Imagining the Indian, a documentary film currently in production at The Ciesla Foundation about the movement to eradicate Native American names, logos and mascots in the world of sports and beyond, unveiled its trailer and website. The trailer connects the centuries’ old dehumanization of Native Americans to the racism being protested on American streets today.
Co-directed by award-winning filmmaker Aviva Kempner, who made the sports films The Spy Behind Home Plate and The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg, and the historical documentary, Rosenwald, which she dedicated to the Black Lives Matter movement, Imagining the Indian takes a deep-dive into the issues through archival footage and interviews with those involved in the fight. Interviewees include: author and activist Suzan Shown Harjo, Congresswomen Deb Haaland and Eleanor Holmes Norton, Congressman Jamie Raskin, National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) Director Kevin Gover, NMAI Founder and Autry Museum CEO Rick West, and USA Today columnist Christine Brennan.
Imagining the Indian is co-directed by Native filmmaker Ben West (Cheyenne), and co-produced by filmmaker Sam Bardley (Without Bias) and Washington Post sports columnist and ESPN panelist Kevin Blackistone. The film’s executive producer is Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation.
The trailer was screened at NMAI’s Symposium A Promise Kept: The Inspiring Life and Works of Suzan Shown Harjo, California Native American Day 2019 with Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, and Sundance Film Festival’s 2020 Inaugural Indigenous Filmmakers Lounge with overwhelmingly positive responses. A 17-minute work-in-progress will be screened exclusively at film festivals until the film is completed in 2021.
“I believe that my purpose on this earth is to make films that counter negative stereotypes,” explained co-director Kempner. “I am turning my attention to the insidious use of Native Americans in mascoting and the underlying racism behind these symbols.”
“I feel a sense of both honor and obligation in highlighting the vital work Suzan Harjo and others have undertaken for decades and the activism they have inspired for the next generations,” noted co-director West.