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Fifth annual Holba' Pisachi' Native Film Festival highlights talent from many nations

Chickasaw Cultural Center brings Native film festival to Oklahoma


September 12, 2019

Filmmakers Mark Williams, LaRonn Katchia, Rod Pocowatchit, Steven Paul Judd, Isaac Trimble and Tatanka Means on the red carpet at the 2019 Holba' Pisachi' Native Film Festival.

SULPHUR, Okla. – Indigenous filmmaking took over the heart of Chickasaw tourism Aug. 2-3 with the fifth annual Holba' Pisachi' Native Film Festival. Filmmakers from many nations convened to screen their works, share insight and meet fans. Autograph booths lined the entrance to the Chickasaw Cultural Center's Anoli' Theater. The scent of fresh popcorn filled the air. Nearly 20 movies written, produced, directed, filmed, edited and acted out by Native Americans were screened during the festival.

Reenactments, demonstrations and exhibits at the Chickasaw Cultural Center are a few of many ways the Chickasaw Nation shares its story with the world. For two midsummer days, the center focused on one method of storytelling in particular: film.

Native American peoples represented included the Chickasaw, Kiowa, Choctaw, Comanche, Pawnee, Shawnee, Oglala, Lakota, Omaha, Dine' (Navajo), Warm Springs, Wasco, Paiute, Apache, Yaqui, Osage, Potawatomie and Delaware tribes.

This year's theme was "Natives in motion: producing media myriads to inspire through the art of cinema."

Fran Parchcorn, director of event operations for the Chickasaw Nation, said she saw a passion in the storytellers who attended the festival and wanted to help them express it to the world. She did so by planning and arranging this event while reaching out to Native directors, writers and actors.

"Every one of our guests fit this year's theme to a T," Parchcorn said. "They can be at all points of the globe, but their goal is so common they always cross each other at events and conventions. They all believe in the same thing and do it for the same reason: they want to get Native stories out there with the correct content."

Filmmakers at the festival included: Tatanka Means, Steven Paul Judd, Mark Williams, LaRonn Katchia, Isaac Trimble and Rod Pocowatchit, among others.

Means, the headliner of the event, answered audience questions and participated in a panel discussion. He represents the Navajo, Omaha and Oglala Lakota tribes.

Means is known for his standup comedy shows, motivational speaking and acting roles in TV series and movies. His accolades include best actor in a leading role, best supporting actor and best male actor -- titles he acquired at the American Indian Film Festival, Nevada International Film Festival, Red Nation Film Festival and Dreamspeakers Film Festival.

"The festival here is really welcoming, really warm," Means said during the event. "It's good to see people I've seen in the past. It's great to come here and see the variety of films from across Indian Country."

He portrays Bernard Crane in the 2019 film "Once Upon a River," which served as the main attraction Saturday evening for the 2019 Holba' Pisachi' Native Film Festival. He also portrays Rising Wolf in the upcoming Chickasaw Nation Productions film "Montford: The Chickasaw Rancher."

Means watched along with the audience for the world premiere of the trailer for "Montford: The Chickasaw Rancher" during the film festival.

Addressing his role in the movie, Means said "I play Rising Wolf, a friend to Montford. Throughout our lives we keep coming in contact with each other. There is humor in this film between me and Montford as friends growing up. There are a lot of hard times both of us go through, but it's the humor that brings us right back to our friendship."

Means is actually a long-time friend of Martin Sensmeier, who portrays Montford Johnson.

"The most rewarding parts of the film were the relationships made while I was there and, of course, telling Montford's story and being able to document that through film," Means said "We want the next generation to know about important figures and people in history."

Means also shared his take on how the Chickasaw Nation is using film to tell its stories.

"The Chickasaw Nation is doing something great here. I tell all tribes wherever I go, we have to create our own opportunities. You cannot wait for Hollywood to come here, wait to get picked and hope and wish. We have to create our own opportunities, and that's what Chickasaws are doing, writing their own stories, shooting their own movies, telling their own stories. I think that's beautiful and unique," Means said.

Williams, a Choctaw freelance filmmaker from Bennington, screened his stickball documentary Tvshka Nowvt Aya (A Warrior's Journey) during the festival. It follows the Tvshka Homma stickball team as they play their way to the World Series in Mississippi.

"This was exciting for me. During these interviews, talking to these elders and historians, as I was telling the story I was learning about the game as well. It was a great opportunity for me to find out how important the game is to us and how it is a connection to our past, who we are as Choctaw people," Williams said.

His films have won awards from the Red Fork Film Festival, Mvskoke Film Festival, Red Dirt International Film Festival, Gallup Film Festival, Eye Catcher International Film Festival and the Native American Film Festival of the Southwest.

Katchia and Trimble shared a few of their short films, two of which were produced within 48 hours. Their films included "Missing Indigenous," "Shadow Dancer" and "Awakening."

"I wanted to do something important," Katchia said of "Missing Indigenous." "We want to tell real stories – raw stories – as much as we can," he said.

It follows two detectives investigating the homicide of a young woman marked with a killer's signature symbol. It is a silent film which explores one story, shining a light on the real life disappearances of Native American and Indigenous women. It won best film and best cinematography for the 2017 48-hour Film Fest in Portland.

"We want audience members to feel, but it's got to be in the story," Trimble said. "It doesn't matter how much money you have, how much time you spend on it. If the writing isn't there, the film isn't there. Otherwise you don't have a film, you have a thought."

Judd is a Kiowa and Choctaw filmmaker, director, writer and visualist. He was among the writers for the 2011 film "Shouting Secrets," which screened during the film festival. He also hosted a youth stop motion film workshop during the event.

Pocowatchit screened his movie "Red Hand," in which a man with the power to heal time travels from a dystopian future to save the Native American people. He has referred to his movie as a sort of Native American "Terminator" meets "Back to the Future." It was shot in Wichita, Kansas, with an all-local cast and crew.

Pocowatchit is from the Comanche, Pawnee and Shawnee nations. He has produced, written, edited, directed and starred in four independent feature films.

He is an alumnus of the Sundance Institute's screenwriting and feature film program and the L.A. SkinsFest Directors Initiative at CBS. He is also a film columnist for The Wichita Eagle in Kansas.

Music for the festival was provided by Emcee One, also known as Marcus Anthony Guinn, who is an official DJ for Nike N7. He attended in representation of the Osage, Potawatomie, Delaware and Puerto Rican peoples.


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