Presentation - 2009
Revisioning the Americas through Indigenous Cinema 2009
Regards autochtones sur les Amériques 2009
Visiones indígenas sobre las Américas 2009
La comunicación como el agua, fluye y se nutre de nuevas vertientes. Sin comunicación no hay cultura, historia, ni futuro; no hay pueblos.
-Ojodeagua Comunicación (Oaxaca) (1)
Revisioning the Americas through Indigenous Cinema is organized by the Interdisciplinary Research Group on the Americas (GIRA), in collaboration with Lands InSights, the Réseau DIALOG and the linguistic and cultural center Kanien'kehaka Onkwawén:na Raotitiohkwa. The event aims to reach a greater understanding of the role of Indigenous film experiences and perspectives in what are, and what can become, the Americas, and, on the occasion of the First People’s festival Présence autochtone, to build bridges between the world of Native cinema and the Academia, as well as with local Native communities and the greater public. Through conferences with scholars, round-table discussions with Indigenous filmmakers/videomakers, directors and producers, and a forum on the role and place of cinema in and for the Indigenous communities, we hope to engage in a collective critical discussion around this fast growing cinema. Revisioning the Americas through Indigenous Cinema will also be an excellent opportunity to collectively reflect on the contribution and the very place of the festival Présence autochtone in the construction of an « Indigenous continental public space » which can be experienced each year in Montreal.
The Indigenous Cinema… truly present
Regarding video and its role within Indigenous communities, Vincent Carelli, Brazilian filmmaker and founder of Video nas Aldeias (Video in the villages), has said : "What you see is that this new technology is very, very close to the elders. The young people are very enthusiastic because it's technology, but the elders realize that through these technologies — they don't have access to pen and paper, they don't write, but they can understand images and sound — and the elders who have a cultural project or political proposal have understood very quickly that this could be very useful for them. Technology and tradition are very close. It might sound like a contradiction but it's not." (2) Traditions and technologies come together through Native cinema, defying easy categorization and bringing to light new visions, as well as a multiplicity of voices, images and experiences, past or present, real or imagined. Native cinema not only acts as means of transmission, but also contributes to deconstruct alienating representations of identity. To this effect, scholar and filmmaker Tewa and Diné Berverly R. Singer explains : « Our films and videos are helping to reconnect us with very old relationships and traditions […] The process [of filmaking] also works to detox our own ingrained stereotypes of Indians that block our creativity. » (3)
In their various forms, the films let us see and recognize cultures who continue to exist in the present by appropriating the transformations of the changing world that they are actively (re)modeling. Indigenous cinema is an autonomous vision of the future. The cultural organism Lands InSights, who organizes the festival Présence autochtone, declares: «The screen of the First Nations has always been a place for speech and memory, but, what is a new phenomenon because of it’s scope, is also a place of emergence of a new Native vision which has the certainty of early dawns. A new generation does not want to come off only as a victim, but intends to become an actor of a new history. The wind has turned. Native cinema has long been the cinema of survivors, bearing painful sights from the past. Now has come the time of visionaries, sentries of the future, for who the future has everything to do with today.» (4) In the current context of globalization, Indigenous filmmakers and artists appropriate virtual spaces, making use of the new information technologies to denounce and eradicate injustices.
The growing recognition of the importance of Indigenous cinema as an original cultural and artistic expression brings along new challenges and possibilities. It also brings its share of questioning and reflecting, particularly with regards to academic research. To this end, the American scholar Steven Leuthold invites us to think of the impacts of film production within Native communities : « What impact has the adaptation of new media had upon their sense of themselves as a distinct people : what is the role of art and media in contemporary Native’s collective identification? And how are aesthetic concepts and traditions represented within native cultures? » (5) Native cinema (in its production and distribution as much as in its reception) calls for a renewed definition of the concepts of art and aesthetics that would take into account their intimate relations with other facets of the subjective and collective experiences of Native peoples, as well as their interactions with other cultures. In this regard, we want to underline the importance of understanding and actively recognizing that through a dynamic, original and autonomous film production, among other things, Native people fully participate in the contemporary experience of the Americas and of their becoming. Because it involves transdisciplinary perspectives that touch on political, social, economic issues as much as cultural, identity and religious ones, Native cinema casts a privileged light on the Americas, opening multiple avenues for thought.
Looking at the Americas differently
This multiplicity and this intersection of perspectives and experiences must be understood as essential in the becoming of the Americas. And it is to this end that we put forward Revisioning the Americas through Indigenous Cinema.
For 10 years, the Interdisciplinary Research Group on the Americas (GIRA) has been developing a collective questioning at the continental level on what on what the American continent is and means in terms of cultural and artistic expressions, social development, identity and politics, borders, languages, migrations, history and memory, etc. This constantly evolving reflection led by the GIRA aims for a de-centering of normally recognized frameworks and spaces, whether they be national, institutional or disciplinary, in order to help transforming views and perspectives on action, particularly by confronting the legitimacy of scientific knowledge with the diversity of knowledge stemming from practices and experiences. In this perspective, the various projects of the GIRA focus on the process of encounter (of ideas, of people) and on what can emerge from it, rather than on finding definitive answers. The GIRA regularly collaborates with partners from various backgrounds and understandings of action. Hence this event is the fruit of a collaboration between the GIRA and three partners, Lands InSights, the Réseau DIALOG and the cultural and linguistic center Kanien'kehaka Onkwawén:na Raotitiohkwa, involved in the area of Native arts and academic research as much as in the areas of culture and community.
We hope that these collaborations, which are at the heart of Revisioning the Americas through Indigenous Cinema, will allow each one of us to exchange, debate, forge new relations, share ideas, and, in short, to cast a multiplicity of visions on the Americas…
Enjoy the event!
Claudine Cyr and Isabelle St-Amand
(1) Ojodeagua Comunicación, http://www.laneta.apc.org/ojodeagua/. Translation: Communication, like water, flows and feeds from new slopes. Without communication, there is no culture, no history, no future; there are no peoples.
(2) Native Networks, http://www.nativenetworks.si.edu/Eng/rose/carelli_v.htm
(3) Beverly R. Singer (2001). Wiping the War Paint Off the Lens: Native American Film and Video, Minneapolis (MN), London, University of Minnesota Press, p. 2 et 9.
(4) Terres en vues, http://www.nativelynx.qc.ca/07/fr/films.html
(5) Steven Leuthold (1998). Indigenous aesthetics. Native Art, Media, and Identity, Austin, University of Texas Press, p. ix.