In an effort to fully explore the ability of filmmaking to tell previously untold stories and develop dialogues between cultures, the Sundance Institute is staging a three-day event beginning Thursday at Sulphur's Chickasaw Cultural Center. The event will showcase indigenous-based movies and directors who use their medium to create cross-cultural understanding.
Film Forward, a traveling film festival and discussion project from the Sundance Institute, features seven films exploring distinct cultures, including “Senna,” director Asif Kapadia's acclaimed documentary about the late Formula One racing legend Ayrton Senna. Kapadia, who will take part in a question-and-answer session following both screenings of his film, said the institute helped “Senna” achieve a larger audience.
“We had no release initially for ‘Senna' in the U.S.,” Kapadia said during a Skype interview from his home in London. “We had a release everywhere else in the world, just not there. So we applied to Sundance and got into competition.”
“Senna” follows the Brazilian racing star's decade-long career in Formula One, including his fierce rivalry with his McLaren teammate Alain Prost, through fast-paced archival footage and voiceovers from Senna's family, friends and colleagues. After screening at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, “Senna” received the World Cinema Audience Award for documentary feature.
“The whole journey began there,” Kapadia said. “Through that, it was accepted for Film Forward. Now, it's like family. I've had such a great time with Sundance, and anything I can do to give back, I'm really happy to do.
In addition to “Senna,” Film Forward is screening Australian director Rachel Perkins' aboriginal musical “Bran Nue Dae,” the Inuit-based thriller “On the Ice,” the acclaimed horse-whisperer documentary “Buck,” Mike Mills' Oscar-winning comedy-drama “Beginners,” the Chinese adoption documentary “Somewhere Between,” and Mike Cahill and Brit Marling's cerebral science-fiction drama “Another Earth.”
As part of the Oklahoma Film Forward event, which follows tour stops in Arizona, Mexico, China, Colombia, India and Morocco, the Sundance Institute will stage two panel discussions: “Perspectives on Indigenous Filmmaking,” moderated by Bird Runningwater with Oklahoma-born directors Sterlin Harjo (“Four Sheets to the Wind,” “Barking Water”) and Jason Asenap (“Rugged Guy”) as panelists; and “Perspectives on Oklahoma Filmmaking” moderated by the Oklahoma Film Commission.
Runningwater, a 1994 graduate of the University of Oklahoma, is director of the Sundance Institute's Native American and Indigenous Program. In May 2011, Runningwater brought Film Forward to the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Reservation in Michigan, and he said the upcoming event in Sulphur is continuing the festival's commitment toward reaching out to American Indian filmmakers and artists as well as emphasizing the importance of independent filmmaking.
“You know, I think a lot of audiences get trained by the American studio system,” Runningwater said in a recent phone interview. “We like to present films that are definitely independent and really offer different points of view. Not just American points of view, but global.”
For a full listing of Film Forward events through Saturday, go to www.sundance.org/filmforward/destination/oklahoma-2012.