In the fourth episode of the Sundance 2023 podcast season, we discuss the North American films by and about Indigenous Peoples at the festival, including Twice Colonized, Bad Press, Murder in Big Horn, and Fancy Dance.
Don’t miss a single episode. Subscribe to the podcast now.
Listen to the whole Sundance 2023 season
Today is the fourth of many episodes of the 2023 Sundance season of the Seventh Row podcast.
Sundance 2023 runs from January 19-28, and we’ll be covering this year’s festival in a new podcast season about the films this year and how the programming fits into the festival’s history.
Listen to all the episodes to discover the year’s best and worst films, and how this year’s program jives with past festivals.
About this episode: Indigenous Films at Sundance
- 00:00 Introduction
- 01:05 Why are we discussing Indigenous films at Sundance?
- 14:11 Fancy Dance is our favourite Indigenous film at Sundance
- 14:54 Murder in Big Horn
- 31:00 Twice Colonized
- 41:13 Bad Press
- 49:26 The trend of an Indigenous filmmaker and a settler filmmaker co-directing
- 57:58 Indigenous films at Sundance set outside of North America: Heroic, Sorcery, Against the Tide
In this episode, we discuss Indigenous Films at Sundance: films directed or co-directed by Indigenous people as well as a couple of films about Indigenous people but directed by settlers. We kick off with our favourite Indigenous film at the festival, Fancy Dance, about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) which we already went deep on in episode 3.
We then dig into the disappointing documentary miniseries Murder in Big Horn (dir. Razelle Benally who is Oglala Lakota/Diné and Matthew Galkin), which looks at MMIWG in the Crow and Northern Cheyenne Nations. The Sundance miniseries Murder in Big Horn is told through the lens of an Indigenous investigative journalist looking into the case and uses the tropes of true crime. We talk about the often thoughtful but inchoate Twice Colonized, which was directed by a settler The film Twice Colonized follows the wonderful Inuk lawyer Aaju Peter (who also appears in Angry Inuk).
Quick Thoughts on Sundance Indigenous Films Bad Press and Heroic
Next, we talk briefly about another disappointing Sundance US Indigenous film, a documentary co-directed by an Indigenous director, Bad Press (dir. Muscogee filmmaker Rebecca Landsberry-Baker and Joe Peeler), about the Mvskoke Media in the Muscogee Creek Nation navigating gaining and then losing and then trying to regain their status as free press. We also touch briefly on Fox Maxy’s New Frontiers experimental film Gush.
Finally, we briefly discuss Heroic, a World Dramatic Competition film about an Indigenous character and mention the other World Cinema films that are about (but not made by) Indigenous people.
Never miss an episode again. Become a member.
The Seventh Row Podcast spotlights under-the-radar, female-directed, and foreign films. All of our episodes are carefully curated. Indeed, we only discuss films we think are really worth your time and deserve in-depth critical analysis.
Our episodes that are more than six months old are only available to members. In addition, many of our new episodes are for members only.
For exclusive access to all of our episodes, including all of our in-between season episodes, become a member.
How to follow our Sundance 2023 coverage
Subscribe to our newsletter for updates on the 2023 Sundance podcast season and coverage on the website.
Follow Seventh Row on Twitter and Instagram @SeventhRow; Alex Heeney on Twitter and Instagram @bwestcineaste; and Orla Smith on Twitter and Instagram.
Show Notes on the E4 of the Sundance 2023 podcast season: Indigenous Film
- Explore our archive of interviews with Indigenous filmmakers.
- Listen to the third episode of our Sundance 2023 podcast season, in which we discuss Erica Tremblay’s film Fancy Dance.
- Listen to the podcast Finding Cleo on CBC Radio.
- Read our interview with Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers on her film Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning of Empathy.
- Read our interview with Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers and Kathleen Hepburn on The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open, in which they discuss their collaboration. Then listen to our four-person masterclass with the pair and Mouthpiece collaborators Norah Sadava and Amy Nostbakken.
- Read our interview with Sonia Boileau on her film Rustic Oracle, which is about the issue Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
- Read our interview with director Alethea Arnaquq-Baril on Angry Inuk, her documentary about seal hunting.
- Listen to our last podcast season, which discussed the history of women filmmakers at the Cannes film festival.
- Discover all of our past podcast episodes on films that screened at Sundance.
Related episodes to E4: Sundance 2023 Indigenous Films
At Seventh Row, we have a long-standing interest in covering Indigenous Films from around the world, with a special focus on films produced in Canada. In this episode, we reference any great Indigenous films and creatives that we’ve discussed on previous episodes. If you’d like to learn more about Indigenous filmmaking, we recommend checking these out.
- Ep. 131: Remembering Jeff Barnaby (FREE). The great Mi’gmaq filmmaker Jeff Barnaby passed away last year. We paid tribute to his enormous influence on Indigenous filmmaking, Canadian cinema, and the filmmaking industry more broadly through his work and activism. We also discuss his short films and two feature Rhymes for Young Ghouls and Blood Quantum, and why they have had such a lasting impact.
- Ep. 126: Run Woman Run (also featuring a discussion of Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning of Empathy) (FREE, soon becoming Members Only). We discuss the Indigenous film Run Woman Run. The film is the second feature from director Zoe Leigh Hopkins. It’s a coming-of-age at 30+ story about an Indigenous woman and mother who must learn to care for herself after getting a diabetes diagnosis. We also talk about Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers’s documentary Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning of Empathy. In this episode, we discuss how Murder In Big Horn lacks the empathy for its subjects that we see in The Meaning of Empathy.
- Ep. 62 and 63: Indigenous YA part 1 and Indigenous YA part 2 (in which we discuss Rustic Oracle) (Members Only): We discuss a number of Indigenous YA films out of Canada, including the MMIWG films Rustic Oracle.
Podcasts on Indigenous filmmaking in Australia
- Ep. 120: David Gulpilil: Remembering his work in Charlie’s Country and beyond (FREE, soon becoming Members Only): The great Australian Aboriginal actor David Gulpilil passed away in 2021. We began 2022 with a tribute to his work and legacy.
- Ep. 38: Australian westerns and True History of the Kelly Gang (in which we discuss Sweet Country) (Members Only): We discuss how Aboriginal filmmaker Warwick Thornton upends colonial tropes in the Australian Western with his film Sweet Country (which screened at Sundance!). We look at the film in context with some contemporary settler Australian Westerns.
Discover all of our past podcast episodes on films that screened at Sundance.
Listen to all the related episodes. Become a member.
All of our podcasts that are more than six months old are only available to members. We also regularly release members only bonus episodes. Many of the episodes listed here are now only available to members (Members Only).
For exclusive access to all of our episodes, including all of our in-between season episodes:
Speakers on this episode
Host Alex Heeney is the Editor-in-Chief of Seventh Row. Find her on Twitter @bwestcineaste.
Host Orla Smith is the Executive Editor of Seventh Row. Find her on Instagram @orla_p_smith.
The transcript for the free excerpt of this episode was AI-generated by Otter.ai.
Alex Heeney 0:17
Welcome to the fourth episode of The Sundance 2023 Season of the seven throw podcast, Sundance runs from January 19 to 29th 2023. Today we'll be discussing the feature films made by indigenous filmmakers screening at the festival, as well as a couple of films that feature indigenous characters are made by settlers. I'm Alex Heeney, editor in chief of Seventh Row, and this is my 10th year covering Sundance,
Orla Smith 0:43
and I am Orla Smith, executive editor of seventh row. And it is my fourth year covering the festival.
Alex Heeney 0:50
Sundance marks the beginning of the new film year as the festival made up primarily of world premieres. In this podcast season, we'll be talking both about the films we see at the festival, and how the films this year fit into the context of the history of the festivals programming.
Orla Smith 1:05
So we decided to dedicate kind of a an entire episode of this season to the indigenous films at Sundance this year. And in past years, because it does feel like this year, something has changed if ever so slightly. And the programming every year of indigenous films is usually very, very minimal. There's not more than two to three, very most every year, and that can sometimes include films directed by settlers. In fact, it usually it does. And, you know, there tend to be a few more shots that are directed by indigenous filmmakers. But on the future side, it's very minimal. And this year, that number is larger. And it's not huge, but it's certainly larger. And so it felt like it would be really important to have a conversation about now that that pool is expanding what kinds of stories being told, and by whom. This year, we've already talked in the previous episode about one of our favorite films of the festival, which is Erica Tron Blaze, fancy dance. And that is a film solely directed by an indigenous filmmaker about indigenous characters. And that's not that not the case with all of them. We have fit another feature twice colonize a documentary, which features indigenous subject, but is directed by a settler. And then we have murder and Bitcoin which is a mini series and bad press, which are both co directed by one indigenous filmmaker and one set for filmmaker. And then Alex, you seen gush, which is in the new frontier section? That's right.
Alex Heeney 3:00
I have seen it though seen feels like kind of the wrong world word because I don't know that I've understood it. It's a very experimental film. So I as someone who doesn't normally connect to experimental films, I don't feel comfortable commenting on the quality of the film, because it's clearly not a film for me. And I you know, it's inventive and interesting, but I don't have a lot to say about it. Because I think my sense is from other people who are more familiar with her work that it makes more that it's easier to understand in the context of her short, her short films. And this is her first feature
Orla Smith 3:38
is Fox Maxy who is an indigenous filmmaker, right?
Alex Heeney 3:42
Yeah, she's a I'm gonna mispronounce this. Oh my god. It's hard to find all of these pronunciations online Camilla Yee and pay your Mac can we chimp heritage. And yeah, that's in the new frontier section. And almost all of those except for twice colonized are American films. And it's pretty rare for Sundance to fill out its indigenous programming with American features. They usually have Canadian films or Australian films or New Zealand films or Amanda Kernall's films from Sweden.
Orla Smith 4:22
And even like, fancy dance is full of Canadian talent. That's true.
Alex Heeney 4:28
And I don't know that that's for one of trying the Sundance Film Festival has had an initiative for many years now where they support with grants and I think also like that training is the right word, but like workshops, I guess, for indigenous filmmakers and Erica Tremblay is the product of the workshop and the grant and she first had a short film at Sundance, with little chief.
Orla Smith 4:59
Also stuff I know they also
Alex Heeney 5:00
started late Lily Gladstone of that was a few years ago, right? That was in 2020. I believe that was 2020. And now we were seeing her with her first feature, fancy dance and making
Orla Smith 5:10
good on the prom. Yeah.
Alex Heeney 5:12
So you know, there, maybe we'll be seeing more of this. More filmmakers kind of like in the pipeline that are in the pipeline now emerging, as you know, fully formed feature film directors in the coming years. But there hasn't been a lot in the past. And I would be shocked if that isn't because the US doesn't really have state funding for films. Whereas countries like Canada, well, like basically every other country honestly.
Alex Heeney 5:42
Maybe not India, but like, like, maybe not some of the really big countries like India and China. I don't know how those funding are Russia and and how those funding systems work. But most European countries, most South American countries, the antipodes, Canada, there's a lot of national funding for filmmaking, because effectively our film industries wouldn't exist otherwise, because we're in competition with the US and in Canada. Certainly, there has been in recent years, especially like, a lot of attention paid to although if you talk to indigenous filmmakers, they'll say the opposite that, you know, it's still really dismal.
Alex Heeney 6:20
But there has been a lot of funding of indigenous films, and there's been a lot of people making indigenous filmmakers making indigenous films. In Canada, especially it's kind of really exploded in the last three or five years like his before. For decades, it was Alanis Obomsawin, making documentaries at the NFB. And then Jeff Barnaby was one of the first filmmakers who like really made a splash and doing fiction, fiction films who I mean, he sadly passed away last year, we recently did a memorial episode about his importance in the film industry and his work called Remembering Jeff Barnaby.
Alex Heeney 7:05
But I mean, in Canada, we've seen a lot more indigenous filmmakers emerging in the last few years. They're mostly working on micro budget under supported, underfunded and they still don't have enough. There's still not enough capacity building to fill their crews entirely with indigenous talent. But I mean, every time we make an emerging actors list, there's like tons of indigenous actors from Canada every year. And, yeah, there's a lot of exciting things happening in Canada, basically.
Alex Heeney 7:38
But I think a lot of that is because there is state support. So the need to be, like commercially viable by having a big movie star in it, or a named director behind it is a lot less necessary. And you, like Australia is another country, I think that has a strong history of indigenous filmmakers, like really great indigenous filmmakers who've made an international splash like Wayne Blair, and were wick Thornton in particular, both of whom have had their films programmed at Sundance.
Orla Smith 8:17
And in New Zealand, to New Zealand
Alex Heeney 8:19
to I mean, obviously, Taikia Waititi is the big star that has come out of New Zealand, but there are, you know, there are consistently indigenous films made out of New Zealand pretty much every year,
Orla Smith 8:32
and a lot of indigenous acting talent in New Zealand, a lot of us become, like people who have managed to have like, quite successful careers internationally.
Alex Heeney 8:43
I know I guess that's, I mean, not all know, that's true of a lot of actors in Australia, but certainly true of David Gulpilil, who is a major star and who also sadly passed away recently, and we started 2022 with a memorial episode about his work and career.
Orla Smith 9:04
I mean, I would, I would, I would add the caveat that we're also kind of graded on a curve in a sense of like, yeah, the the extent to which these filmmakers and actors are being supported Yes. I think David Gopal, like was successful for an Aboriginal actor
Alex Heeney 9:28
Yeah, but he almost Australia work within filmmakers or or an Aboriginal filmmakers I should say.
Orla Smith 9:35
Yeah, an actor of his caliber should have got to do even more things like of the caliber of his his best work yeah in his career. And you know, the the people we're talking about who are being supported to make features in Canada are often being completely underfunded. Yeah, those features even if even second feature Just like we talked about last year run woman ran, which is a really wonderful feature film from Zoe Leigh Hopkins. And it's actually her second feature, but it seems to have been given the budget of a low budget first feature, which is a real shame because she's a filmmaker, so many ideas who could like do a lot with a little bit more resources and still did a wonderful amount with very few resources?
Alex Heeney 10:27
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, that's absolutely true. Like, when we say that the situation is better in other countries, it's still dire. And Indigenous artists are not given the support, they need to reach their full potential or to have the careers that they deserve. You know, given how talented they are. But I feel like it's just important context that like Sundance is an American-centric Film Festival. And, you know, maybe they could be doing more to support indigenous filmmakers, but they're in an industry that really doesn't have any incentives to make non commercially viable films, which is not true in countries like Canada and Australia.
Alex Heeney 11:15
And, you know, that's the fact that Canada and Australia have, for example, I mean, there are other places like New Zealand and Sweden, that do make quite a few indigenous films. But the fact that that's existed for a while means that we've, you know, people have had the opportunity to hone their skills. So you see, for example, like on the TV show reservation dogs, they've invited, I think, Danis Goiulet, directed an episode for them, and Devery Jacobs had already made a bunch of films in Canada. And she's kind of the breakout star of that show Mystery Road, which was an entirely indigenous made written and starring show out of Australia from a few years back. Though a lot of those actors have then gone on to make like, shows by settlers, like that featured indigenous characters, but they're getting platforms and like shows on Amazon Prime and like big kids. And it's like, partly that they've had the opportunity to kind of like develop those careers.
Alex Heeney 12:19
So it's, it's a mixed bag, like it's not good here, like, but I understand part of why Sundance hasn't been able to do better, because they are not entirely in charge of what get what gets made.
Orla Smith 12:34
But I think it is Sundance, is it a good sort of survey of how American indie cinema is doing. Yeah, and in that way, it's a it's it reveals something certainly even if that's something is not necessarily entirely the fault of the Sundance program is
Alex Heeney 12:53
Yeah, I mean, could always argue that they should put more resources into their indigenous program, but and funding, you know, if to level the playing field, but they're doing something at least, which is more than concern for a lot of organizations.
Orla Smith 13:13
If you're enjoying our curation and discussion of under the radar, female directed and foreign films at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, you might also enjoy past episodes of the podcast episodes that are more than six months older only available to members. In addition, many of our new episodes are members only. All of our episodes are carefully curated so that we only discuss films we think are really worth your time, and deserve in depth critical analysis. We tend to dedicate episodes to thought provoking and to discuss films that no other podcasts would cover with such depth, like the films or Jeff Barnaby or other great indigenous films. To listen to all of our episodes, become a member today. You'll also get a discount in our shop to purchase our books and filmmakers like Lindsey armour, Kelly Reichardt and Joanna Hogg, all of whom are screened at Sundance to become a member go to seventh-row.com/join.
Alex Heeney 14:11
So I guess, our number one film we already discussed in the last episode, which is fancy dance.
Orla Smith 14:18
Yes. And yeah, just to reiterate, it's a really wonderful directorial debut by Erica Tremblay, starring the amazing Lily Gladstone. And, you know, I think it's it's one of the few films about missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. And it manages to like really tackle all of the or a lot of the systemic issues that surround that issue. And I think the main because we've already we've talked about that film, so we don't need to go into great detail about it. I think you should listen to the previous episode.
Orla Smith 14:55
But it is an interesting counterpoint to a discussion about Murder in Big Horn with is a mini series at this year's festival. And it also tackles missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls as an issue. And does it I think as its documentary, yes. And is it and I think a much less effective way than fancy dancers. Yeah. So if you want to hear about why we think fancy dancers really effective in a bit more detail, listen to the last episode. But should we dig into murder and break on a little bit? Yeah. Why in comparison, it it doesn't. It's not quite as effective.
Alex Heeney 15:33
Yeah, sure. And I mean, something I guess we should, I should also just preface this with that in the last episode we talked to I gave a bit of context about other films and TV shows that are being made at the moment about missing and murdered indigenous, missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. So that might be something to revisit as well. We don't want to bore you by covering stuff that you've already heard. But this is probably one of the documentaries that like the only documentary of recent recently that I'm aware of.
Alex Heeney 16:11
And it's already going to have a big platform because it was produced by Showtime, and comes out very soon, like I think in mid February. And it is co-directed by Matthew Galkin, who is a settler filmmaker who has done a bunch of true crime work for Showtime and his co director is Razelle Benally who is from the Oglala Lakota and Diné Nations. And she I think she basically just completed her MFA. So this is her. She's done. I think some writing work on some TV shows, but this is her first. Well, it's not a feature, but like big directorial outing. That's more than short. Yeah. I mean, I feel like you have some really strong thoughts on this. So maybe you should start. Yeah,
Orla Smith 17:04
I think, um, I have some issues. series, I think what it will serve to do with the platform that it has is alert people of to this as an issue, and alert people to if they watch the poll series to some of the things that contribute to that issue. But I think there's a lot of things that the show mishandles with regards to kind of giving you the full picture of the all of the systemic issues that surround the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. And one of the things in episode one that really kind of, like bugged me was, that is a talking head, where someone says that, like, this isn't your like, this isn't just like a true crime story.
Orla Smith 18:12
And they're very adamant that, you know, this isn't a true crime story, you shouldn't view it through that lens. And then the show proceeds to be made with the exact aesthetics and structure of a true crime story. And in a way that is completely aimed to satisfy that audience that lapse that stuff up as entertainment. And and that kind of did rub me the wrong way. Because it felt very disingenuous. And it felt like I don't know, it's hard to. It's hard to put into words like, what is so troublesome about just the like, I think it's maybe the sensationalism of the true crime aesthetic. The way it's all just sort of like dramatic music, widescreen. Let's go into the details of these specific cases. When really, I think with an issue like this, you need to give so much context that the show waits until the third episode to feed you. And even, like, any kind of significant way, which is way too late. Yeah.
Alex Heeney 19:36
Yeah, there's a lot of statements that go on contested early in the show, and kind of are left to linger there as though these are reasonable statements like cops saying, well, they, you know, the kids come from a broken home and the parents are drunks and they're drunk. So what do you expect? And it's like, Whoa, you got to contextualize that like Centuries of colonialist, genocide and trauma are a big part of why, like, yes, maybe they are, maybe the home is broken, and maybe they are drunks, but to blame it on them and not consider the systemic violence that has been perpetrated against indigenous people is, you know, ignorant at best and really damaging at worst. And I
Orla Smith 20:30
think the filmmakers are kind of afraid to, you know, begin their show with a lecture about colonial history. And instead, they prioritize going case by case through these very tragic stories of what happened to these girls. And then, once they've kind of drawn you in with those details very late on, they're like, Okay, let's give you a bit of context. But like, and I think that's a product of trying to kind of follow true crime conventions, when actually this story can't be told in its most effective way, by following that those conventions. But they are accepted quite uncritically. Yeah, into the film's aesthetic and structural DNA.
Alex Heeney 21:21
Yeah, I mean, I couldn't help thinking throughout this about this, the really wonderful CBC podcast called Finding Cleo, which came out the first season of it came out several years ago. And it was sort of a true crime podcast. I mean, it was kind of it was made around sort of the, you know, it was made a few years after serial, but like, while true crime was still kind of new and hot right now. And what it did was it sort of began as though you might be seeing, as you know, it might be about a true crime podcast, but it really expanded into and very soon became not really about exactly what happened to this, this person, or like, whether they're still alive, or how they were murdered, and became more about colonialism and the community and, you know, the colonial violence and systemic issues that have allowed there to be so many missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.
Alex Heeney 22:25
And so the hook was sort of like, who is going to be true crime, but it very quickly gets out of being true crime. And, like, the most interesting thing about the podcast is that is that you get a lot of context, and you meet the people who, who knew. I mean, the first season it's, it's clear who's gone missing, see, meet people who knew Cleo, who saw her before she went missing, who can tell us about who she was, and her life and the area where she lived. And like, just just, it becomes a show that's more about context than it is about, you know, like, the cops or solving a mystery.
Alex Heeney 23:11
And so, like, that having been my first exposure to dealing with this issue through a true crime lens, I was really disappointed by murder in Big Horn, because as you said, it really does the opposite. And for me, I felt like, you know, two episodes in most of the time we've spent has been with the journalist who is researching this, mostly we sit in her office, and watch her explain the story to us. And like two thirds of the way into the series, I don't know what the reserve looks like, I don't really know anything about this girl who's gone missing, you know, aside from the things that are used to blame the victim. I don't really know much about the community I don't really know much about missing and murdered indigenous women and girls as a widespread problem generally, and or a problem specifically in Montana, which is where it said and where it deals with this. I don't really know much about the culture of the Crow and Northern Cheyenne nations, which is, which are at the center of the story.
Alex Heeney 24:25
And I feel like I've spent a lot of time with settler cops saying really racist things that they're allowed to say, first, and then get rebutted. Like, there it feels like there's just no opportunity to extend empathy to the community and the people and a lot of victim blaming or stories told from like, people who are not necessarily directly involved like, like, yes, we need journalists. I'm not saying and Finding Clea is about a journalist and indigenous journalist who's following up on this story but has no connection to Clio or that community as far as I remember.
Orla Smith 25:12
And I feel like we don't really get any sense of who the indigenous people surrounding the investigation or as for people outside of these, like, probing interviews about a case, and it's not a film about missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. But I think a good a good kind of example of the way you can elegantly tell a story like this. And include the context, elegantly, is my tail feathers. So many have empathy, for example, which is a film that is about opioid addiction, on an indigenous reserve. And it, she manages to give us the broad and historical context. And all the context, we need to kind of understand why addiction is a problem on the reserve, while also painting these people as full people who have, you know, lives that are worth living and aren't completely defined by their addiction. Yeah. And by trying to stuff this narrative into a true crime, mold, murder, and Bighorn loses the opportunity to do any of that.
Alex Heeney 26:41
Yeah. And I think it's particularly disappointing because it feels manufactured for a settler audience. I mean, I don't, I don't, I don't know anything about the production history. And I don't think there are a lot of interviews with the filmmakers out at the moment. So I can't say that that was the intention. But one would assume Showtime, the majority of showtimes audience is settlers. So that, I can't imagine that they weren't at least targeting settlers somewhat.
Alex Heeney 27:11
But the problem is, like when you if if you're doing that, if you're making a film with the knowledge that you want it to be accessible to settlers, whether or not it's also hopefully going to reach indigenous people and be meaningful to them, then you have to be aware of like settlor biases, and the lack of education, and not that it's your job to correct that. But if you are making a show that is supposed to illuminate an issue that people don't know about, you have to think really carefully about how you make sure that you're extending empathy towards your subject.
Alex Heeney 27:44
And I mean, Elle-Maija tailfeathers, the meaning of empathy is, I mean, it is a film about the opioid crisis, but the title really does fit because it is even more so a film about the importance of having empathy and like part of how it's related to is like in murder and Bighorn there's a lot of oh, well she was drunk and so she deserved it or, or like she just didn't care about herself and in meaning of empathy it gives a lot of context for opioid addiction and that like turn it victim blaming doesn't help it just kills people.
Alex Heeney 28:17
But I think a lot about Alethea Arnaquq-Baril's film Angry Inuk which is going to come up when we talk about twice colonized because she produced that and the subject of twice colonized Aaju Peter actually appears in Angry Inuk but part of I mean angry Inuk is partly about like it's about a lot of things it's partly like an introduction to init culture for settlers I guess, or people who don't know about it. And a lot of what's at the center of it is about the importance of seal meat to in up culture and the fight to you know, stop the UN from banning seal hunting.
Alex Heeney 29:03
And it's a film that really smartly like the way it starts is not with like protests against killing seals. But it takes you to Iqaluit where Alethia lives and it and it introduces you to her community to the place to the hunters to the ceremony and importance of seal meet and how that brings community together. And when I talked to her about the film she said something like you know you have to you have to make people fall in love with the place and with the with the culture before you start confronting them with something that they're uncomfortable about because it's easy to be like against seal hunting when you don't really know what's going on and if your idea of Anyway, anyway people is comes from Nanook of the North, which is, which itself was like super racist and staged and asked, anyway, people to, you know, hunt as though it was 100 years before. And so it was showing something of the past and not really showing in we have today. And that is kind of like what a lot of people's understanding of intimate people is.
Alex Heeney 30:25
And so like, she had to think about how to combat that. And I think she does it really well. It's not a film that feels educational, or didactic, but it's a film that lets you live with the characters in the UN has a strong sense of place, because something that's important to pretty much every indigenous nation and culture is connection to the land. So it's important that you understand what the what that connection is in the land is in order to tell that story. And I feel likeMurder In Big Horn is devoid of all of those things.
Orla Smith 31:00
But I think that film is an is an interesting comparison with twice colonized, as well. Right? Yeah. Twice colonize, which is the one the one film on this list that is solely directed by a settler.
Alex Heeney 31:11
Yeah, and it's also not a an American film. It's I mean, it's interesting because Aaju Peter, the subject who is a lawyer and appears and angry enough, because she is an a lawyer, and I believe international law, who helps who is helping to lead the fight to legalize, you know, subsistence hunting of seals, or not to legalize it, I should say, to prevent it from becoming illegal, I think, if I'm correct, and she is like a really interesting character who really shines within angry Inuk, though I would say angry and Nook, which is directed by Alethea Arnaquq-Baril who appears in it is also really her story. And Aaju Peter is just kind of like a really great character who is in it. And now she is the center of focused in, twice colonized.
Orla Smith 32:08
film that is a bit all over the place.
Alex Heeney 32:11
Yeah. And I guess part of part of like it, she has an interesting story, partly because I mean, where the film gets his title from is the idea that she was twice colonized because she was born in Greenland, which was, of course, colonized by the Danes, and she's a Inuit. And she went to school in Denmark. And although Denmark doesn't have or didn't have residential, quote, unquote, schools, like Canada, did, they still, if you're, you know, we're in the business of removing indigenous, or in this case, specifically Inuit children from their parents, and trying to colonize them through education and removing them from their language and their culture. So that was her experience.
Alex Heeney 33:07
And then she married an Inuk man who lives in Iqaluit in Canada. And so she has spent the rest of her life living in Canada, which is also of course, a colonial nation that, you know, has done lots of colonial damage to ennui. People although the anyway people late a lot of the colonialism has happened in the last century, as opposed to going back hundreds of years like it does with other indigenous nations in Canada.
Orla Smith 33:48
This one I mean, I think the main comparison with Angry Inuk is that the film begins as if it is going to be a film about Aaju Peter's sort of fight for the right for indigenous people to hunt seals. And it kind of abandons that a bit. Yeah, that's fair to say. And I think that the problem is that, whereas angry Inuk is a film giving context to why the seal hunt is important. This film shows that I up to is pro seal hunt and a bunch of white people are anti seal hunt. And then and then it doesn't explain why.
Alex Heeney 34:34
Yeah, and it's sorry, Introduction to her. So it's like a lot of settlers protesting about something they don't know anything about, and neither does the viewer and I'm not even sure that the film tells us that she was a lawyer and you know, involved in this fight for many years like we do get we do see her at the UN and understand that she has some important international status and travels internationally. but it's a weird place to begin. Like if this was a story about her seal, Hunt fight, which it isn't. It's a it's a kind of prejudiced way to begin it. And then the film is not really about that it's kind of about what happened. What's happened after like, angry and milk is about her fight for the seal, hunt, and then twice colonized sort of about what's happened after, what is she doing now? Or in the last few years? And how has she been rethinking her life and dealing with her own trauma and trying to find a way to make a positive difference in the world?
Orla Smith 35:44
But it does feel like it's a film that doesn't know exactly how it wants to approach it subject. Oh, yeah, exactly what it wants to be about. Because he said, it starts appearing as if it is going to be about a completely different thing than it is really about appearing as if it's going to follow her, like, activism with regards to the seal hunt, and then becoming a different kind of personal portrait, and kind of zigging and zagging. You know, in a way that it does remind me of another documentary that we will talk about, at some point in the season, the longest goodbye, which is about completely different things. Also feels like I feel like a
Alex Heeney 36:25
lot of a lot of things that are interesting are in there. But yeah, the same as not colonized. But it's cuz she's an interesting lady, who has had a difficult but interesting life. Yes. And she is a compelling subject, but the film, and I think I mean, I think also the film is twice colonized is, is kind of made during a time of transition in her life. So she's sort of like having her own existential crisis and trying to figure out who she is now and what she wants to do. And then the film itself seems to have it be having a bit of an existential crisis, about how to depict that and kind of like, going off in a bunch of different directions, all of which are more or less interesting. It's just they don't really coat cohere into a strong narrative.
Orla Smith 37:20
I think both those films are like films where I'm like, oh, what this is about as interesting. Yeah. I would like to hear about this in another form. Yeah. Because this form is, I'm struggling to keep track of where I am in the narrative like that I up to talk in the film about how she is working on a book. Yeah, her life. And I couldn't help but feel like I left the film, wishing I could just read the book.
Alex Heeney 37:47
Yeah. A book twice colonized. Yes.
Orla Smith 37:51
And I'm like, Well, I would just, it would be nice to just yeah, get it straight from her. Yeah. And hopefully with a slightly less structural incoherence. Yeah. Which was, yeah, a shame, because she is such a force for a forceful subject.
Alex Heeney 38:08
Yeah. Well, and you can imagine that, like, I'm sure there were challenges in the making of this. Just in the sense that like, one of the threads that it goes through is she is Peter goes back to Greenland, and to Denmark to visit places from her childhood with her brother. And the journey is really traumatic for her and her brother. And like, it's like, how are you? You know, it's really hard to talk about those things. And hard to talk about them without being re traumatized, especially without the like, kind of support that you might need. And they may not be ready to talk about it yet. So we kind of like it's, it's a, it's an intriguing thing to watch them on this journey. But then we also kind of feel at an arm's length from it, because we don't really get a huge sense of what's what they're seeing and how they're processing it. And, you know, maybe they haven't processed it yet.
Alex Heeney 39:02
That's like something, maybe you will get in the book, if the book happens in the future. And so there's a bunch of things that are kind of like that, where I don't know, like, I'm sure there was a huge level of trust between director and subject in this film, but like some things it doesn't really like. It's just so hard to talk about. And, you know, she may not have wanted to talk about it. Lin Alluna the director may not have wanted to ask or felt that she had the right to ask later. Like, I don't know, like, there's a lot of unknowns here about why it is the way it is. But I can imagine that like, you know, when you're dealing with trauma, it's it's hard to tell a nonfiction story about it because you have to deal with real trauma. And so that might be part of why like we have all these threads that are compelling but you know, don't necessarily The coho here Yeah, it's not like Robert Greene's film called What was it called procession precession. Right. Where, you know, he had a bunch of survivors of sexual abuse in the Catholic church sign up to reenact their abuse on camera. And like, that's a different thing. Right. Like, we're, that's where you're coming in. And that's what you're signing up for. And even still, it was really hard to find a way to do this without, like, causing, you know, problem. Yeah.
Orla Smith 40:34
With drama therapists available at all. Yes. And and guiding that process as well. And it
Alex Heeney 40:41
was a group to who is going through this experience together, which made it less alone and could mean that you could, you know, you didn't have to have everyone's entire story because they had similar stories, you could fill in blanks with other people. As folks felt comfortable, like it's a really challenging it. I don't know how you would how to do this. Right. And but I think it's, it's, I'm sure that this was one of the challenges. Yeah.
Alex Heeney 41:13
So there was another documentary US documentary about indigenous people, co directed by an indigenous filmmaker, Rebecca Landsberry-Baker, and with a settler co director, Joe peeler, and the film. Yeah, it's kind of an interesting subject, because it's something that I feel feels like it's part of a greater trend in what's happening with journalism and like, dictatorship, I guess, though, the film I think, doesn't really it doesn't super engaged with whether what's happening is part of like a larger worldwide trend versus how much it's related to what's happening in the Muskogee Creek Nation, where it's set. And what the specifics are that it's sort of. So anyway, it's called bad press.
Alex Heeney 42:17
And it's, it's about the Mvskokee Media Group, which is free, a free press, and it has sort of, is, I think, the only indigenous free press that's funded by their indigenous nation that had journalistic control, at least for a very short period of time. Like somewhere in the mid 2010s. It started and then it was taken away in like 2008. Teen, I think, if I'm remembering correctly, and the film is about what happens, like in the lead up to the free press, rights being taken away, and what happens in the aftermath, and how, like, part of it is kind of like we didn't understand how important it was to have our own media for our people by our people until it was taken away.
Alex Heeney 43:15
And you see some pretty horrifying administrate administrative power overreach is coming from the chief and the chief counsel for the Muskogee nation, where they're controlling what's in the press, and not letting them print things and not giving them access to for example, election results for their, for the election for their nation. And, like sending them cease and desist letters if they don't like what was published. And it's, you know, it's something that press worldwide are facing. And the film The only time they film, the film sort of explanation for it, which I'm sure is partly true, but it's just that we've kind of mentioned briefly and not really dug into and I would have liked to see it dug into is the fact that in a way that the presses the Muskogee Muskoka in media, its role has kind of been like positive propaganda about the Muskogee Creek Nation as a way of combating the really negative settler propaganda.
Alex Heeney 44:26
So like they would, you know, it wouldn't say bad things that happened in the paper, but it would say, you know, like, oh, somebody got into university or somebody did this great thing or look at our graduating class, or look at this celebration we had or look at our talented dancers or, you know, like anything that was going to paint a positive picture of the nation and the people in the community is what was prioritized in the news paper and we see editions from like the 70s and the 80s. Before they had free press rights, and that's primarily what was happening and then during the period like just before they got pre Free Press rights.
Alex Heeney 45:02
And while they had free press rights, they were doing sort of like hard news of what was going on in the nation and reporting on corruption and leadership. And then, of course, that is kind of what directly led to them losing their temporary access to being able to be free press. And one of the things that film tells us that that, you know, there are hundreds of indigenous nations in the US, and none of them have free press. So it's kind of like, it's like an interesting, look at something that you wouldn't normally see. But it's sort of like throws you into it without giving a lot of context, which for me, was a bit challenging, because not because it's like, you shouldn't be allowed to make stories about indigenous people without, like settler explaining. But I felt like I didn't really have a lot of context for why this was happening now, you know, even how free press was, you know, how they got a free press, like, not a lot of comparisons to other places like it was it really just followed the journalists at Muskogee media and their fight and what was going on and the way they get demoralized and the way that they're trying to put out important information.
Alex Heeney 46:16
And it ended up being sort of like, document of what happened, as opposed to something that was a bit more. I don't know that transcendent is the right word, but like, had more to say about free press as a concept, or why Free Press doesn't exist in indigenous communities? Why, you know, is this a reflection of something that is inherent to the state of colonialism? And how indigenous nations are currently handling? It is it's about is this related to the fact that like, there's just government suppressing media everywhere, so why wouldn't they follow suit? Yeah, so I find it kind of like, interesting, but also kind of disappointing because it kind of didn't super go anywhere. Aside from being like, now we don't have free press.
Alex Heeney 47:17
I was kind of I sort of there was, you know, I'm sure common name in Oklahoma, but there was a subject interviewed, whose last name was hard Joe. And I immediately went, Oh, like Sterling hardshell who is the director, creator of reservation dogs, and I have no reason to believe he does or does not have any, anything to do with this film. But he does have. He is part of the Muscogee Creek Nation. And there seems to be a bunch of films now that have been made in Oklahoma this year. And that is where of course we're reservation dogs is set. I don't know if those things are related, whether it's just like Oklahoma's on the mind of media companies. And so those films are getting financed or there's more infrastructure and support for indigenous filmmaking there. So it's happening or if it's completely random, Fancy Dance also also set also in Oklahoma, that in Seneca Cayuga nation which is Erica Tron Blaze nation, but it's I mean, I don't know what it means anything.
Alex Heeney 48:34
This is our second podcast season about a film festival. You can catch up with our women in cancer season from May 2022, where we focus more on the history of the Cannes Film Festival, and its track record for programming films directed by women. We also have special episodes on Celine Sciamma Kelly Reichardt and Naomi quasi and their relationship with the Cannes Film Festival as well as talking about some of the films directed by women at the 2022 Film Festival. To find out more about that season and listen to all the episodes you can go to seventhe-row.com/womenatcannes. You can also scroll back in the podcast feed here and you'll find season one which is our women at Cannes season.
Orla Smith 49:26
as we talked about this a theme of this year in these films have co direction between an indigenous filmmaker and a settler filmmaker, which I think is a very interesting trend to note. There's as many films or miniseries in this program. At least America Well, I guess twice colonize so including that as well. But of these films that we're talking about,
Alex Heeney 49:58
we can just cheat and be Like North American colonized, kind of counts.
Orla Smith 50:04
It's of the North American films, then, at least as many, or as many of them are directed by solely indigenous filmmakers as are co directed by an indigenous filmmaker and a Satbir.
Alex Heeney 50:18
Or made by a settler as the case of twice colonists. Yes.
Orla Smith 50:21
So it's, it's interesting, because I think it's a trend that is, like, I think you can see why this is a dynamic that is common, because there is such a lack of support for indigenous filmmakers to kind of build their skills within the film industry that occurred in the US. Yes, especially in the US that CO direction may be an opportunity for an indigenous filmmaker to lead a project creatively while also bringing someone on board who has perhaps more experience such as like in murder and Bighorn we have quite like a filmmaker who hasn't like made a ton of stuff, indigenous filmmaker, with some paired with a settler filmmaker who is very well versed in true crime specifically. And then obviously, bad press is also a co directed,
Alex Heeney 51:25
it's also it doesn't, I'm guessing this is Rebecca Landsberry-Baker's first film, it doesn't list any other credits. But Joe peeler, her co director has done a bunch of documentaries for like a major companies like Netflix and HBO and FX. So he's sort of like industry tested.
Orla Smith 51:48
And we don't want to, like make any specific comments about the production processes of these films, because we simply don't know that. I mean, they're neither of them are films that we particularly responded to. But that is no reason to assume that that's the fault of it being co directed by yourself, but we simply do not know. But it's an it's a it's a dynamic to take note of, because it is, in some ways, I guess, as a sign that, you know, these indigenous filmmakers are getting a chance to be at the helm of projects, because they are doing it alongside someone more experienced. And then hopefully those people can go into home their own projects. Yeah, solely and and those,
Alex Heeney 52:32
you know, indigenous filmmakers may want a co director who has more experience that they can learn from Yeah. I mean, we did a locked down film school that you can link to in the show notes with Elmira tailfeathers, who is an indigenous filmmaker, and Kathleen Hepburn, who is a settler filmmaker, and they co directed, the body remembers when the world broke open. And one of the reasons they weren't together was because Kathleen Hepburn had a lot of experience, or at least a more experience with fiction films and making films in this mode, whereas Oh, Maya tailfeathers, although she's an actress, her work as a director had been entirely in documentary. So teaming up with a settler
Orla Smith 53:15
that was a project originated by ilmiah tail feathers. And it was her, you know, she she was the one who wanted who then took this story that was hers, and decided that CO direction was the way to go.
Alex Heeney 53:30
Yeah, the flip side of that is, I mean, another thing that can happen, which is something we actually talk about a bit in our remembering Jeff Barnaby episode, because it's something that really pissed Jeff Barnaby off is that, you know, settler organizations want to pay lip service to Indigenous stories, or maybe even think there might be some profit to be made in Indigenous stories, but they don't actually want to hire an indigenous person to do it. So they get a white or not necessarily white but a settler to write it and direct it. And then they like hire an indigenous Story Editor, for example, to co sign the script, or they hire an indigenous co director to so that they can't, like, be blamed. And sometimes, and and it's, it's, you know, without having specific knowledge of behind the scenes, you don't really know what's going on. You can see when films have problems and feel like they more represent a settler perspective than you might otherwise expect. But I mean, we have no way of knowing
Orla Smith 54:40
it's it's difficult because what inevitably exists in these relate in these co-directing relationships is a power dynamic because by their very nature, the idea is that you have a less experienced filmmaker and a more experienced filmmaker, at least in the dynamic So you've been describing, and in the best case scenario that can be fruitful. And it can mean the more experience that the filmmaker using their knowledge to support the creative vision of the indigenous filmmaker and prioritizing their point of view. And in less fruitful relationship, it could mean that power dynamic being taken advantage of and the more experienced filmmaker, assuming they should exert control over how the story is told, and the points of view of the story. So there's kind of two ends of the spectrum that could exist. Again, we're not like saying anything specifically about these two films, just to make clear, yeah, we know a lot about like, the production process of the body remembers when the world broke open, because we've talked to those filmmakers. But with Visa, who knows, but it's just like, an interesting thing that always makes me like slightly nervous. Especially because it it's like it's the case with two of the two of the very few indigenous led projects at Sundance this year. It's, it's interesting. Yeah. It's interesting to it's something to think about,
Alex Heeney 56:28
about Yeah, and I mean, the other power dynamic that can happen is in who's producing the film. And again, we don't have any knowledge about how this dynamic has worked in these particular films or miniseries. But we know from other projects that I mean, you know, a general trend in the film industry is like, if you don't have a name, actor, you can't get financed. So lots of settler directors, or even like, relatively established directors, cast people they don't like in their movies, because that's the only way to get them financed. And so you can imagine if that's happening to them, that there could be similar problematic power dynamics. You know, depending on what the funding model is for the film, either here, they can be totally supportive, we don't know. But there's a lot of opportunities for there to be problematic power dynamics, even if these projects managed to avoid them.
Orla Smith 57:34
Yeah, it's always worth thinking about the power dynamics that could exist in the film industry, because there are a lot of opportunities to exploit power dynamics within the system at every level. Yeah. So, you know, this is just us, pointing one out. Not necessarily attached to either of these films.
Alex Heeney 57:55
Yeah. So outside of the American films, plus twice colonized, there are three films at the festival, three feature films with a festival that feature indigenous characters, or subjects that are not made by indigenous people. I've seen one of these so far, which is heroic. And it has, I guess, we talked about that in our last last episode, too. So you can go and listen to episode three, if you want to hear about that. It sort of raises the fact that if you're an indigenous person in Mexico, that you may have lower status or have difficulty finding power or, you know, a good job and that the military is a way of circumventing that issue and sort of becoming a quote unquote, as they sort of like describe it in the film something along the lines of like regular Mexican, you're there's nothing different about you. And the film, like the basic training, it's about basic training in the Mexican military and the setting of it is like where the training happens is next to an Aztec monument. So there's like something kind of interesting brewing in there that's not really developed about the idea of like, the military is sort of like, you know, the ultimate symbol of colonialism, doing their training and stomping all over the grounds of this Aztec monument, while having a character in those in the lead who is indigenous and speaks his indigenous language. But I don't know that the film has a lot more to say about it than that. But I think the the writer of the film is indigenous is based on his own story.
Alex Heeney 59:55
Worth noting and sorcery which is set in the 1800s also in the world dramatic topic. Question, a fiction film about sort of colonialism happening in the 1800s. And then there's an Indian film that's a documentary called against the tide, which is about to close friends who are fishermen and are part of the part of Bombay's indigenous coli community. And the filmmaker is not indigenous, but she has lived alongside the Kole community for a decade. She said in an interview, and so has gotten to know people in that community. Haven't seen these films yet, so don't have any comments on them. But it's interesting that at least these stories are being told and not sure about what to think about the fact that they're not being told by indigenous people.
Alex Heeney 1:00:53
Sundance has programmed some excellent indigenous films, several of which are films that we have covered on seventh row or on the podcast. That includes Amanda kernell's s, two features Sami blood, which I have a in depth interview with her about on our website and charter her second feature, which is sadly disappeared, even though it's really excellent. There's a review of that on the website. Wayne Blair, who I mentioned, and the Australian Aboriginal filmmaker who made top end wedding that played at Sundance in 2019. And I have reviewed that on the website, you can find a link to that in the show notes.
Alex Heeney 1:01:42
The festival is also program sweet country by the wonderful Warwick Thornton who we mentioned before, I have interviewed where we've gotten about the film, we'll put a link to that in the show notes. And you can also if you go back in our archives to Episode 38 way back then we did an episode on Australian Westerns where we talked about true history of the Kelly gang, the dressmaker and then sweet country and how we're recording was kind of up ending colonial expectations of the Australian Western. So links to all of those things will be in the show notes. as well. As said at the beginning of this episode, we had some throw have an ongoing interest in covering indigenous film. You can find tons of interviews with indigenous filmmakers on our website.
Alex Heeney 1:02:34
But on the podcast we've also done several in depth episodes on indigenous filmmakers and films. Most recently we put out episode 131 Remembering Jeff Barnaby, where we talk about Jeff Barnaby, Mi'gmaq filmmaker Jeff Barnaby out of Canada and his enormous impact on the film industry he directed Rhyme for young ghouls and blood quantum and also all the ways in which he was prevented from reaching his full potential in the short time that he had. That's actually free to everyone.
Alex Heeney 1:03:09
If you head into our archives, which are only available to members, you can become a member at seventh-row.com/join You'll find episodes, Episode 126, where we talk about run woman run and meaning of empathy, which we discussed on this episode. In Episode 120, we talk about the Aboriginal Australian actor David Garoppolo. And we talk about remembering his work his legacy and Charlie's country. In Episode 62, and 63, we get into indigenous ya made in Canada. And one of the things we discuss in that is missing and murdered indigenous women story called Rustic Oracle that's in part two. If you want to listen to all of those episodes, really recommend becoming a member.
Alex Heeney 1:03:57
And we should say that the way our member podcast feed works is super convenient. You don't have to log in somewhere. Every time you want to listen to a new episode and remember another password it'll you you just like click on a link once to open it and whatever pod catcher you open the feed or whatever pod catcher you like to use, and then it will be in that pod catcher. You'll just get regular updates of new episodes like you would with any other podcasts. So it's super, super convenient. And you can listen to all of our future episodes, some of which be members only as well as all of our episodes older than six months old and some special members only episodes. And finally if you are just tuning in now to our Sundance 2023 season, this is episode four so you can catch up on episodes 1 to 3, all of which are free, at the moment. Episode One we preview the festival. In Episode Two we talked about the spotlight program and in episode Three we talk about some of the highlights of the festival so far, including fancy dance, and some world dramatic films like slow and scrapper and when it melts, and the documentary a still small voice, so check those out.
Alex Heeney 1:05:15
If you enjoyed listening to this episode and have been enjoy and or have been enjoying our season or the seventh or the seventh row podcast more generally, we would super appreciate it if you would rate and review the podcast, it helps other people find the podcast and find us and we just found out the rotten tomatoes if we want to get indexed on Rotten Tomatoes, so more people can find the podcast and find that podcasts do exist on the obscure films that we cover. We actually need 200 ratings for that. And we're like 150 short, so we would super appreciated if you would rate you can rate this episode and you can also rate the podcast as a whole. Share the Sundance season on social media, send it to friends. You can get all the information about the season and show notes for all the episodes of all the links to the related episodes and our coverage at seventh-row.com/sundance.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Sign up to receive email updates about the podcast
Keep up with the Seventh Row podcast by subscribing to our free newsletter! Discover great under-the-radar films and engage in in-depth discussions on them.