Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

February 4, 2013

Dine' Arlene Bowman: Indigenous women filmmakers shut out of the industry

Arlene Bowman's 'Graffiti' has shown in international film fests.
Dine' filmmaker Arlene Bowman, originally from Greasewood, Ariz, on the Navajo Nation, describes how Indigenous women filmmakers are shut out of the film industry
By Arlene Bowman
Recently I watched The Turin Horse, 2011 on Cinema Guild DVD directed by Bela Tarr, a Hungarian filmmaker. I have not seen his previous work but want to. Other information posted on the DVD.  Other early work screened.Jonathan Rosenbaum a film critic and writer wrote and interviewed Bela Tarr a few times; also he recorded an audio commentary as the Turin Horse played. What Bela Tarr said meant a lot to me. This Turn Horse is an anti climatic drama. Tarr at some point said Turin Horse was his last film but I do not know if it will be. I liked it a lot. Tarr expressed to Rosenbaum his history:

a. “I have nothing to do with the filmmaking community in Budapest. They don’t like me because I don’t make conventional films. I can’t talk with them about films because I live and think differently than them. They are filmmakers and I am not. I don’t know what I am.”

b. In another interview he expressed to someone else: “When I started to make films, I wanted to change the world and slap people in the face. I wanted to destroy the whole world, whole society. I was full of emotions and energy. I really wanted to change the world. Afterwards I was shocked. The world didn’t change. I just finished my movie.”

He was born in July 21, 1955. I am older than him by six years.

My retort to those 2 lines, a. I have ranted and raved to a few people a few times about this very snubbed, shut out feeling I receive from Indigenous and non Indigenous filmmakers in North America about me, my films and videos I have made. I have always felt like this and it doesn’t change. When I heard that in the audio commentary about Tarr, I felt: I’m not alone in this world in this similar way I feel about my peer group of filmmakers and the kind of things I like in film and video, etc.

Retort to b.: That’s what I thought too after I finished UCLA film school. I thought the world might change towards Indigenous cinema but it did not. What it was: I only finished my graduate degree in filmmaking. That was it. I experienced a lot of politics and fighting the administration to finish my film. Used every energy I had.  Mentally and physically very tired, after I finished it. Long story.

After all these years I still have no one to talk to about the issues related to making films and videos not acceptable to the mainstream film and video, the lack of the Indigenous women in major actor roles and the lack of Indigenous women filmmakers in main stream film and television more in the U.S. than Canada, except to few I dare express this. I still don’t not as much. Tarr’s the only one so far who has expressed those feelings of alienation I feel among Indigenous and non Indigenous filmmakers or the mainstream.

Also: Hey us Indigenous women filmmakers! We’re just getting started! I’m not quitting now and saying this is it. We’ve always been shut out. Always! Always knocking on the doors. We don’t get heard. No way! We’re going all the to the top til it happens: some change at least or big changes!
Sometimes I feel like I’m from another planet but I am an earthling.  

Arlene Bowman's films 'Navajo Talking Picture' filmed on the Navajo Nation, and 'Graffiti' filmed in Vancouver BC, have shown in international film festivals. Bowman's Song Journey, on the powwow trail, showed on PBS. Graffiti screened at the French film festival, Festival International Du Film D'Amiens.

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