AIFF is back to celebrate the best of Native American film
The American Indian Film Festival returns in-person to San Francisco after a hiatus from the pandemic to celebrate its 47th year. With more than 70 films across 17 programs it is the world's oldest and most recognized international film exposition dedicated to Native American cinematic accomplishment.
Started in 1975 in Seattle, the festival moved to San Francisco in 1977 where it found its permanent home. In 1979, the American Indian Film Institute was formed as a nonprofit arts organization to foster understanding of the culture, traditions and issues of contemporary Native Americans.
Over the years, the late Founder and Director Michael Smith sought to present complex and realistic images of Native Americans while offering Native artists and filmmakers an outlet to showcase their work. Following his sudden passing in 2018, Smith’s daughter, Mytia Zavala, continues to carry on the institute’s vision and mission in his honor.
This year, the festival is back in San Francisco at venues across the city, including the Koret Auditorium at the San Francisco Public Library, the Letterman Digital Arts Center, the Southside Theatre in Fort Mason, and the SOMArts Cultural Center. Many of the festival's film programs are also free to attend by reserving tickets on the AIFF website.
Find a full breakdown on the Film Schedule page, but here are a few highlights:
INDIANLAND plays as part of Program 1: OPENING NIGHT on Friday, November 4th at 6:00pm, Letterman Digital Arts Center.
In 1969, a few years after Alcatraz closed down its prison, a group of young Indians took over the island for 19 months, despite the lack of heat, electricity, and water. They sought to negotiate treaty rights to the land with the government. INDIANLAND is a regathering of this group and their stories told 50 years later, at Alcatraz.
UNLORD THE LAND plays as part of Program 1: OPENING NIGHT on Friday, November 4th at 6:00pm, Letterman Digital Arts Center.
UNLORD THE LAND is an episode from Rosario Dawson's Normal Ain't Normal web series depicting stories of the Oakland working class after the pandemic. D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai (Reservation Dogs) plays a young Native American man caught in a family conflict over money with his older brother, played by Martin Sensmeier (Yellowstone).
GOOD FIRE plays as part of Program 16: MOTHER EARTH on Thursday, November 10th at 12:45pm, Koret Auditorium.
Filmmaker Erica Tom is a Bay Area local who has served as the Director of Native American Studies at Sonoma State University and is currently a Professor of English/Ethnic Literature at Santa Rosa Junior College. Her film, GOOD FIRE, is a topical short documentary film amidst our current drought, megafires, and climate change. For thousands of years the North Fork Mono Tribe has used fires to restore Central Valley land.
NATIVE TO RIGHT HERE: THE PLANTS, ANIMALS AND PEOPLE OF TUUSHTAK plays as part of Program 16: MOTHER EARTH on Thursday, November 10th at 12:45pm, Koret Auditorium.
NATIVE TO RIGHT HERE: THE PLANTS, ANIMALS AND PEOPLE OF TUUSHTAK, follows Berkeley's Cafe Ohlone founders Vincent Medina and Louis Trevino on a walk in the hills below their most sacred peak, Tuushtak, aka Mount Diablo. Together with filmmaker Joan Hamilton, they discuss Ohlone history, culture, and cuisine—and how we can all celebrate what is "native to right here."
SAGING THE WORLD plays as part of Program 16: MOTHER EARTH on Thursday, November 10th at 12:45pm, Koret Auditorium.
From the California Native Plant Society comes SAGING THE WORLD, a film that explains the deeply rooted impact white sage has on Indigenous communities, particularly in parts of California where it naturally occurs. It is an award-winning film that fosters awareness juxtaposing the viral trend of sage wands.
Film Schedule, Special Events, Tickets, and More Information
For tickets and more information about the 47th American Indian Film Festival, visit aifisf.com. The full festival program, including special events such as a cooking demonstration from Wahpepa's Kitchen chef/owner, can be found on the website.