Smithsonian presents the Mother Tongue Film Festival

Photo Credit: NMAI

“Through the Past Is the Future”

The Smithsonian’s Recovering Voices initiative will host a two-week film-screening series highlighting the legacy of the past and its ongoing influence on the future. Presented virtually, the seventh annual Mother Tongue Film Festival features 36 films in 45 languages from regions across the globe. The festival centers around International Mother Language Day, Feb. 21, and is co-presented with the UN Decade of Indigenous Languages. The festival opens Feb. 17 and runs through March 4. All screenings and events are free.

“This year’s Mother Tongue Film Festival takes its inspiration from the ‘Ōlelo Hawaiʻi phrase i ka wā ma mua, i ka wā ma hope (through the past is the future), and in doing so, focuses on the gifts from the past and our obligations to those that came before as we chart our futures,” said Joshua A. Bell, curator of globalization at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and co-director of the festival. “Language is foundational to these relationships, which the festival’s films this year explore.”

“We are honored to present highly innovative new work, much of it produced in times of duress and as a result of creative collaboration,” said Amalia Córdova, festival co-director and museum curator of world cultures at the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. “We are pleased to be among the first events marking the Decade of Indigenous Languages, declared by the UN, and while we are in this time of primarily online festivals, we hope to touch audiences near and far.”

A schedule of screenings and events and registration information can be found at

Press release can be found here:

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