Ray Waska. He teaches younger generations how to fish during the annual salmon run, but he worries that environmental changes may threaten the future of the ancient fishing traditions in his western Alaskan village.

The uplifting documentary film Indian Relay follows several Native Americans as they prepare for and compete in the 2011 Indian Relay National Championships in Blackfoot, Idaho. One of the most perilous types of horse racing in the world, the relay serves as the backdrop for an exhilarating story of pride, perseverance, and the true importance of family.

This year’s documentary offerings put a very different spin on traditional Native American music. The 30-minute film Sousa on the Rez: Marching to the Beat of a Different Drum could be the showcase’s runaway audience favorite, as director Cathleen O’Connell takes viewers on a compelling journey through the century-old tradition of tubas, trumpets, and Sousa marches found in some Native American communities. Along with a screening of Sousa on the Rez, Vision Maker Media public-telecommunications assistant director Georgiana Lee (Diné) will discuss the film.

In a Wednesday afternoon-and-evening program titled Images of Indians, the Native Cinema Showcase presents a five-part PBS series that ran on public television in 1979 and 1980. Directed by Robert Hagoplan and Phil Lucas, the series examines Hollywood stereotypes of Native Americans, and how those stereotypes have affected the acceptance of Native culture off the reservation, in the media, and throughout contemporary society.


Feature films are plentiful at this year’s showcase, as are comedy shorts. Opening the showcase on the evening of Aug. 12 is director Anita Doron’s coming-of-age dramatic feature The Lesser Blessed, which plumbs the teenage mind and heart of a relative loner in a nothing-to-do community of Canada’s Northwest Territories. (Co-presented by the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival, this one’s for mature audiences.)

The cornerstone of the features programming this year is the much-anticipated drama Winter in the Blood, brother/writer-director duo Alex and Andrew Smith’s emotionally dense adaptation of the iconic novel of the same name by renowned Native American author James Welch, who died in 2003. While some younger audiences may be attracted to the film because of its cast—it stars Twilight heartthrob Spencer Chaske, who played werewolf Sam Uley in the Twilight movie series—Winter in the Blood is a captivating story of addiction and searching for one’s identity that is, as the Smiths relate in their production notes, “a true classic—unique, universal, timeless, uncompromising, open. It touches people in a profound, life-changing, way … because it is a story of survival and recovery. It serves s a map of healing to generations of readers around the world.”


On a lighter note, there’s no shortage of laughs in director Kaniehtiio “Tiio” Horn’s (Mohawk) short film The Smoke Shack, which chronicles the daily routine of a tobacco retailer on the reservation. And count them: this year’s showcase includes not one, but two zombie flicks.

Friday, Aug. 16, rings in the third annual Future Voices of New Mexico Native Youth Film Festival, which presents 90 minutes of outstanding film and video by young and emerging filmmakers. Future Voices is a collaborative project of the Lensic Performing Arts Center, Santa Fe Photographic Workshops, and the Indigenous Language Institute.


Each year, SWAIA also invites filmmakers from around the world to submit entries into the market’s Classification X: A Moving Images Competition. The juried competition, which is the newest award-based exhibition category at Santa Fe Indian Market, includes narrative-short, documentary-short, animation-short, experimental-short, and full-length-feature divisions.

The showcase makes good use of the Institute for Native American Arts’ digital dome—the world’s only fully articulating digital-video dome—to present director Lunette Wallworth’s stunning 2-D piece, Coral: Rekindling Venus, an exploration of the fluorescent microcosm of underwater coral reefs. The dome, which weighs 8,000 pounds, hangs from the ceiling, can rotate 0 to 90 degrees, and can also extend toward the floor or retract closer to the ceiling. The environment inside the dome provides surround sound and high-resolution video and still imagery.


The 2013 showcase offers up something special for budding filmmakers. “Sundance Panel—Producing Films in Today’s Ever-changing Marketplace,” is a discussion on how to connect with contemporary film audiences, led by members of the Sundance Institute’s Native American and Indigenous Program. Special guests include producer Chad Burris (Mosquita y Mari; Barking Water; Four Sheets to the Wind) and Sundance Production’s Laura Michalchyshyn and Bird Runningwater.