The Cherokee Nation Film Office (CNFO), in its first anniversary, is wrapping up a strong presence at Sundance Film Festival 2020 in Park City, Utah. CNFO served as a presenting sponsor of the inaugural Indigenous Filmmakers Lounge, along with Gateway Entertainment and IllumiNative. Other sponsors included Viacom CBS, Amazon Studios, Nia Tero, and the Oklahoma Film and Music Office.
The Indigenous Lounge, a Sundance-sanctioned event, hosted two days of speakers and panels that fostered an environment for rich conversations and learning opportunities and added to the Indigenous representation at Sundance Film Festival, which has a longstanding tradition of supporting Indigenous filmmakers.
The Indigenous Lounge featured high-profile Indigenous filmmakers, actors and performers such as Tulsa-based writer, producer and director Sterlin Harjo (“Reservation Dogs,” “Mekko,” “Little Chief”), actor Martin Sensmeier (“Magnificent Seven,” “Yellowstone”), actor Zahn McClarnon (“Westworld,” “Fargo”), Pawhuska writer/director Ryan RedCorn (“Take Action,” “1491s”) and Kiowa/Choctaw artist Steven Paul Judd, to name a few. Other high-powered, non-Native actors and film executives took part in panels and expressed their support for the Indigenous Lounge.
Through its Indigenous Lounge participation, CNFO was able to spread our mission to a robust crowd and receptive and important audience. Jennifer Loren, director of CNFO and Original Content, had multiple opportunities to speak on stage about our mission, which is to increase the presence of Native Americans in every level of the film and television industries while creating opportunities for economic development and jobs in the Cherokee Nation. Loren also screened “Language Is Everything: The Story of Durbin Feeling, Cherokee Linguist,” a segment from season 5 of the Cherokee Nation’s award-winning series, “Osiyo: Voices of the Cherokee People.” CNFO celebrated its one year by giving #MoreNatives stickers and T-shirts to the Indigenous Lounge filmmakers and attendees while educating them about the exciting opportunities that will be available for Native filmmakers, talent, crew, and local businesses and support services.
The Indigenous Lounge featured panels titled “The New Native: Native Actors and the Work of Narrative Change,” “Defining Change and the Path Forward,” “Filming in Indian Country and Developing Native Crew” and “Indigenous Lens in the Story.” These panels sparked important conversations on how to move forward while working together to support more Natives in the film industry. With the great success that came from this year, CNFO looks forward to the future. Representation matters, and the Cherokee Nation Film Office looks forward to leading this charge.