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‘Their own stories in their own voices’

Forrest Goodluck, Michael Greyeyes and Kiowa Gordon in “Blood Quantum,” directed by Jeff Barnaby. (Courtesy of Yellow Veil Pictures)

Twenty years ago, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian debuted the Native Cinema Showcase in Santa Fe.

It would run at the same time as the SWAIA Indian Market – until this year.

With the pandemic affecting this year’s Indian Market, the Native Cinema Showcase was able to pivot and head online.

The festival runs through Nov. 27 at nmai.brand.live/c/nativecinemashowcase. It is free watch the films, though some require registration.

The festival’s program features a combination of new works, fan favorites and conversations with filmmakers.

It includes a total of 64 films – nine features and 55 shorts – representing 49 Native nations in 12 countries: the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Mexico, Guatemala, Finland, Ecuador, Norway, Peru, Argentina, Australia and Belize.

Genres include documentaries, music videos, kid-friendly shorts and films in Indigenous languages.

“Much has changed during these 20 years in cinema, but one thing remains steadfast in Indian Country: Native filmmakers are using the medium as a catalyst to create change by telling their own stories in their own voices,” says Cynthia Benitez, film programmer for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in New York City.

According to Benitez, most of the films will be available on demand for five days and many will be available to view anywhere in the world.

With the exception of three films – “Blood Quantum” and “Angry Inuk,” which are restricted to the United States, and “nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up,” restricted to North America – the films will be available to watch worldwide.

“The films provide insight into the complexity, beauty and many nuances of Native life,” Academy Award-winning Cherokee actor Wes Studi says about the showcase. “It’s no coincidence Native peoples are using their talents to create films that examine social justice in the world we live in today. As we find ourselves at a moment in contemporary life where outdated notions and ways of doing things are being challenged, it is more important than ever to hear our Native stories and consider the perspectives they bring to these issues.”

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