Searching for your own voice? Struggling with self-esteem? Making a serious personal sacrifice for the greater good?
These are issues that resonate among us all.
However, they are also central themes to some of the films featured at LA Skins Fest, taking place at the Autry National Center on Nov. 17- 20.
This premier film festival brings together and celebrates some of the most resolute and creative talent of various American Indian tribes and Canadian First nations. The four-day event spotlights dramas, documentaries, shorts and animation that are either produced by indigenous people or that have Native American themes.
“LA Skins Fest is important for both the artists and the audience,” said Ian Skorodin, the founder and director of the festival. “Education in entertainment form is a powerful and significant way to provide insight into our culture and history, as well as a chance to reflect our day-to-day way of life and who we are in the contemporary world.”
Some of these films include “The Dome of Heaven,” the story of a mixed-blood Cherokee girl, who, with the help of an ancient Indian myth, discovers that the significance of having a voice — even a small one – is critical when struggling to overcome family circumstances and becoming self-reliant.
“California Indian” depicts the struggles of a successful Los Angeles radio host, who returns to the reservation he grew up on to help his brother and tribal leader challenge a dodgy and scheming casino investor. Although a fictional story, the film is based loosely on true events.
In the horror film spoof, “The Dead Can’t Dance,” three Comanche men discover that they are immune to an unstoppable, zombie-creating plague. During their escape to a remote school in the Kansas countryside, they find that survival isn’t the only lesson they will learn.
One of the stand-out productions is a documentary about the little-known contributions of the Choctaw, Comanche and Navajo Code talkers during World War II. “The Language of Victory” recounts the importance of a small group of Native Americans who helped the American military reach victory in critical battles by using their native languages in a secret code that was virtually impossible to crack.
Skorodin hopes to provide professional opportunity that the filmmakers would not have had without LA Skins Fest. “By basing our festival in Los Angeles, the entertainment capital of the world, we provide a direct channel for exposure and give our filmmakers and future filmmakers an opportunity for entry into this elusive business,” he said.
LA Skins Fest strives to develop new industry talent by offering workshops to Native American youth in economically challenged parts of the county. This year, festival organizers travelled to Oklahoma to conduct the two-week Skins Youth Film Workshop. Kids from the Tonkawa and Sacnfox tribes learned how to write, edit, direct and shoot video. The festival will bring six of these workshop students to Los Angeles so they can attend the screenings of their films at the Festival.
But it is not just about movies. Each night of the film festival will also spotlight a Native American musical artist, such as Rapper Redcloud and DJ Crystle Lightning, who will offer original and contemporary music from a unique perspective.
NBC4 is the official television sponsor of LA Skins Fest. It is open to the public and both admission and parking are free. No tickets or reservations are required.
For more information and a schedule of Skins Fest film screenings and activities, visit the groups website.