Native American Films

Published on October 24, 2011 by Amy

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A Man Called Horse - Native American Movies
A Man Called Horse – Native American Movies

The medium of film is perhaps one of the most important formats of self expression. It has created worlds we never thought existed, evoked emotions in us never though possible, and exposed us to new ways of thinking and cultures we may have not noticed before. There are a number of very important Native American films, as well as filmmakers that have made a significant impact on the culture and credibility of their people.

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In San Francisco, there has been an annual Native American film festival for over 30 years now. The showcase features documentaries and fictional films made by Native American people. It is the biggest outlet for Native American films in the country, and has thousands of eager and excited visitors when it is held each year. The festival also hosts workshops where young people and old alike can learn about filmmaking, its history among the Native American people, and how to begin their own careers in film.

Aside from Native American filmmakers, there are a great deal of very important Native American films that showcase the culture and lives of these people. While in the early days of film, Native Americans were portrayed as savages and enemies (think about the old western movies), over time these stereotypes have been played down, and the more compassionate, exuberant side of the Native American people is now portrayed much more often. Perhaps one of the biggest breakthrough films to make such as statement was “Dances with Wolves” starring Kevin Costner. It really shed a new light on the Native American people and their true selves. “A Man Called Horse” and “Last of the Mohicans” are also very significant and important Native American films.

Since the release and huge success of Dances with Wolves, there have been many more important Native American films to hit the big screen. Movies like Windtalkers and Smoke Signals are both Native American films that have come out in theaters in recent years. While neither movie made it big in the box office, they still had a largely significant impact on the Native American community. It isn’t so much the fame and fortune that is appreciated as the dedication to telling a story to others. The importance of portraying Native American culture and heritage through film has reached larger audiences and has impacted a great deal of people. It’s not so much the money that matters, but the message.

People should know that there is a large group of people in America that are going unnoticed and often, unappreciated. By bringing Native American films to the table, people are exposed to this culture and can see that they too have something important to say and can install themselves in a genre often thought reserved only for rich, white culture. Whether it is Native American filmmakers breaking out onto the circuit, or just films in general portraying Native American life in today’s modern times, the implementation of Native American films has been a significant part of their culture.

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Based on the collective work of, © 2015 Native American Encyclopedia.
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