Passengerfilms is back with a night devoted to the history and future of Indigenous and ethnographic film, from an early instance of documentary filmmaking to contemporary examples of communities harnessing new media to speak back to colonialist appropriations of their image, guest-curated by Charlotte Gleghorn from Royal Holloway, University of London.
Our feature for the evening is Nanook of the North (1922, 79 mins), Robert Flaherty’s famous silent film, considered by many to be the first feature-length documentary. Nanook of the North documents a year in the life of Nanook and his family, Inuit living in the Canadian Arctic. Following the viewing, Michelle Raheja (University of California, Riverside) will discuss revisionist approaches to the film which rethink Indigenous participation in such productions, making reference to recent Indigenous-led media initiatives coming from the Arctic region.
To accompany the feature, we’ll be showing two Latin American Indigenous-authored shorts. Mu Drua [Mi Tierra/My Land] (2011, 22 mins), tells the story of how the director Mileidy Orozco Domicó, displaced as a young child from the Indigenous community of Cañaduzales de Mutatá in Antioquia, reencounters her family, land and environment. This short film has won several awards at international film festivals, including the Cartagena International Film festival, and offers an accomplished example of Indigenous self-representation, poetically revealing the relationship Mileidy has with the experiences and cultural practices that take place in this community.
Já me transformei em imagem [I've already become an image] (2008, 10 mins), directed by Zezinho Yube, reappropriates the ethnographic archive for its own means, recounting the Hunikuis’ story of loss and renewal as it unfolds through the experiences shared by community members – from the first encounters with the white man and the ensuing years of enslavement on the rubber tree plantations to the recovery of their lands and cultural traditions.
We’ll also have a talk by Felix Driver (RHUL) on the uses of archival film, looking especially at Climbing Mount Everest (1922) which includes footage shot in Northern India and Tibet, as well as on Everest itself. Felix is currently engaged in research on the visual culture of exploration, and recently completed a research project and exhibition at the Royal Geographical Society.
The evening will be introduced by and interspersed with commentary from Charlotte Gleghorn and Michelle Raheja. Dr. Charlotte Gleghorn is a Postdoctoral Researcher in Indigenous Filmmaking at RHUL. She is currently conducting research as a member of the ‘Indigeneity in the Contemporary World: Performance, Politics, Belonging’ team at Royal Holloway. Her research explores the configurations of auteurship, authority and cultural memory in relation to Indigenous film production in Latin America, considering the political and aesthetic contributions of documentary and fiction films that are produced by, or in collaboration with, Indigenous filmmakers and communities. Dr. Michelle Raheja is Associate Professor in the Department of English and Director of the California Center for Native Nations at the University of California, Riverside. She is of Seneca descent and her research and teaching focus is on early American literature and Native American cultural studies and theory. Her book Reservation Reelism: Redfacing, Visual Sovereignty, and Representations of Native Americans in Film was recently published by the University of Nebraska Press.