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Indian Times: Native Crossroads Film Festival (Feb 02, 2013)

This week on Indian Times, native youth and family issues are the focus of next week’s native film festival on the University of Oklahoma campus.

SUSAN SHANNON, HOST: The Native Crossroads Film Festival is in its inaugural year, with hopes of more festivals to come.  Dr. Joshua Nelson (Cherokee), assistant professor in the OU English Department, teaches American Indian literature and American Indian film.  He sees this film festival as a way to educate native and non-native through the panel discussions and speaker presentations.

DR JOSHUA NELSON: Native Crossroads is a film festival that was kind of born out of the mind of Vicky Sturdevant, the director of Film and Media Studies who in, I think a fantastic idea, asked if I would be able to help out a little and I said okay.  Then Kristen Dowell of Anthropology kicked in and it just kept sort of growing and growing and matured in to what I think will be an amazing event.  The thing that I think will help distinguish this film festival is that it’s designed to put film makers and scholars and activists all into conversation.  And this year we want them to converse about issues that are affecting American Indian children and family issues so that it’s a kind of guiding theme for what we’re going to be doing  and all the films in some way are touching on some of those issues, especially children in foster care and children in urban environments.  So, especially our feature film, “First Circle” directed by  Heather Rae and produced by Randy Redroad, both of whom will be at the festival to talk about it and answer questions.  It really is in many ways a kind of center piece for talking about a lot of what we’ve got going on in Indian country.

SHANNON: The Indian Child Welfare Act has been in the news lately due to a high profile case.

NELSON:   One of the central speakers that we’ve got is Sarah Kastelic, who is the Deputy Director of the National Indian Child Welfare Association.  NICWA is currently fighting a hard battle especially concerning a case that has come up in front of the Supreme Court that may well test directly on the Indian Child Welfare Act as passed back in the ‘70’s.  So we’re pretty anxious about what might happen with that court case so we’d like people to be aware of what’s going on, be aware why the Indian Child welfare Act is so important, and the challenges that are currently facing them.   People from local organizations like CASA will tell us what people can do right now to be a help to children in crisis.

SHANNON:  Now, I know there’s been negative stuff, like from Dr. Phil…they don’t even have any inkling about what the American Indian Child Welfare Act is all about.

NELSON:  I think that’s, uh, tragically very true.  And maybe it’s because these pieces of history are not taught but are sometimes maybe even kind of actively suppressed, so that a really traumatic moment in American history gets glossed over.  And people would like to sort of imagine that everyone that is involved in child welfare as foster parents, for instance, are doing it out of the benevolence of their heart, and it may well be, but they can also be part and parcel of a system that causes enormous damage when it’s not attending to culturally specific needs of American Indian kids.

SHANNON:  The Native Crossroads Film Festival will be held on the OU Norman campus.

NELSON:  The festival is taking place February 7 through the 9th with a screening of the film called “Up Heartbreak Hill” about some Navajo track stars that are seniors in high school there who are confronting the decision about whether they will stay on the reservation or whether they will head out to college or go to what are many ways greener pastures, materially speaking.  And then we’ve got native author Richard Van Camp who wrote a young adult book called “The Lesser Blessed” along with eleven some odd other books, short story collections and children’s works, who will be doing a reading.  That is all on Friday.  And then on Friday evening we’ve got “First Circle”.  The festival will go on into Saturday with a lot going on during the day on Friday and Saturday.  Saturday evening, we’ve got another feature film called “On the Ice”, directed by Andrew McClain, kind of a murder mystery thriller suspenseful thing that takes place up in the Artic.


SHANNON:  I’ve seen that, it was intense…

NELSON: Yes indeed.

SHANNON:  But so good, so representative of young people and how they talk.

NELSON:  It’s a much different world and I’d like to think of myself as still a young Indian guy, and then I watch these films and I’m reminded that I’m not.  But, it’s a powerful, powerful movie.

SHANNON:  And of course, free to the public?

NELSON:  Everything is free and open to the public.  We invite any and all comers.  Every single event is free.  And too, I’d like to say that during the day we’ve got several short film panels and these are the kind of films that are really difficult to see, they are just not available through most distribution networks.  So I think this is a great opportunity for people to come and see some out of the way and really experimental and energetic films.  And then we’ll have some academics there, like myself,  who’ll talk about what it is that we do here at the University…to comment on that and try to make some connections across communities and out into the real world.

SHANNON:   That was Joshua Nelson, member of the Cherokee Nation,  speaking about next week’s Native Crossroads Film Festival.

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