Article originally posted in Sarasota Magazine by Yasi Bahmanabadi.
A week of celebrating Native American culture through films, art, music and food kicks off tonight at Sainer Pavilion.
This evening is the start of the third annual week-long Sarasota Native American Film Festival, with two days of in-person events followed by a five-day virtual film festival.
The Mildred Sainer Pavilion at New College of Florida hosts the in-person events tonight and tomorrow, Saturday, which include documentaries, feature-length movies and short films, as well as food, art and music performances in the courtyard, creating a perfect mix of theater and open-air experiences. All of the events and showings are free.
Festivities this evening begin at 5:30 p.m. with tacos and live painting by acclaimed Seminole artist Wilson Bowers. At 6:30 p.m., a panel discussion and a series of short films focus on the history of the Seminole tribe. The film Modoc Nation: An Untold Story of Survival finishes the evening’s events. This historical documentary focuses on the war between the Modoc tribe and the American Army in Northern California between 1872-1873 from the point of view of the Modoc Nation. It is a story of historic loss, the depth of this culture’s history and the power of community.
Saturday’s events begin at 2 p.m. with the powerful film Somebody’s Daughter, which shines light on the oft-ignored crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women. Following that, at 3:30 p.m., is a showcase of Indigenous short films from around the world as part of the Sundance Indigenous Shorts Tour.
Visitors will have the chance to meet some of the filmmakers, including Shaadiin Tome, who presents her award-winning film Mud tomorrow, Saturday, at 5 p.m. She attended film school in New Mexico, where she grew up. “I come from Navajo Diné people, and we are a matriarchal society,” Tome says.
Her perspective as a Diné woman shines through her work, which draws on aspects of Indigenous women’s experiences within her community and culture. “Indigenous women are heavily important for the backbone of the community,” she says. The visual power of her films resonate with her creative impulse to “respect who women are and how I see them—not just powerful by western standard, but powerful by my standard.”
Award-winning Seminole musician Doc Native will perform at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 11, while food trucks offer a range of nourishing options, including Native American dishes. The film Rez Metal closes out the in-person events. As the title implies, this film tells the story of the heavy metal scene on Navajo reservations. Additionally, the festival is offering a slate of online films—including Trapper Radio Series, which introduces audiences to a group of Indigenous musicians who took their talent to a deeper level during pandemic lockdowns
This festival is a chance for all people to become acquainted with the wide spectrum of experiences within the Indigenous community.
“Often, we are not portrayed in the best way, and are not given the multidimensional characters that have a range of emotions. It is important to celebrate it,” Tome says. “Not only Indigenous women, but Indigenous men are often overlooked or placed in a box. Anything we can do to try to shed those stereotypes is good work.”
In-person film screenings and live events will be held in the Mildred Sainer Pavilion at the New College of Florida tonight, Friday, Sept. 9, from 5:30-9 p.m. and Saturday, Sept. 10, from 2-8:45 p.m. Virtual film showings through Sept. 15 are available at www.sarasotanativeff.com.