People Of Sundance: Chatting With N. Bird Runningwater

on Thursday, Jan. 20th

I just got through interviewing N. Bird Runningwater, Director of the Sundance Native Film Lab Fellowship Program. I usually imagine institutional types to be on the frump side of things, but the man can wear the hell out of a metallic silver puff coat and a mohawk!

I spoke with Bird about the films showing during this year’s fest that came though the lab – Andrew Okpeaha MacLean’s drama ‘On The Ice’ and Billy Luther’s “GRAB” doc. Turnstyle will have more on those films in the next few days. But we also talked more in general about what kinds of films Sundance is looking for in the Native Lab. According to Runningwater, they tend to shy away from historical dramas or tribal history docs. This isn’t because such films aren’t worthwhile- it’s just that smaller scale personal stories inspire the most passionate responses from the filmmakers themselves, and audiences can feel that.

Photo: Mosquita Y Mari Site

That’s why I’m looking forward to Aurora Guerrero’s “Mosquita y Mari,” a film being workshopped in the Native Lab now. Set in an LA immigrant community, MYM tells the story of two 15 year-old Latinas who struggle to balance the pressures of school and home-life with their growing sexual attraction to each other. Since most Latino films tend to focus on straight people, and many LGBT films focus on white folks, we need more work which resonates for people who are (Surprise!) brown AND gay. Bird Runningwater says even the Native Film lab hasn’t seen much work focusing on gender and sexuality, and that it’s among the most exciting and unexplored material for Native/Indigenous descended filmmakers.

Follow Turnstyle’s Sundance coverage here.

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