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The Red Screen: Indigenous Films at Playing at deadCenter 2023

12:52 PM EDT on June 6, 2023

A still from Bad Press by Rebecca Landsberry-Baker and Joe Peeler, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Back in a different era, you'd be lucky to find two or three Indigenous films at the local video shop, usually at the bottom of the rack in the “foreign” section.

But now in 2023—that’s how long we waited, natch—Indigenous films have illuminating signage with “Featured Movie of the Month” spreads.

We have willed ourselves into a new renaissance of powerful filmmaking, writing, and art, with fairly dismissed creators turning into a new breed of movie-making soldiers of love, representing the whole film culture and its fandom—not just the “foreign” section, guys. 

deadCenter Film Festival – taking place this upcoming weekend – is taking this art form and spreading it to the waiting classes, all willing to take it all in, letting movie watchers know that—at least in Oklahoma—a reborn art form is here.

Here are some of the best Indigenous films they'll be showing at this year's festival. Be sure to take them all in...


Fancy Dance

Sun, Jun 11th, 6:00 PM @ First Americans Museum

“Following her sister's disappearance, a Native American hustler kidnaps her niece from the child's white grandparents and sets out for the state powwow in the hopes of keeping what’s left of her family intact.”

If there is one film that should be watched by everyone—Indigenous or otherwise—it has to be Fancy Dance. A film by Erica Tremblay, it ventures deep into the theft of Native children by their white handlers and the bond that tries to keep them together. It also features music by Samantha Crain—if that doesn’t get you, nothing will.


The Journey of Tiak Hikiya Ohoyo (Standing Pine Women)

Sat, Jun 10th, 2:00 PM @ First Americans Museum

“The inspiring story of Choctaw women from a very small reservation in Mississippi and their love for their ancient game of Choctaw stickball. Against all odds they compete in the World Series of Stickball in hopes of bringing their first title back to their community.”

Over the past few years, Mark Williams has become an extraordinary filmmaker, with his new film The Journey of Tiak Hikiya Ohoyo (Standing Pine Women) taking the type of sports documentary one might find on 30 for 30 into the world of stickball, and the rugged women who play it. Where are those highlights, ESPN?


Bad Press

Sat, Jun 10th, 6:00 PM @ First Americans Museum / Sun, Jun 11th, 2:00 PM @ Harkins Bricktown Auditorium

“When the Muscogee Nation suddenly begins censoring its free press, a rogue reporter fights to expose her government's corruption in a historic battle that will have ramifications for all of Indian Country.”

Having dealt with my own trials and tribulations with megalomaniacal publishers and the idea of “free of the press,” I can identify with this doc that takes in the world of a small-time journalist and the big trouble that ensues. Big thanks to directors Joe Peeler and Rebecca Landsberry-Baker for making sure the freedom of the press stays “free.”


ᏓᏗᏬᏂᏏ (We Will Speak)

Sat, Jun 10th, 4:00 PM @ First Americans Museum / Sun, Jun 11th, 12:30 PM @ Harkins Bricktown Auditorium

With fewer than 2,000 fluent speakers left, a small group of Cherokee activists race to save their language from extinction.”

Forget the Marvel movies. This pounding documentary makes the true last stand against the decimation of a whole culture of people—the Cherokee—and their language. Directors Schon Duncan and Michael McDermit capture the passions and triumphs of this group making sure this language doesn’t ever go away.


Also, check out these short films:

Who She Is

Part of the All the Feels Shorts series: Fri, Jun 9th, 6:00 PM @ Harkins Bricktown Auditorium / Sun, Jun 11th, 8:30 PM @ Harkins Bricktown Auditorium

“Who She Is tells the story of two women caught in the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) epidemic in the U.S. By bringing these missing women to life onscreen, through animation and first-person storytelling, the documentary aims to humanize the people behind the statistics of MMIW.”

Dead Bird Hearts

Part of the Okie Shorts 1 series: Fri, Jun 9th, 5:30 PM @ Oklahoma City Museum of Art / Sun, Jun 11th, 12:00 PM @ Harkins Bricktown Auditorium 10

“A love story between an incompetent Indigenous man and his dog after he is made homeless after a breakup.”

Frybread Jesus

Part of the Comedy Shorts series: Thu, Jun 8th, 7:00 PM @ Harkins Bricktown Auditorium / Sat, Jun 10th, 12:30 PM @ Harkins Bricktown Auditorium 11

“A Native man finds the image of Jesus Christ on a piece of frybread.”


Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler and Instagram at @louisfowler78.

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