Friday, August 11, 2006

Tribal teens use film to tell the stories of who they are

EVERETT - The spotlight was on Aaron Jones, 13, and he shifted from one foot to another.

"Um, thanks," he said, and thrust the hand-held microphone back toward the podium onstage at the Historic Everett Theatre.

He and his brother, Derek Jones, 17, collected their armfuls of awards and hurried toward a small keyboard at stage left. Derek sat down and began playing a musical diversion during intermission at the first-ever Tulalip Film Festival awards ceremony.

For many American Indians, attention from the world outside the reservation boundaries can be fearsome. Mainstream video cameras capture poverty, suicide or corruption.

When Indians turn their own cameras on themselves, the picture is very different.

The 20 films submitted to the Tulalip Film Festival, which ended Friday, refused to gloss over the challenges on reservations, but they didn't abandon their characters there.

In one film, young Indians escape to Montana's backcountry for a leadership camp. In another, women discuss how they look and feel different than non-Indians.

Puppets share the tribal legend of "Deer and Changer" in both English and Lushootseed, the traditional language of the Tulalip Tribes.

A boy's father turns to alcohol to cope with the death of a friend.

One by one, stereotypes of tribal culture are challenged.

"By charging the youth with the skills necessary to tell their own stories and to put those images out in the media in our own way, the broader public will see native persons the way we see ourselves, with all the cultural complexities," American Indian filmmaker Tracy Rector said.

Rector is director of Longhouse Media/Native Lens, a Seattle-based nonprofit that trains American Indian teenagers around the state in digital film. Her organization submitted three of the festival's 20 films.