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Department 1

Environmental Studies


In struggles for political and cultural recognition many Indigenous groups employ visual media to make their concerns heard. Amongst these various channels for media activism are Indigenous film festivals which, in the words of festival coordinator Amalia Cόrdova, work to convey ‘a sense of solidarity with Indigenous struggles’. Cόrdova’s essay on Indigenous film festivals appears in the collection Film Festivals and Activism (2012). In the introduction to the collection co-editor Leshu Torchin writes about activist festivals as testimonial encounters or fields of witnessing where the films offer testimony and the audiences serve as witnessing publics, ‘viewers [who] take responsibility for what they have seen and become ready to respond’. To better understand how Indigenous film festivals embody these activist imperatives as eco-activism I consider the case of the 2011 Native American Film and Video Festival (NAFVF) with its special eco-themed focus Mother Earth in Crisis.

In my analysis of NAFVF I consider both the testimonies of the films and the festival context in which they are placed; by doing so I add to the growing scholarship in ecocinema studies which within the last ten years has become a legitimate and crucial aspect of ecocriticism’s purview – though surprisingly, with little attention devoted to film festivals. Through this analysis, by articulating what I term the oblique testimony, I argue that Indigenous film festivals are often strongly reflective of the environmental concerns and hopes of Native peoples and suggest ecological engagements that place them in the terrain of environmental film festivals. [excerpt]

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