Big ups to Winda’s Artistic Director Pauline Clague for facilitating such an invigorating and engaging panel over the weekend at the Winda Film Festival. The discussion, centred on indigenous film festivals within the wider film industry, took us on an adventure from behind the camera to game changing communication that indigenous peoples around the world have stamped into our DNA. The longest running Indigenous Film Festival ImagiNATIVE has seen the expotential growth in the number of film submissions to their festival such is the growth in popularity of the festival over the last 18 years. ImagiNATIVE Artistic Director Jason Ryle was unapologetic about the fact many films would not qualify as being indigenous even though the content may be based on an indigenous theme.
As a newbie to the Indigeneous Film Festival scene it was clear that revolutionary films such as Barry Barclay’s Ngati and Lee Tamahori’s Once Were Warriors among others are winning the battle over mainstream media duplicating the Hollywood model for guaranteed financial returns. A current example of this is cashing in on Taika Waititi’s expertise as an indigenous story teller producing Thor. The next dilemma, one panel member quipped, is to find a way that Thor can be classified as an indigenous story so it can play at one of our festivals.
By telling our own stories our own way indigenous film makers have taken a greater control their own destinies and the shape of the story being told. A few frontiers remain with distribution channels like Disney making sterotypical Moana type films still appealing to the mass market. Similarly, while Mahana played at the opening of Winda, it couldn’t be secured for ImagiNATIVE given the distribution rights.
Maoriland’s Libby Hakaraia mused about how Maori can view their own films at any one of the thousand marae scattered around Aotearoa. Libby’s disruptive thinking was right on the money, the Maori economy is a billion-dollar business and needs to fund Maori initiatives that have traditionally been part of our DNA, one of those is storytelling.
The effervescent Andre Morriseau from Canadian Council for Aboriginal was obviously passionate about the business of digital communication. He revealed how technology allowed him to forge a pathway into the broadcasting industry via radio having gone out and recorded interviews and captured events wherever he had the opportunity to. Jason echoed that no matter what the field, experience in just getting out and doing it was critical. Pauline explained that utilizing technological platforms such Indigitube are taking the place of the traditional delivery methods that only teach us to fall into line with current economic models arranged for profit.
Tainui Stephens talked about the planet being saved by the indigenous. He’s right, if all indigenous peoples were to manage their own environments using the sustainable methods and ideology passed down by our ancestors then, we would save the planet – with no thanks from the likes of Trumps, Keys and Turnbulls of this world. Instead of colonization there should have been a process of harmonization. Where the tuakana/teina, tangata whenua/manuhiri concepts were recognized for their values and utilized accordingly. I enjoyed Tainui’s view that whether it be print, news, short or feature films they’re all telling stories in the end. I think that it is up to each individual to decide what form of communication is true to their eyes, ears, hearts and minds and not have some mainstream Rupert Murdoch force feed Disney structured stories en mass through every available orifice. Thanks to indigenous festivals around the world ImagiNATIVE, Maoriland, Wairoa Maori Film Festival, our very own Aotearoa Maori Film Festival and now, the Winda Film Festival, indigenous story telling is well and truly alive.