Coming of Age at The American Indian Film Institute Festival

By the Indigenous Gothic Literature Seminar: Lily H. ’17, Julian L. ’18, Bill L. ’18, Nat M. ’18, Jordan M. ’17, Harry M. ’18, Poppy N. ’18, Matthew T. ’18. Photos by Nat M. ’18

The Indigenous Gothic Literature Seminar taught by Andrea Cartwright visited The American Indian Film Institute Festival in San Francisco on Thursday. There, we spent the day viewing films created by different Native American filmmakers, including students from the AIFI Tribal Touring Program Youth Series.

The films tackled issues of cultural appropriation, loss of tradition, stereotyping, and reservations, while simultaneously celebrating varying Native cultures through creation stories and dance.

As a class, our favorite films were two documentaries that focused on coming of age: the first was Ohero: Kon Under the Husk, a documentary about two Mohawk high school girls participating in a four-day fast as part of a coming-of-age ceremony.  We drew some parallels to own experiences on AWE.  The second documentary we enjoyed was Little Wound’s Warrior, which unpacked a recent suicide epidemic on Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota through interviews, mainly with high school students.

After our trip, we remarked that we now have a better understanding of the importance of including diverse voices and perspectives in media; for many, the festival’s slogan, “Defending Our Way of Life Through Film,” was particularly resonant.  Junior Natalie MacIlwaine observed: “I can now more clearly and directly see how the media is used as an outlet and way to express emotion of young people, as well as inform and further unify a community that shares similar feelings and culture.”  Senior Lilly Huang noted that: “As people who are minorities, often their voice is lost. When expressing their voices in such creative ways,  I think it really calls to attention what they want to say.”