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How film creates an outlet for storytelling

Since the beginning of time, the art of storytelling has been prolific throughout American Indian culture. Elders have told many stories which have been past down orally from generation to generation.

At this modern age, the art of storytelling has broken through imaginative boundaries and into the visionary minds of native artists. From paintings to sculptures and beadwork, the stories of culture have continued to flow from the voices of inspiration.

With the Durango Independent Film Festival (DIFF) making its return, native artists are discovering a new way of storytelling, only this time through the lens of a camera.

This year’s festival takes place Thursday, March 4 to Sunday, March 8, with showings held at the Gaslight Twin Cinema and Durango Stadium 9. The festival is hosting the return of the Native American Film Program, which is celebrating its fifth year.

The program is dedicated to films related to American Indian topics, including stories of spirituality and self-discovery. Additionally, Gary Farmer from “Smoke Signals” and “Powwow Highway” is making an appearance.

Eleven films are featured in this year’s category, each inspired by it’s own voice: “This May Be The Last Time”, “Daughters of Emmonak”, “Indian Relay”, “Spirit In Glass”, “Eddie”, “Erik and the Mystery Pack”, “To Rest”, “Legacy of Exiled NDNZ”, “Listening for a New Day”, “Traditional Healing”, and “Wakening”.

Audiences in Ignacio were treated with a pre-screening of the documentary, “Listening for a New Day,” which tells the story of cultural awareness throughout the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. It was held at Ignacio Middle School on Wednesday, March 4 and featured a discussion with director, George Giglio and cinematographer, Joe Collins.

“The film features many people who wanted to share their stories,” said Giglio. “We traveled to the Wind River Reservation and discovered the Arapaho Tribe was trying to pass their culture down to their younger generation … Joe and I immediately fell in love with the story.”

The film documents the Arapaho Tribe’s ambition to keep their culture alive by allowing their youth to be imaginative. The tribe learned about a Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. exhibiting a buffalo hide tipi, which is known to be one-of-five to exist still intact. The Arapahos came together to collect buffalo hide and build a tipi on their land with hopes of inspiring their youth.

“It was an honor to be apart of,” Giglio stated. “We spent almost a month filming the story while shooting up to 120 hours of footage. We met many elders who were tremendously knowledgeable in their culture and provided that value to the project. We were impressed by their pride, and that’s something you don’t really see nowadays…I just hope the film reaches out to more communities and do the same. The message of the film is that there is hope”

“This is my first documentary, and visiting the Arapaho Tribe was my first experience with American Indians,” said Joe Collins, cinematographer from Montserrat in the Caribbean. “I was excited to meet these natives and be involved. I really learned a lot from them. The documentary itself is the process of self-discovery, and I think this will inspire many youth.”

Like Giglio’s film, many of the featured films at DIFF were made on a very low budget. But that doesn’t prevent artistic leadership from emerging; it can only inspire it. With the ongoing progression of digital technology, many artists around the world are given the access to reach out to numerous cultures and nations. In this age, it’s simple to pick up a camera and hit the record button. With just a little bit of experience and time put in, a story could surface that may just inspire thousands.

Additionally, the Growth Fund acknowledged the native artists, contributing a donation to the Native American Film Program in support of the art of native filmmaking. The Growth Fund hopes to provide the opportunity for tribal members to view these native films and learn more about them.

“In this modern society, the youth are being bombarded with Facebook and hiding behind their iPads, yet they don’t even realize they’re forgetting their culture,” George Giglio stated as he summed up his film’s message. “It’s important to pass that down, otherwise it’s lost. With film, there’s a whole new life. You have a wider audience you can tell your story to.”

For program information and ticket pricing for the Durango Independent Film Festival, visit www.durangofilm.org.

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