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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


December 14, 2002 - Issue 76


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Indian Film Fest Coming to Rapid City

by Heidi Bell Gease Rapid City Journal
credits: The American Indian Film Institute poster, (c) 2002 by Brian Larney
The American Indian Film Institute poster, (c) 2002 by Brian Larney After a successful local run of the Inuit film "Atanarjuat," The Native Voice newspaper will present "The Best of the 27th Annual American Indian Film Festival" Thursday through Saturday, Dec. 19-21, in Rapid City.

The three-day film festival, timed to coincide with the Lakota Nation Invitational basketball tournament, will feature selected films shown at last month's American Indian Film Institute film festival in San Francisco. Movies will be shown locally at Stargate Theatre.

Featured films will include "Skins," "Atanarjuat," "The Doe Boy," "Chiefs," "Skinwalkers," "The Great American Foot Race," "Where the Spirit Lives" and others. For a full schedule, see the Weekend section in Friday's Rapid City Journal.

"It's kind of in the spirit of ... when you go to a museum and they have a traveling exhibition to take the show on the road," Lise Balk King, who publishes The Native Voice newspaper with husband Frank King, said.

At their request, Michael Smith, founder and director of AIFI, agreed to help create the first American Indian film festival in South Dakota. "He saw it as a great opportunity to bring the films home, so to speak," Lise King said.

The American Indian Film Institute is a nonprofit media-arts center founded to foster understanding of the culture, tradition and issues of contemporary Indian people. When the Kings attended AIFI's November film festival, they were so impressed with "Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner)," a film done entirely in Inuit with English subtitles, that they wanted to bring it to Rapid City. Elks Theatre agreed to show the film for five days, longer if attendance warranted.

The three-hour movie ran for two weeks.

"We've gotten such a tremendous response from both the Indian and non-Indian communities here," King said. "It was the incredible ... enthusiasm for 'The Fast Runner' being here that prompted us to further develop the idea of bringing native films to South Dakota and to Rapid City."

Smith will attend the festival and said he is happy to bring the films "home" to Indian Country. But he also hopes to interest local tribes and organizations in offering film workshops for youths on local reservations.

AIFI recently published a catalog of all films shown at AIFI festivals from 1975 to 2000. "The glaring fact is that of the nearly 630 films that we have shown ... less than one-third of those films came from our own communities," Smith said in a telephone interview. "It's generally non-Indians telling our stories."

That prompted AIFI to launch traveling film workshops in hopes of fostering more Indian filmmakers. "A lot of our young people are at crossroads as to what they want to do with their lives," Smith said. "It's really building up a lot of positive self-esteem when they actually get to introduce the films (they make) and they see their name on the silver screen."

The Rapid City film festival will appear on two screens at Stargate, whose owners also own Elks Theatre. Both Stargate theaters seat 275 people.

"We're pretty excited about it, and the people in San Francisco have been really helpful," theater manager Curt Small said. If it proves popular, he said, the Rapid City festival could become an annual event.

Films will be shown in blocks starting about 6:30 p.m. each day and also at noon Saturday. Each block will consist of about four hours of shorts and feature films. Each film will be shown only once, except for "Skins," which will show Thursday and Friday afternoons and Saturday night. Tickets are $5 at the door for one block of films.

Lucy Tulugarjuk, who played "Puja" in "Atanarjuat," is scheduled to appear at the Thursday-night film session. Rapid City resident Chris Eyre, director of "Skins," "Skinwalkers" and the award-winning "Smoke Signals," is slated to attend Saturday night's screening of "Skins."

Also on Saturday, a reception and taping of South Dakota Public Television's "Outside the Box" are planned at The Journey Museum.

Although the film festival was planned to coincide with the Lakota Nation Invitational, local residents are welcome. "It's not just for LNI, it's not just for the native community," King said. "This is for the community at large, also."

Film-festival sponsors include Stargate Theatre, The Journey Museum, First Western Bank of Rapid City and Linn Productions.

For sponsorship information, call King at 718-9141 or (800) 449-8176. For more information, visit

Rapid City, Sd Map
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