Focus on Native Americans and Inuit

INDIANER INUIT: DAS NORDAMERIKA FILMESTIVAL took place from January 23 – 26 under the motto “No More Silence”. The only film festival of its kind in Europe, a total of 45 films were presented, featuring and about Native Americans, and far from every Western and Hollywood cliché.  The event provided both an extensive insight into today’s Native American filmmakers and also into the current situation of North America’s indigenous peoples. Both the downside and the determination to defend their own culture and sovereignty were equally reflected in the films.

For the first time since the festival was founded in 2004, prizes were awarded in the categories: children’s film, feature film, documentary and music video. SWR, the Southwest German Broadcasting Corporation, reported about the awards in its ‘Landesschau’ broadcast. The children in grade 4D from the Reisachschule acted as the jury for the UNICEF children’s film prize. They awarded the prize to the film “The Inuit School” by the German filmmaker, Ilka Franzmann, and they were of course also present at the prize award ceremony. The class representatives, together with US American actress Tonantzin Carmelo who, as UNICEF Representative, had traveled to Stuttgart, presented Ilka Franzmann with one of the coveted sculptures, a certificate, and prize money amounting to 500 Euros.

Gunter Lange, the curator of the festival,  emphasized in his opening speech, and in the presence of the US General Consul, Kevin Milas, and the Canadian Consul, Prof. Dr. Reith, that this year’s motto “No More Silence” not only referred to the medium of film but also to the “Idle No More” political movement. Founded by four First Nation women, the movement, which formed in fall 2012 in Canada, was sparked by two legal initiatives of the Canadian government that would not only seriously encroach on the right of indigenous people but also considerably undermine the environment. “Idle No More” was, however, also a reaction to the disastrous conditions in the reservations that are characterized by sometimes catastrophic living conditions, the lack of drinking water and infrastructure, and social problems such as poverty, alcoholism or above-average rates of suicide. The Attawapiskat reservation in North Ontario is a typical example. Its desolate situation hit the headlines in 2012. The INDIANER INUIT Film Festival showed a short documentation about their fight for self-determination two years ago.

This year, two documentaries on this issue were shown within the retrospective of Alanis Obomsawin’s work.  The 81- year old Abenaki director from Montreal was the guest of honor at the festival and traveled personally to Stuttgart to receive the prize for her life achievement and present her film-making from over five decades. Obomsawin is a pioneer of indigenous film in North America who, particularly at the beginning of her career, had to stand up for herself as a woman and an indigenous person against all opposition. Even when she directed her first film “Christmas at Moose Factory” back in 1971, it dealt with the topics around which all her films have since centered: history, education and a future for young people. Her latest film “Hi Ho Mistahey“ from last year honors the Attawapiskat First Nation, Shannen Koostachin, who is actively involved in campaigning for equal education opportunities, as even today the level of education in Aboriginal schools lags far behind the Canadian average. First Nation schools receive considerably less financial assistance than state schools. There is no money for libraries, computers or language courses, and not even for heating in classrooms. According to Obomsawin, the official writing of history remains silent about the consequences of colonialism. She therefore views her award at the Stuttgart Film Festival not only as personal recognition of her works but mainly as an honor towards Indigenous people in her films. Her motto is: “We can’t wait for the government; we have to take action ourselves.”

The festival program ranged from documentaries, such as “Maria Tallchief” (Osage) about the recently deceased first US prima ballerina of the same name (Director: Sandra Sunrising Osawa, USA 2010), the mystery thriller “Imprint” (Director: Michael Lynn, USA 2007) through to the comedy “Mohawk Midnight Runners” (Director: Zoe Leigh Hopkins, Canada 2013). In addition, there were also music videos, a school film program in cooperation with UNICEF, experimental and funny short films.

Nadine Zacharias received the award for the best documentary “Into America – The Ancestor’s Land” (Germany 2012). In the film, she accompanies the Navajo Angelo Baca and his grandmother on a journey into the land of their ancestors. Whereas the young academic commutes between the indigenous and the “white” world, his grandmother refuses to speak English. A sensitive, unpretentious road movie from Seattle to the Navajo reservation. The trip takes them right across the country and resembles a journey through American history, showing the marks and scars that “white” settlement in indigenous America has left behind, as well as revealing the diversity of indigenous cultures.

The family is at the center of the drama “Shouting Secrets“(USA 2011), directed by the Swiss filmmaker Korinna Sehringer, which has already won several awards, and has again received a prize for the best feature film in Stuttgart. The film deals not only with every day Native American life but also focuses on universal issues. The fortieth wedding anniversary of Cal and June is meant to unite the family with a celebration at the San Carlos Apache Reservation in Arizona, even though the relationships have long been shattered by alienation, mistrust, anger and fear. Their son, who dealt with the break ups in his family history in a successful novel, returns for the celebrations to the reservation for the first time after nine years, but his mother suffers from a stroke before his arrival. Instead of gathering around a dinner table, the family now gathers around a hospital bed. Old conflicts come to the surface, but the mother’s death puts an end to them.

Gunter Lange, Translated by Lorraine Ewen

Prizes and awards:

  • “Life Achievement Award”: Alanis Obomsawin, Director from Montreal
  • Best feature film: “Shouting Secrets”, Director: Korinna Sehringer, CH/USA 2011
  • Best documentary: “Into America”, Director: Nadine Zacharias, Germany 2012
  • Best children’s film (UNICEF Prize): “The Inuit School”, Director: Ilka Franzmann, Germany 2002
  • Best music video: “Good Boy”, Director: Wab Kinew & Winnipeg North End Art Youth Centre, Canada 2012

Gunter Lange, Translated by Lorraine Ewen

Votes to the festival:

My dear friends, thank you so so much for a wonderful visit. … Holy cow that was fun. …. Congratulations to a wonderful opening and first night!!! Danke! (Richard Van Camp, Author)

I wish to thank and applaud you for such a success of BridgeWalkers screening in Stuttgart.  What a blessing to have you both supporting this important film as it goes out to the world.

! Heart to Heart (Kara Rhodes, Producer and Director, LA)

U.S. Consulate General Frankfurt wrote: „Congratulations!! We enjoyed our time with you tremendously and wish you all the best! Way to go, Gunter Lange and team!!“


Happy that the German audiences appreciated Shouting secrets Movie as well. We won Best Feature.  Thank you Gunter Lange and your wonderful team for all your hard work and passion creating this festival. We had a wonderful time! – with Tonantzin Carmelo and Tyler Christopher at VHS Stuttgart. It was an amazing screening! So much laughter, tears and emotions! And so much great feedback from a wonderful audience (Korinna Sehringer, Producer and Director, LA)

It has been an incredible time! Trace Wei, Jenifer Makwa Brousseau and Patrick Wakefield – we are all honoured, grateful and thankful for the opportunity to not only share our music, but to make friends for life! Thank you Gunter! (Renae Morriseau, M’GIRL)