Indigenous Voices and Experiences at SIFF 2019

4/26/2019 |
Amanda Bedell, Festival PR Manager | | 206-315-0694

Indigenous Voices and Experiences Intersect with Film Industry Leaders at the 45th Annual Seattle International Film Festival

SEATTLE, WA — April 25, 2019 — Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) is proud to announce a comprehensive Indigenous focus to its 45th annual festival that includes the fifth 4th World Indigenous Media Lab, a workshop and hands-on training for emerging and mid-career Indigenous artists; a kickoff celebration of Indigenous-made short films and filmmakers; a complimentary screening at Seattle Central Library; a traveling shorts package themed Doing the Work!; and a collection of narrative and documentary features all made by Indigenous directors.

"We recognize that our cinemas and venues operate on Indigenous land. Working with filmmaker/activist/SIFF programmer Tracy Rector for over 14 years, we have increased the opportunities to support and honor Indigenous filmmakers, brought incredible Indigenous voices to our audiences, and provided a space for filmmakers and audience to meet," said Beth Barrett, SIFF Artistic Director.


Returning for a fifth year in partnership with SIFF, the 4th World Indigenous Media Lab features 9 emerging and established Indigenous filmmakers from around across North America over Memorial Day weekend, May 23 through 27. During the Media Lab, these artists create visual stories from their perspective as well as hone their filmmaking skills through industry master classes and hands-on training.

".046 percent of media makers identify as Indigenous. It is monumental that SIFF has taken on creating space for, and honoring, these voices -- furthermore, this year's cohort represents all female and non-binary Native voices," said Tracy Rector M.Ed (Choctaw/Seminole), SIFF programmer, independent filmmaker, and Co-founder of Longhouse Media. "tbrieIn this program we made a commitment to decolonize the media space and to uplift these filmmakers in a profound way that encourages the next generation of storytellers to feel seen and heard. And, my hope is that because future creatives see others like themselves on stage telling authentic stories, they too might take the chance to tell theirs."

The 4th World Indigenous Media Lab is supported by Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, ITVS, Na'ah Illahee Fund, Native Americans in Philanthropy, Nisqually Indian Tribe, Seattle Foundation, Seattle Public Library, Snoqualmie Tribe, and the Suquamish Museum.


A celebration of Indigenous culture kicks off Memorial Day weekend on Friday, May 24 with a complimentary event at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center, in partnership with The Gates Foundation. The evening includes a screening of Indigenous short films, a panel discussion about media representation with Native filmmakers, curated art market in partnership with yəhaw̓, and complimentary Indigenous foods and beverages. The program opens with the art market at 3:00 PM, an honor song at 5:00 PM and the free screening begins at 6:00 PM.


Join SIFF and the Seattle Central Library for a special complimentary screening of N. Scott Momaday: Words from a Bear, a profile of Kiowa author Navarro Scott Momaday, 50 years after his Pulitzer Prize win, that focuses on both his place in American literature and his role in keeping Native American oral tradition alive. The feature will be paired with short Gutk'odau (Yellow) by Adam Piron (Kiowa). Following the screening, director Adam Piron, community activist Paulette Jordan (Coeur d'Alene), short film director Ben Alex-Dupris (Colville), and other special guests will engage in a Q&A on the importance of shifting narrative from an Indigenous point of view through storytelling methodologies. The event will be held at the Seattle Central Library on Saturday, May 25 with the screening beginning at 12:30 PM and a Q&A following.


Throughout the Festival, SIFF showcases a collection of narrative and documentary features paired with short films, all made by Indigenous directors; however a majority of these films will screen during May 25 - 27 to ensure the 4th World Indigenous Media Lab community has an opportunity to engage with, be present at, and enjoy these compelling stories during their time at the SIFF Film Center.

Additionally, SIFF's second Saturday Night Party celebrates an Australian Indigenous feature, Top End Wedding, on May 25 at 6:00 PM at The House Studios.

SIFF 2019's lineup of Indigenous feature films presents the following:

Sgaawaay K'uuna (Edge of the Knife)
Directors: Hluugitgaa Gwaai Edenshaw (Haida), Jaada Yahlangnaay Helen
Haig-Brown (Tsilhqot'in Nation) | Canada 2018 | 100 min

On a remote Canadian island, a nobleman retreats to the wilderness and spirals into insanity after accidentally killing his best friend's son. Crafted by an all-Indigenous cast and crew, this is the first film ever made in the endangered Haida language.

For My Father's Kingdom
Directors: Vea Mafile'o (Tongan/Māori), Jeremiah Tauamiti (Samoan) | Aotearoa New Zealand 2019 | 98 min
Though director Vea Mafile'o's father now lives in New Zealand, he still tithes every cent possible to his church on his home island of Tonga. She created this documentary portrait to try to understand his motivations and her roots.

N. Scott Momaday: Words from a Bear
Director: Jeffrey Palmer (Kiowa) | USA 2019 | 84 min
This profile of Kiowa author Navarro Scott Momaday, 50 years after his Pulitzer Prize win, focuses on both his place in American literature and his role in keeping Native American oral tradition alive.

Top End Wedding
Director: Wayne Blair (Batjala Mununjali Wakkawakka) | Australia 2019 | 103 min
A young Australian couple returns to the indigenous bride's Northern Territory hometown to find Mom missing; their hunt takes them though luscious landscapes and culture-clash humor in this adorable rom-com.

Director: Becs Arahanga, Amberley Jo Aumuaa, Matasila Freshwater, Dianna Fuemana, Mīria George, 'Ofa-Ki-Levuka Guttenbeil-Likiliki, Marina Alofagia McCartney, Nicole Whippy | Aotearoa New Zealand 2019 | 90 min
A sequel of sorts to SIFF 2018's breathtaking Waru, featuring eight vignettes directed by nine female South Pacific filmmakers about eight Indigenous women all connected by their name and their empowering island stories.

SIFF 2019's lineup of Indigenous short films include the following:

Chasing History - Charles Elmore & Cherokee Nation - USA - 2019
dukʷibəɫ swatixʷtəd (Changer's Land) -  Tracy Rector (Choctaw/Seminole) USA - 2018
The Grave Digger of Kapu - Libby Hakaraia (Māori) - Aotearoa New Zealand - 2018
Gutk'odau (Yellow) - Adam Piron (Kiowa) - USA - 2019
Leave it on the Water - Steve Sxwithul'txw (Penelakut) - Canada - 2018
Moa Ma Le Pinko (Chicken and Bingo)- Amberly Jo Aumua (Māori/Samoan), Courtney Montour (Mohawk), Jesse Littlebird (Laguna/Kewa Pueblos) - Aotearoa New Zealand - 2018
Our Way of Life: A Video Poem for My Father - Lacy Hawk (Suquamish) USA - 2019
Thunderbird - Erin Collins (Anishnabe/Fort William) - Canada - 2018

DOING THE WORK! - A package of seven short films about Indigenous people doing different types of work. "There are horseback riders, coffin makers, politicians, dancers, boxers, a maple syrup harvester, and a Madonna lip synch artist. I wanted to show a variety of filmmaking techniques and approaches to storytelling but to also reference a wide array of jobs that Indigenous people undertake," said Tracy Rector.

  • Biidaaban - Amanda Spotted Fawn Strong (Michif) - Canada - 2018
  • Blood (and) Memory 2 - Marcella Ernest (Ojibwe) - USA - 2019
  • Emptying the Tank - Caroline Monnet (Algonquin) - Canada - 2018
  • Fast Horse - Alexandra Lazarowich (Cree) - Canada - 2018
  • Les Vaillants - Martin Gunn (Kitcisakik/Anishnabe) - Canada - 2018
  • Paulette - Heather Rae (Cherokee) - USA - 2019
  • Sweetheart Dancers - Ben Alex-Dupris (Colville) - USA - 2019

The SIFF Indigenous film program is sponsored in part by Tulalip Tribes Charitable Fund.

SIFF would like to thank Ingeniux; Brotherton Cadillac Buick GMC in Renton; Encore; Hyatt Regency Seattle, the Official Hotel of the Festival; Amazon Prime Video; The Boeing Company; and Wongdoody for their support of the 2019 Seattle International Film Festival.

About Longhouse Media

Since January 2005, the mission of Longhouse Media has been to catalyze Indigenous people and communities to use media as a tool for self-expression, cultural preservation, and social change.  They have served 3,000 students, 50+ tribal communities and have made 400+ films, over the past thirteen years, in order to build bridges of understanding between diverse people through media, education and collective gatherings. Longhouse Media has also been in partnership with Seattle International Film Festival for the past 14-years to bring SuperFly Filmmaking, 4th World Indigenous Media Lab and Indigenous programming to the Pacific Northwest. In addition, their monthly film screening and events project, Indigenous Showcase, is now in its 11th year of community engagement at Northwest Film Forum.

For more information, visit

About SIFF

Founded in 1976, SIFF creates experiences that bring people together to discover extraordinary films from around the world with the Seattle International Film Festival, SIFF Cinema, and SIFF Education. Recognized as one of the top film festivals in North America, the Seattle International Film Festival is the longest, most highly attended film festival in the United States, reaching more than 140,000 annually. The 25-day festival is renowned for its wide-ranging and eclectic programming, presenting over 400 features, short films, and documentaries from over 80 countries each year. SIFF Cinema exhibits premiere theatrical engagements, arthouse, international titles, and classic repertory film showings 365 days a year on five screens at the SIFF Cinema Uptown, SIFF Cinema Egyptian, and SIFF Film Center, reaching more than 175,000 attendees annually. SIFF Education offers educational programs for all audiences serving more than 8,000 students and youth in the community with free programs each year. 

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