Navajo Teen With
A Camera And A Cause Wins White House Visit For Short Film
by Tara Terregino -
WASHINGTON Keanu Jones just wanted to tell stories of
his Navajo people when he picked up a camera several years ago,
never thinking that his "simple 3-minute film" would bring him all
the way to the White House.
"It's incredible," said Jones, 18, whose film was one of 15
selected from around the country as part of the second annual White
House Student Film Festival.
Jones, a senior at Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy, said
he hopes his film on his family's daily struggles helps raise awareness
about the fight for water and other natural resources taken from
The American Film Institute helped select the videos, which
were on the theme of "the impact of giving back." Students behind
the 15 winning films, some as young as age 6, were at the White
House Friday where they got to screen their movies for an East Room
audience of filmmakers and celebrities, including Steve McQueen,
the Oscar-nominated director behind "12 Years a Slave," and Academy
Award-winning actress Hillary Swank.
"These aren't just great films, but they're a great example
of how young people are making a difference all around the world,"
Obama said to applause from the audience.
Obama used the event to unveil his "Call to Arts" initiative
through the Corporation for National and Community Service to help
inspire and mentor young artists across the country. The program
will work with the American Film Institute, the Screen Actors Guild
and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, whose
members have pledged to provide 1 million hours of mentorship to
young artists over the next three years.
Keanu's film, "Giving back the Navajo Way," told of the Navajo
tradition of serving elders despite the sometimes-arduous work needed
to do so in Indian Country. Keanu said "simple necessities Americans
enjoy like electricity, automatic heaters and running water" may
be non-existent in the rural area of Arizona where he is from.
Keanu said that using film lets him capture his people's culture
and life, and he hopes it will educate all those who watch.
After their White House visit, the winning filmmakers had other
Washington visits planned, including workshops at the Newseum with
Keanu said his invitation to the White House was an honor, not
only for him, but because he is representing his family and his
being Native American culture. But he still seemed surprised after
"I've never really thought that making a simple three-minute
film would even take me to the White House or to see Obama," Keanu
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