Festival Exchanges and Circulation in the Online South

Curator's Note

One of the main spaces for exchange and strengthening of the Indigenous video movement in Latin America is the indigenous film/video festival. For those who can’t travel, the web proves a space for posting and commenting indigenous-made work (in Spanish).


Only two of several Latin American indigenous media projects, Video Nas Aldeias of Brazil, and Promedios/Chiapas Media Project (a U.S./Mexico initiative), have international distribution, and national broadcast spaces for this work are extremely limited. How does the practice continue and even grow? How is indigenous video to dialogue with national film and broadcast industries at local and transnational levels? And most pressingly, how does it circulate?


Distribution networks between producers in Latin America are almost non-existent, with festivals being the main place for dialogue and physical exchange of works. Community producers showing works at festivals often exchange works with other directors, bringing home an assemblage of works from the festivals.


National Geographic’s All Roads Film Festival, started to make compilations in DVD format to circulate works more broadly. The first Latin American festival to take this track was the 2005 Festival Premio Anaconda, which printed a DVD of the 2005 Anaconda prize-winners - 5 works in Spanish versions only- that had a limited distribution by hand by the festival’s partner organizations and participants.


The Latin American Coordinator of Indigenous Peoples´ Film and Communication (CLACPI) has made an effort to compile their 2006 award-winners into an 8-DVD set (in Spanish versions only), exclusively for promotional and non-commercial use (not for sale), and with the explicit priority of circulating the works to indigenous communities. They are also experimenting with web streaming for trailers and a few complete works (in Spanish- see video frame). UNESCO’s Communication and Development Division also released a 5-DVD set of their ICT4ID initiative in 2006, for limited non-commercial use as well. This office has funded indigenous workshops in the past but does not currently fund indigenous media training or video projects.

These efforts reveal that festivals may be a way of branding and circulating works that are out of distribution and often fall outside of traditional film categories of genre and/or nation.


Thanks Amalia for such a clear and concise overview of the indigenous media scene in Latin America, and the vital role that festivals play in helping circulate this work.  The clip gives a great sense of the range and liveliness of the material. Amalia - could you give us information as to how to get hold of some of the dvds you mention? Some of the work you describe can be seen through the Isuma TV portal as you pointed out on Monday ,


May I add that the work you do with the whole crew at the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI)  -- bringing indigenous media makers together from across the Americas, has also played an important role for over two decades, not only in showcasing work, but in providing a social space for people to meet and learn about each other's work, sometimes resulting in exciting collaborations across regions, for example in expanding training workshops. The website the NMAI has created is a fantastic resource on individual films and filmmakers, as well as a rich history of the many festivals that have been launhced, especially with a focus on Latin America, from community projects to  indigenously directed feature films.




Faye Ginsburg Director, Center for Media, Culture & History, NYU

Amalia:  Thanks so much for posting this fascinating clip and for your sensitive discussion that contextualizes transnational Latin American film festivals.  It's interesting that the clip opens with a reverse shot into the lens of the camera, rather than a shot moving from filmmaker to visual subject.  It makes me think of all the work that's been done recently on "reversing the lens" (Ginsburg, Hirabayashi, Singer, Xing and others involved in rethinking visual anthropology's relationship to spectators and subjects).  The way the short trailers of each film in the festival work together as a text is also intriguing.  There are documentaries and narrative films, clips of social justice movements and traditional healing arts, claymation and animation--varieties of Indigenous experience and subjects of visual interest to divergent communities.  The animated character warns us that "we have to be very careful"--a statement whose various possible meanings could be very productive when thinking about Indigenous media production.

Greetings and thank you for such a stimulating conversation so far!  I am writing from my dissertation fieldwork in Sydney, where film festivals and their social importance have been much on my mind.


First, I'd like to add to Faye's comments above about the important work being done by NMAI and include a note about the significance of a festival called  "First Nations\First Features," jointly presented by NMAI, the Museum of Modern Art, and NYU's Center for Media, Culture and History.  Held in May 2005 across venues in New York City and Washington, DC, it was an unprecedented coming together of world Indigenous cinema.  The website is still live: http://www.firstnationsfirstfeatures.org/.  This festival raised important questions for me that are fundamental to any inquiry into Indigenous media: who is Indigenous?  How can/do Indigenous mediamakers share stories across important differences in experience and history?  What makes a film an Indigenous film, and what is the benefit of talking in terms of this category?  How can far-reaching festivals such as this one facilitate further collaborations across national and cultural boundaries, and how do they shift the ability of media to act/do in the world?


Secondly, I wanted to flag a festival that begins tonight in Sydney: "Message Sticks" (see website: http://www.sydneyoperahouse.com/About/Program_Message_Sticks.aspx?gclid=CP-hwMmCqZoCFZUvpAod7RNB0g) is Australia’s longest running Indigenous film festival, unique in that it features works not just about Indigenous issues/themes, but also produced by Indigenous artists.  This year’s festival includes a stunning first feature by longtime cinematographer Warwick Thornton (Samson and Delilah) and directorial debuts by veteran Indigenous performers Deborah Mailman (Ralph) and Leah Purcell (Aunty Maggie and the Womba Wakgun)Samson and Delilah is a teenage love story between two adolescents from an Alice Springs town camp; it is both viscerally painful and stunningly beautiful to watch, and challenges viewers to reconsider the boundaries between documentary and fictional narrative.  "Message Sticks" also celebrates Indigenous musicians in the inter-sessions and includes an exhibition of works by Indigenous photographers Ricky Maynard and (the late) Michael Riley. All events (except the opening night gala) over the four-day festival are free of charge and open to the public; taking place at the iconic Sydney Opera House (and then traveling on to other Australian capital cities), "Message Sticks" is a powerful testament to the significance of innovative Indigenous storytelling in contemporary Australian national imaginings.

Hi Sabra, I know of the First Nations/First Features event from Faye who spoke about it in 2006 when she visited St. Andrews for a conference. But I wonder if there is any effort to make this an event that has some cyclical continuity, or it will stay as a one off? Is there an organisation that would take it up on a recorring basis? If not, what are the difficulties?


Also, you may want to check out interesting postings on festivals from Australia, at the Monash Festival Blog. It can be accessed via our world-cinema site (see the link in my signature), you will find it in the lower right corner. It was a joint project which we recently run with Adrian Martin and his students in Melbourne.

Dina Iordanova http://www.DinaView.com http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/worldcinema

Thanks, Amalia, for bringing our attention to the vital importance of the festival circuit as the primary mode of getting indigenous films "out there" and circulating in many parts of the world, especially in Latin America. As we've discussed on another post this week (and as Nancy so eloquently illustrated in her story), the role of festivals in bringing together indigenous media producers and community members from various cultural groups into intercultural dialogue has the potential to be key to the continuing development of a supportive pan-indigenous movement for human and cultural rights.


Thanks also to Sabra for bringing news about the Message Sticks Festival and the latest films from Australia. These sound fascinating--I look forward to seeing them.


Thanks Amalia for so providing an insightful overview of the importance of film festivals for Latin American indigenous media. I concur with Faye that the work that you and the Film and Video Staff at NMAI do in curating indigenous media as well as the Native Networks website has played such a vital role in bringing indigenous filmmakers from across the hemisphere together as well as opening up opportunities for training workshops, professional collaborations, and screening opportunities. The recent Native American Film and Video Festival at NMAI was just one example of the amazing work you and the NMAI FVS staff do in gaining visibility for indigenous media.

Thanks also to Sabra for highlighting the Message Sticks Festival! I was just looking at their website and was excited by the lineup and wish I was there in Sydney to attend it! In conducting my research with Aboriginal media makers in Vancouver, the importance of these film festivals, from small grassroots community film festivals to larger international indigenous film festivals is crucial for distribution and for providing opportunities for indigneous audiences to view this work. I also feel that the off-screen impact of these film festivals in building social networks, providing opportunities for filmmakers to collaborate, and in the maintenance and nurturance of social and kinship ties is a vital component to the indigenous film festival circuit.

For those of you looking for other upcoming indigenous film festivals in Canada, The Dreamspeakers Film Festival in Edmonton, Alberta will be June 18-21, 2009, the Terres en vues/Land InSights First Peoples Festival will be held in Montreal June 11-21, 2009, and the ImagineNative Film and Media Arts Festival will be held in Toronto October 14-18, 2009.

Thank you all for such a wonderful and engaging dialogue!

Hi Amalia, Sabra, Kristn,

what I find particularly interested in the case of these festivals is the diasporic dimension, or, if I can say so, the diaspora-building dimension. Quite often they also function as a notional site that brings together people who may be located in different countries, yet belong together in the supra-national context that the festival establishes.

Do we know of a festival or festivals that presents indigenous filmmaking from around the globe in one? If there is one, this would probably be the ultimate expression of the diaspora-building function that I am talking about.

Dina Iordanova



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