Native filmmakers Chris Eyre and Georgina Lightning were among several honored guests and hosts for a sneak preview film festival event at the historic Byrd Theater in Richmond, Virginia on Sunday, February 6th. The preview, titled the Pocahontas Reframed Film Festival: Native American Storytellers, was an introductory snippet of a three-day Native film festival, which is sponsored by the American Evolution 2019 Commemoration in Virginia and is supported by Francis Ford Coppola.
The three-day Pocahontas Reframed Film Festival is coming to Richmond in November.
At Sunday’s preview, two iconic Native films, Eyre’s Smoke Signals and Lightning’s Older Than America, were shown and were followed by discussions and and a Q&A session led by the directors.
After thanking the Virginia tribal leaders and organizers, Eyre addressed the audience about Smoke Signals. “I made this story about Smoke Signals 20 years ago and wow, I didn’t know all of this was going to happen.”
Eyre told the festival goers he wanted to share the message of striving to demonstrate the eclecticness of Indian country.
“I just want people to know that there is no ‘one Native person.’ The thing we don’t want is to be put into a box. I hate to be put into a box.”
Lightning later discussed her film, Older Than America. She noted that her film, based on the cultural erasure and the atrocities of boarding schools, prompted an apology from the Canadian Prime Minister a few days after the films premiere.
“We can reach hundreds and thousands of people with film. If you get distribution, it can reach millions. This is the power of cinema.”
Native actor and stuntman George Aguilar also discussed his decades-long career in the film industry.
The mini film-festival also included Native music presentations and discussions of what is to come in November’s festival.
According to the Virginia Film Office, the idea for the Pocahontas Reframed Film Festival originated during a meeting between Virginia tribal leaders and representatives from the French Film Festival, who had met due to Native actor Aguilar’s involvement in french films.
“We thought we already had a strong model with the French Film Festival, so we thought we could do something that is as important as the Native American story,” said Peter Kirkpatrick, co-organizer of the French Film Festival.
“A Native American film festival is a story that needs to be told in order to underline a new perspective. Film is a perfect medium for Native American storytelling that hasn’t reached the level of distribution that it should. This is the opportunity to create a cultural conversation,” said Kirkpatrick.
The Pocahontas Reframed Film Festival has already received support from the Commonwealth of Virginia, the day after the festival, Eyre, Lightning, Aguilar and Virginia tribal leaders were invited to meet with Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe. The group posed for a photo under a portrait of Pocahontas.
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In a release given to ICMN by the Virginia Film Office, additional organizers offered comments and the VFO gave additional details about the festival coming to Richmond in November:
Brad Brown, assistant chief of the Pamunkey, said, “It will be a forum for tribes to tell their story. It’s an educational experience. We chose the name Pocahontas Reframed to represent our goal – to give Native American filmmakers a chance to tell their stories, those both well-known and new to audiences, from their point of view.”
Andy Edmunds, director of the Virginia Film Office, said, “Filmmaking is about points of view, and the American Indian culture is rich, diverse and interesting, and often misunderstood. It’s great to have a festival that will be curated from the point of view of American Indian filmmakers.”
The festival’s primary sponsor, the 2019 Commemoration, is dedicated to promoting 400 years of Virginia’s contributions to the core American ideals of democracy, diversity, and opportunity. Under the theme American Evolution, the commemoration highlights events that occurred in Virginia in 1619 that continue to influence America today. Featured programs, events and legacy projects will position Virginia as a leader in education, tourism and economic development.
Additional sponsors of the festival include eight state-recognized Virginia Indian tribes – the Pamunkey Tribe, Mattaponi Tribe, Chickahominy Tribe, Nottoway Tribe, Cheroenhaka Tribe, Patawomeck Tribe, Monacan Nation, and Rappahannock Tribe, as well as from famed director Francis Ford Coppola, whose recently-opened California restaurant, Werowocomoco, is named after the historical headquarters of the Powhatan tribe in Virginia.
The festival, which will take place at the historic Byrd Theatre on November 17-19 2017. For updates, visit: www.facebook.com/aiffva.