News | October 10, 2018

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Native American Film Fest aims to foster understanding

Award-winning filmmaker Chris Eyre will join Florida Gulf Coast University at its inaugural Native American Film Festival, Oct. 25-Nov. 15.


A member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes, Eyre will speak at an opening-night screening of his acclaimed directorial debut, “Smoke Signals,” which won the Filmmakers’ Trophy and Audience Award at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival. It was the first film to be written, directed, co-produced and primarily acted by Native Americans.


Five other movies will be screened on campus during the festival, which is free and open to the public and aims to foster understanding of the culture, traditions and contemporary issues of Native Americans. The event was planned to coincide with the November celebration of American Indian Heritage Month and is presented in partnership with FGCU’s College of Arts & Sciences, Department of Social Sciences, Department of Language and Literature, and the Seidler Fund.


The festival’s intent is to help counter stereotypes that surround the representation of Native Americans in media and serve as a conduit for dialog with Seminole and Miccosukee Indian communities in Southwest Florida.


“This is, hopefully, the first of many future Native American Film Festivals,” says Felicidad Noemi McDonald, FGCU anthropology instructor and museum studies program leader, who served on the festival planning committee. “We are working with members of the Seminole and Miccosukee tribes in organizing the event. Bryce Osceola (’18, Communication) has been mediating our conversations with both tribes in bringing speakers for the table discussion.”


In addition to the films “Edge of America” (2003) and “Skins” (2002), Eyre has directed episodes of “Law & Order,” “Friday Night Lights” and PBS’ “American Experience.” Called “the preeminent native American filmmaker of his time” by People magazine, Eyre has received a Peabody Award and an Emmy. His company created and supervised the Native American cultural team that consulted on Cheyenne culture for the 2018 Christian Bale feature film “Hostiles,” which also will be screened during the film festival.


Oct. 25:“Smoke Signals,” 6 p.m., Edwards Hall 112. Based on a novel by Native American writer Sherman Alexie; two young American Indians leave their reservation to go on a road trip to try to find themselves. Watch trailer.

Oct. 26: ”Hostiles,” 6 p.m., Edwards Hall 112. In 1892, after two decades of fighting native tribes, a U.S. cavalry captain escorts the ailing Cheyenne chief to his ancestral home in Montana. Watch trailer.

Nov. 2: “Naturally Native,” 6 p.m., Edwards Hall 112. Written and directed by Valerie Red-Horse (Cherokee); three Native American sisters struggle against racism while trying to launch a line of cosmetics based on old tribal remedies. Watch trailer.

Nov. 8: “Te Ata,” 6 p.m., Marieb Hall 100. Based on the true story of Mary Thompson Fisher, who was raised on the songs and stories of her Chickasaw tribe and conquered cultural barriers to become one of the greatest Native American performers of all time. Watch trailer.

Nov. 9: “Reel Injun,” 6 p.m., Edwards Hall 112. Directed by Neil Diamond (Cree);a documentary examining how Native Americans are portrayed in Hollywood films. Watch trailer.

Nov. 15: “So We May Grow” and “We Must Not Forget,” 6 p.m., Sugden Hall 115. Based on Miccosukee Indian culture, the first short documentary follows an uncle teaching his nephew the ways of the tribe. The second is inspired by the words of tribal elder Virginia Poole, with the theme of reinforcing the importance of women in determining the Miccosukee tribe’s future and cultural relevance. A discussion after the screening will feature Tina Osceola (Seminole), an associate trial judge for the Seminole Tribe of Florida Tribal Court, and Houston Cypress (Miccosukee), an artist and activist who grew up in the Florida Everglades.