In less than two decades, the Native Cinema Showcase has grown into a festival that showcases the best in Native film.
This year marks the 18th year for the festival, which continues today through Sunday, Aug. 19, at the New Mexico History Museum.
“It’s unbelievable to see the growth,” says Cynthia Benetiz, Native Cinema Showcase program manager. “When it first started, it was to bring film to audiences to one place. Nobody expected it to grow the way it has.”
The showcase is curated by the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.
It brings many of the best Native films beyond the museum locations in Washington, D.C., and New York City.
The showcase is a collaboration between the National Museum of the American Indian and the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts, partners with shared goals for education both within and outside the Native community.
Indian Market and the Showcase acknowledge the growing momentum of Native filmmaking by creating new educational opportunities while entertaining Indian Market audiences.
Benetiz says there is something for everyone at this year’s Native Cinema Showcase, which has three curators.
Each of them looks for movies with three elements.
“The subject matter is important,” she says. “Then there’s originality. And the last is the portrayal of Native people. We want to be sensitive to what is being said and not being said. There are always different themes to the showcase. It almost takes you on a journey, programming-wise.”
The films in the showcase also have to be either directed or produced by Native filmmakers.
“This year, the theme is justice,” she says. “A lot of things have been happening in the social and political climate. LBGTQ rights are also an issue. The discussion through film runs the gamut on all of that. This year, you can tell people want to talk more about what is happening. We’ve also covered Canada and New Zealand to Australia in finding films.”
Fifty-two films will be screened, including 38 by female filmmakers.
“I’ve been working with the showcase for 13 years, and what I’ve seen this year is mind-blowing,” she says. “The stories are solid. The filmmaking is solid. It’s creating a great discussion for the audiences.”