November 3, 2020

Top 10 Films to Watch Now

Welcome to our second top list to get you engaged in fun and creative ways for Native American Heritage Month. For this list, I was looking for movies by Native American filmmakers. I would like to note that there are a ton of Native-based and Native-centered movies by non-Native filmmakers that are excellent, and I will create another list in the future to share our favorite titles because they also deserve a solid shout out.

A quick note: I was definitely restricted with what films were easily accessible online, through streaming, rental, or purchase. And please do not consider this the end-all be-all of Native-made films, this is just a jump-off list to get people excited about Native Cinema. This list is a mixture of classics and new-ish releases of documentaries, comedies, dramas, action, and inspirational flicks. Please enjoy!

  1. Reel Injun - A look at representation of Native Americans in Hollywood cinema from the days of Thomas Edison to today, highlighting the way such predominantly negative portrayals impacted historical understanding of the Native American experience on both sides. Note: This link may not work for everyone.
  2. Skins - An inspiration tale about the relationship between two Sioux Brothers living on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
  3. Mekko - After 19 years in prison, Mekko ends up sleeping on the streets of a native Muscogee community. After encountering a wicked man named Bill, Mekko turns to the old teachings of his grandmother in order to rid the community of this 'witch.' A story of hope and redemption as Mekko seeks the strength to overcome evil.
  4. Boy - Set on the east coast of New Zealand in the year 1984, an 11-year-old kid and devout Michael Jackson fan gets a chance to know his father, who has returned to find a bag of money he buried years ago. An international hit from acclaimed writer/director Taika Waititit, this movie is an hilarious and heartfelt coming of age tale about heroes, magic, and Michael Jackson.
  5. Blood Quantum - The dead are coming back to life outside the isolated Mi'gmaq reserve of Red Crow, except for its Indigenous inhabitants who are strangely immune to the zombie plague.
  6. Sweetheart Dancers - Indigenous dancers Sean and Adrian challenge the rulebook of San Manuel's Native American Sweetheart Special as they attempt to compete in the annual couple's competition. Dancing not only against the other dancers, but against the drums of oppression and closed-mindedness, this two-spirit couple is determined to rewrite the rules of "one man, one woman" with their resplendent charisma, character, and resilience.
  7. Edge of America - African-American teacher Kenny Williams packs up his belongings and heads to the Three Nations Reservation in Utah to start his new job as a high school English teacher. He first meets resistance from the Native American students, but soon this culture clash turns to mutual understanding in this inspiring drama that is based on a true story.
  8. Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner - Set in the ancient past, the film retells an Inuit legend of a man, whose marriage with his two wives earns him the animosity of the son of the band leader, who kills Atanarjuat's brother and forces Atanarjuat to flee by foot. The first feature film ever to be written, directed, and acted entirely in the Inuktitut language. 
  9. Trudell - The film traces poet John Trudell's life from his childhood in Omaha, Nebraska, through his role as one of the leaders of the Occupation of Alcatraz and Radio Free Alcatraz in 1969, to serving as Chairman of the American Indian Movement from 1973-1979. It also covers his rebirth as a poet after his wife died in a house fire suspected as arson.
  10. Smoke Signals - Though Victor and Thomas have lived their entire young lives in the same tiny town, they couldn't have less in common. But when Victor is urgently called away, it's Thomas who comes up with the money to pay for his trip.
I have personally seen Reel Injun, Skins, Smoke Signals, Mekko, Atanarjuat, Edge of America, and Trudell, and they are all so amazing for different reasons. The other films came highly recommended: Boy, Sweetheart Dancers, and Blood Quantum, and I can't wait to watch them! Grab the popcorn and snuggle in!