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The San Diego Film Scene: California's American Indian & Indigenous Film Festival

From Maliglutit Searchers (courtesy Cara Di Staulo/IsumaTV

An amazing opportunity to explore the vibrancy and creativity of American Indian and First Nations cultures takes place this week in San Diego: the 4th annual California’s American Indian and Indigenous Film Festival (CAIIFF).

This outstanding event, hosted by the California Indian Culture and Sovereignty Center at California State University San Marcos, proudly features indigenous filmmakers and artists. And the San Diego area—part of the homeland of the Kumeyaay people and marked today by a large and diverse American Indian population—makes a perfect venue for its stimulating showcase.

Thought-Provoking New Films

Among the new works being shown at CAIIFF is Melinda Janko’s documentary 100 Years: One Woman’s Fight for Justice, chronicling the Blackfoot activist Elouise Cobell and her efforts to combat federal mismanagement of Indian Trust lands. Friday evening sees the Nunavut historical saga Maliglutit Searchers, directed by Zacharias Kunuk. Kunuk—a recipient of the National Arts Award and the National Aboriginal Achievement Award—is best known for his 2001 film Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, a cinematic telling of an Inuit myth (and named last year by the Toronto International Film Festival as the best Canadian film of all time).

On Saturday afternoon, meanwhile, Alexandra Lazarowich’s documentary Cree Code Talker focuses on Charles “Checker” Tomkins and the use of the Cree language for the secret “code-talking” communications of the U.S. Air Force during World War II.

Sit Downs With Legends

This year’s CAIIFF also features some special Q&As with directors and actors. These include some true silver-screen legends: Friday’s showing of the classic Powwow Highway will come followed up by a conversation with its iconic star Gary Farmer, also known from Smoke Signals, Dead Man, and his blues-rock band Gary Farmer and the Troublemakers. There’ll be two Q&As, meantime, with the great Wes Studi: one following a matinee showing of Kevin Costner’s Dances With Wolves (in which Studi memorably played a stouthearted Pawnee warrior) and one that evening alongside a screening of the 2009 film The Only Good Indian, which explored turn-of-the-century Indian boarding schools (and which also prominently featured Studi).

Check out the full CAIIFF schedule right here!

Take in CAIIFF

Thursday and Friday’s CAIIFF events take place at the CSU San Marcos Campus’s University Student Union Ballroom, while Saturday’s action goes down at the Pechanga Resort & Casino. We hope you get a chance to take part in the festival—and we invite you to make the Sofia Hotel in downtown San Diego your film-going accommodations while you do!