Joshua Zunie is pushing Native representation forward with 'Rude Girl' - Albuquerque Journal

Joshua Zunie is pushing Native representation forward with ‘Rude Girl’

Shawnee Pourier, left, and David Midthunder in a scene from “Rude Girl.” (Courtesy of Joshua Zunie)

Joshua Zunie grew up on Zuni Pueblo dreaming of a day where he could bring a Native American narrative to the forefront of film.

He learned, he’d have to wait it out.

Filmmaker Joshua Zunie

Zunie worked in the film industry on various projects such as “Independence Day Resurgence” and “Bad Boys for Life.”

With each project, he was like a sponge and soaked in everything because he knew his time to shine was around the corner.

His time has come as the short film, “Rude Girl,” will screen as part of the Santa Fe International Film Festival.

“It’s been a long time coming and I’ve been waiting for this day my whole life,” he says. “It’s fitting perfectly in where I am in my life. I’m grateful for this.”

“Rude Girl” will screen at 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22, at the Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe. A second block was added on Saturday because the original date sold out.

“Rude Girl” tells the story of Oaklynn, a half Native American and white teenager dealing with identity issues as she visits her grandpa in the spiritual world, only to realize she needs to overcome doubts and believe in her superhero powers and herself, offering a glimpse into the urban Native and spiritual life.

It’s been roughly two years since Zunie started the project, which saw roadblocks such as COVID, a pending IATSE strike and the “Rust” movie incident in Santa Fe.

“I had to keep my eye on all of it because each one of these was affecting the New Mexico crew base,” he says.

Zunie’s foremost reason in becoming a filmmaker is to add to Native American representation in film.

“Hollywood has already established what Native Americans were like through stereotypes,” he says. “I knew I had the power to change the perception and narrative. With ‘Rude Girl,’ I wanted to create a character who was a hero and hopeful in how she sees the world.”

Zunie says on a personal level, this moment is what he’s been working towards for years.

He’s also very proud to incorporate the Zuni language in the film.

“This is the first movie that Zuni will be heard,” he says. “It’s an amazing feeling and I still can’t believe it.”

While it will be the first time New Mexicans can see the film, “Rude Girl” has played in festivals around the world – picking up best first time director at Korea International Short Film Festival and best actor for David Midthunder at the Sci Fi Floripa International Film Festival in Brazil.

The film isn’t done yet with film festivals as it will screen as part of film festivals in England, Italy and Mexico later this fall.

“The film runs 20 minutes but has a lot of heart,” he says. “It’s just the right amount of time to tell the story.”

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