Movies and Music This Month - November 2023

Every month our Movies and Music Library Team will be bringing you the best of what we're watching and listening to so you can enjoy it too.

Indigenous Peoples of the World Staff Picks

Diana's Picks

Clearcut is a 1991 Canadian horror film about an indigenous activist who kidnaps the head of a logging company responsible for polluting and stealing land from a nearby tribe. The lead character (played by the amazing Graham Greene) is both haunting and compelling in this complex role. The film takes a surreal turn and leaves you with a chilling and bleak takeaway that rings true today as it did then.

Ixcanul is a 2015 Guatemalan coming of age film about a Mayan woman who is set to be in an arranged marriage but has second thoughts about the marriage and considers going to the United States with a man she is involved with. The film is the first to be in the language of Kaqchikel, which is an indigenous Mayan language.  This film is available to check out or you can stream it on Kanopy here!

Roma centers on an indigenous Mixtec housekeeper for an upper-middle class Mexican family. The film is a semi autobiographical account of director Alfonso Cuarón's upbringing.

Eyes Of Fire is a 1983 American folk horror film about a group of Christian pioneers in the 1700's who have been banished from their settlement and make their way into Shawnee Indian territory, where they encounter supernatural forces in the woods after disturbing the land and the people residing on it. This film explores the crisis of morality of the pioneers and their negative views and treatment of indigenous people, which later proves to have deadly consequences for them all. If you are a fan of Robert Eggers' The Witch, you should see this film, as it was clearly a precursor and an inspiration to it.

Sarah's Picks

Te Ata: Based on the life of Te Ata (Mary Thompson Fisher), a Chickasaw singer and dancer who performed for world leaders, including the Roosevelts.

Windtalkers: A fictional story based on historical events, including use of Navajo code by Navajo soldiers in the US Marines.

You Had Me at Goodbye: Choctaw Nation artist, Samantha Crain's 2017 album featuring lots of dreamy songs, including Antiseptic Greeting, Betty's Eulogy, and Red Sky, Blue Mountain.

Debra's Picks

Sami Blood: This is a Swedish film that features an indigenous girl of the reindeer-herding Sami people.  She is sent to a boarding school and begins to contemplate a different life which would mean parting with her family and culture. dvd/bluray

Rabbit Proof Fence: is based on the true story of aboriginal girls Molly Craig, her sister Daisy Kadibill and cousin Gracie Fields who, after being forcibly removed from their mothers in 1931 Australia, escaped from a mission settlement, traveling 1500 miles on foot back to their home by following the rabbit-proof fence. DVD

Whale Rider is about a Maori girl who has learned the skills of chiefdom and feels she is destined for leadership, but must fight a thousand years of patriarchal tradition and the will of her grandfather to fulfill her destiny. DVD

Birds of Passage is a classic, almost Shakespearean tragedy told in five cantos. It dramatizes the “Bonanza Marimbera”, the era when people in the Guajira region of northern Colombia became involved in drug smuggling, and how it destroyed their culture and way of life. The film crew was 30% Wayuu, and elements of magical realism are woven into the story, showing the influence of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, whose maternal family was Wayuu. There are incredibly beautiful images, although it is devastating to see their ancestral traditions overtaken by greed and violence. In Wayuu, Spanish and English with subtitles. Here is a trailer featuring the traditional Wayuu yonna dance.

Te Ata (Bearer of the Morning) is based on the true story of Mary Thompson Fisher, a woman born in Indian Territory, and raised on the songs and stories of her Chickasaw culture. Te Ata became one of the greatest First American performers of all time. DVD

Kanopy is featuring this and other films available to stream for Native American Heritage Month.

Traditional Hawaiian dance music and chants can be streamed on Alexander Street Global Sound as well as tribal music from the continent: two albums I recommend are Music of New Mexico: Native American Traditions and Doc Tate Nevaquaya: Comanche Flute.

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Don's Picks

Hailing from Hawaii, singer/songwriter Kalani Pe'a has dominated the Regional Roots Grammy Award. He has won the award three times and is the first non Louisiana artist to win in that category. His albums fuse traditional Hawaiian music with more contemporary music, including his own new compositions. E Walea is his breakthrough album, both winning the Grammy award and the local Hoku award for Contemporary Album of the Year.

For some Native American music in the library collection, check out the Grammy nominated When It's Cold by the Northern Cree Singers and Mewasinsational by Young Spirit.

Taika Waititi is probably the most influential and successful Indigenous voice in film working today. Not only has he won an Academy Award (Jojo Rabbit) but has helmed multi-million dollar franchise films (Thor: Love and Thunder). The vampire mockumentary, What We Do in the Shadows is the film that really caught the world's notice to Waititi's directing/writing/acting prowess and also inspired a series.

Indigenous filmmaker, Chris Eyre also had a watershed moment in creating a major hit with Smoke Signals which is one of the first major Hollywood films featuring Indigenous actors in a film written and directed by Indigenous filmmakers. In 2018, the film was placed in the National Film Registry for preservation as a "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant film".

Hollywood is not famous for sympathetic (or accurate) portrayals of Native Americans. Broken Arrow was one of the first post World War II Hollywood films to feature a positive portrayal of a Native American character.  Actor Jeff Chandler gave the most acclaimed performance of his career and scored an Oscar nomination as the Apache leader Cochise.

It wasn't until 1990 that the Academy Awards recognized a film with a significant number of Indigenous actors playing positive roles in Kevin Costner's Dances with Wolves. Indigenous actor Graham Greene became one of a very few Indigenous actors to receive an acting Oscar nomination for his work in this film.

Other indigenous Oscar nominees for acting:

Yalitza Aparicio - Roma

Keisha Castle-Hughes - Whale Rider

Chief Dan George - Little Big Man

Jocelyne LaGarde - Hawaii

Movies & Music - Question of the Month

In 1910, what film company hired Indigenous filmmaker, James Young Deer to make films to create accurate depictions of Native Americans in film?

In 1910, what film company hired Indigenous filmmaker, James Young Deer to make films to create accurate depictions of Native Americans in film?
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In 1910, what film company hired Indigenous filmmaker, James Young Deer to make films to create accurate depictions of Native Americans in film?

  • Samuel Goldwyn
  • Pathé
  • Majestic Film
  • Universal
  • Edison Studio

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Our Video Pick

Past Staff Picks

Check Out What the Movies and Music Team is Enjoying Right Now!

Sarah's Picks

Unreal Unearth by Hozier: I've been a fan of Hozier's work for the past decade. He often uses religious, mythical, and literary references and explores their parallels in his own experiences. This album in particular draws upon ideas from Dante Alighieri's The Divine Comedy, specifically, the epic poem Inferno. Using Inferno as a literary device, Hozier explores his own breakup and isolation, traveling through each circle of proverbial hell as described by Alighieri, until he finds his way out on the other side. My top tracks are "To Someone From a Warm Climate (Uiscefhuaraithe)" and "Unknown/ Nth".

Don's Picks

For a fun monsterfest for October, I completely enjoyed Ishirō Honda's (director of the original GodzillaMothra vs. Godzilla. It's almost literally tons of fun.

As always, the creepy electronic sounds of Louis and Bebe Barron's soundtrack for the science fiction classic, Forbidden Planet are great for making a spooky night, spookier.

Juan's Picks

It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Whether you agree with that or not, I think that we can all agree that at least some of cinema’s magic comes from the juxtaposition of images with audio in order to create an immersive experience. This spooky season, our theme is “Paranoia.” Few songs can elicit a sudden sense of unease as Halloween’s truly chilling theme. The catchy but undoubtedly paranoid (maybe for good reason…) classic hit Somebody’s Watching Me captures that sometimes inescapable feeling that privacy is dead. And whether you watch Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas for the yuletide festivities or for the Halloween season, Danny Elfman’s rendition of the Pumpkin King’s classic What’s This will have you embracing either holiday with cheer. Visit your local library for the latest programs and events that will get you ready for the holidays! See you soon…

Anne's Picks

So, I recently watched a movie on Netflix and in the opening scene the protagonist is bombing down the road on her way to a river rafting trip and she's blasting the song Backwater by Meat Puppets. It transported me straight back to the mid 90s and has since made it onto a playlist and has become something of an earworm. It's super catchy and just an all around great song. It's spurred me to revisit the Meat Puppets' back catalog, including the album Backwater appears on, 1994's Too High to Die.

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