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  • Writer's pictureLiz Hill

Five Indigenous-Made Films Premiering at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival

Following President and Founder Robert Redford’s original vision, Sundance Institute has remained committed to supporting Indigenous artists throughout the Institute’s history. This has established a rich legacy of work and has supported more than 350 filmmakers through labs, grants, mentorships, public programs, and the platform of the Sundance Film Festival. The Institute’s Indigenous Program has a global focus and through its work strengthens Indigenous cinema.

This year, five Indigenous-made films from Canada, Sweden and the United States will premiere at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, January 23 through February 2. The Indigenous Program will also introduce its incoming Fellows and announce the 2020 Merata Mita Fellow at this year’s Festival.


Charter (World Dramatic Competition)

Director and Screenwriter Amanda Kernell (Sámi); Producers Lars G. Lindström, Eva Åkergren; Sweden

After a recent and difficult divorce, Alice hasn't seen her children in two months as she awaits a custody verdict. When her son calls her in the middle of the night, Alice takes action, abducting the children on an illicit charter trip to the Canary Islands. World Premiere

Little Chief (Narrative Shorts)

Director and Screenwriter Erica Tremblay (Seneca-Cayuga/Wyandotte Nations); USA

The lives of a Native woman and a troubled young boy intersect over the course of a school day on a reservation in Oklahoma. World Premiere

małni – towards the ocean, towards the shore (New Frontier)

Director and Screenwriter Sky Hopinka (Ho-Chunk/Pechanga Band of Luiseño); Producer Sky Hopinka; USA

An experimental look at the origin of the death myth of the Chinookan people in the Pacific Northwest, following two people as they navigate their own relationships to the spirit world and a place in between life and death. World Premiere

Lichen (Documentary Shorts)

Director and Screenwriter Lisa Jackson (Anishinaabe); Canada

An otherworldly deep dive into the hidden beauty of lichens, asking what we might learn from them. Ancient and diverse, thriving in adversity, confounding scientists to this day, lichen is a model of emergence.

Now Is the Time (Documentary Shorts)

Director and Screenwriter Christopher Auchter (Haida); Canada

On the 50th anniversary of the first new totem pole raising on British Columbia’s Haida Gwaii in almost a century, we revisit the day that would signal the rebirth of the Haida spirit.


Current Fellows of the Indigenous Program whose film projects are being supported in their development:

Peshawn Bread, Native Filmmaker Lab Fellow

Peshawn Bread is a screenwriter, poet, and cinematographer from the Penneducah (sugar eater) and Yappaducah (root eater) bands of the Comanche Nation. Her writing explores Indigenous women, sexuality and humorous experiences. In the winter of 2015, she was selected as a Sundance Institute Full Circle Fellow. She was a 2015-16 recipient of the 4th World-Indigenous Media Lab Fellowship supported by Seattle International Film Festival in partnership with Longhouse Media, Sundance Institute and ITVS. Throughout the years she has worked on many sets, including Drunktown’s Finest (2014) and Mud (Hashtł'ishnii) (2017). Most recently, she was chosen as a Sundance Institute Native FIlmmaker Lab fellow.

The Diary of Mistress Red

A Native dominatrix for hire finds cultural healing in whipping apologies out of her white supremacist clients.

Kyle Bell, Native Filmmaker Lab Fellow

Kyle Bell (Creek-Thlopthlocco Tribal Town) is an Emmy award-winning filmmaker from Tulsa, Oklahoma. Since his filmmaking career began in 2015, Kyle has won numerous awards for his documentary and cinematography work. Kyle's work has premiered online as a Vimeo Staff Pick and, most recently, his short film Defend the Sacred, covering the Standing Rock movement, won the audience award at the 2017 Seattle International Film Festival.


A young Native boy is conflicted between making a choice of leaving his family and home behind for a future playing college basketball.

Shaandiin Tome, Indigenous Film Fellow

Shaandiin Tome (Diné) is a filmmaker from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Trained as an editor and cinematographer, she is a 2016 Sundance Full Circle Fellowship alumna and in May 2017 she was selected for the Sundance Native Filmmakers Lab with her short film project Mud (Hashtł'ishnii). After making her Shortfilm it was selected to premiere in Competition at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival and is currently traveling the world on the film festival circuit. A recent graduate of the University of New Mexico with a B.F.A. in Film and Digital Media Production, Shaandiin graduated cum laude and through her filmmaking passion hopes to continue her career creating art. She was recently awarded the MAST Fellowship through the Salt Lake Film Society for her feature film. Shaandiin currently lives in Albuquerque, aiming to bring resonating imagery in convergence with story, illustrating her perspective as a Diné woman.


A young sheepherder goes through the depths of Navajo ways of life trying to figure out how to prevent her family's herd from being taken.

Charine Gonzales, Indigenous Film Fellow

Charine Pilar Gonzales (San Ildefonso Pueblo) is from San Ildefonso Pueblo, New Mexico and is currently a student at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) where she is obtaining a B.F.A. in Cinematic Arts and Technology. In 2019 Charine received a Sundance Institute Indigenous Film Fellowship for her script titled River Bank. She was recently selected by the American Indian College Fund to attend a Walt Disney Native American Master Class for Careers in TV and Film, and she interned with Rocky Mountain PBS at Fort Lewis College (FLC) in Durango, Colorado. A graduate from Fort Lewis College with a B.A. in English Communications in spring 2018, she is a 2017 Sundance Institute Full Circle Fellowship alumna. Charine aims to create films that are a respectful reflection of her Pueblo background which honor traditional ways and comment on contemporary society.

River Bank

A young Pueblo girl robs a bar to support her family's business as her grandmother waits in the car as the getaway driver.

Merata Mita Fellowship

On Monday, January 27, Sundance Institute will announce the recipient of an annual fellowship named in honor of the late Māori filmmaker Merata Mita, New Zealand's first Indigenous female filmmaker. Each year Sundance Institute identifies an Indigenous filmmaker from a global pool of nominees to award a cash grant and provide a yearlong continuum of support with activities, which include a trip to the Sundance Film Festival, access to strategic and creative services offered by Sundance Institute artist programs, and mentorship opportunities.

(Photo: Film Still from Little Chief. Director and Screenwriter Erica Tremblay)

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