According to Wendy Weston, the Heard's Education Programs Specialist, the state hasn't seen a major festival devoted to such films since 1994. "It brings together native filmmakers and producers," she says, "and also people who are not native, but whose subject matter pertains to indigenous people."
Beginning Thursday afternoon, the four-day fest presents 54 films -- ranging from short student works to full-length features -- as well as afternoon discussions and evening receptions with directors, producers and screenwriters. Documentaries address subjects historical (The Great American Foot Race recounts a 1928 foot race from L.A. to New York, won by a 19-year-old Cherokee), social (Black Indians: An American Story looks at the unique challenges facing people of mixed African-Native American ancestry), and ethical (In the Light of Reverence documents tribal struggles to protect sacred sites from mining and tourism). Subject matter spans not only the globe, but the emotional spectrum as well -- from Homecoming Eternal's interviews of homeless natives in Phoenix to Rezrella's lighthearted spin on the Cinderella story.
Weston notes that Arizonans may take interest in a Sunday screening of Lady Warriors, which chronicles the Tuba City high school cross-country team's pursuit of a fourth consecutive state championship, and a Friday reading of Cancel My Rezervation, a script by Sara Mae Williams, a Phoenix native and member of the Tohono O'odham Nation, about a gay AIDS patient's return to her childhood home in Tucson.