The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

Presence is Power: A Journey through Indigenous Narratives at the Olin Arts Center Film Festival

Screenshot from the Bates Museum website.

When I arrived at the Olin Arts Center on Feb. 28, I was less than excited. I was required to attend the pop-up film festival Presence is Power: an Evening of Indigenous Short Films for a class. When I got there, however, I was handed a booklet travel guide and explained how the film festival worked. There were three locations: Olin 104, the Fireplace Lounge in Commons, and the Immersive Media Studio in Coram. The locations screened a total of 11 short films, all by indigenous filmmakers. You were given a sticker at each location, and if you attended all the screenings, you were entered into a raffle, which was quite the incentive (the stickers more than the raffle). I would highly recommend watching all of the films (listed below), but here is what I thought of my favorite from each location. 

The first film I saw was called “The Feathered Girl” by Madeline Easley, shown in Olin 104. The film follows a Native woman experiencing the effects of Indigenous women being abducted and murdered, with little to no criminal investigation or consequences. The woman in the film, played by Madeline Easley herself, feels intense anxiety and pain after her sister is assaulted by a man who fled jurisdiction in what the film calls “Indian Country.” The rage that this causes within her leads her to take revenge. She packs what can only be described as a murder bag – filled with duct tape, rope, and a knife – and as she is about to leave, she transforms into a winged creature. The film features no dialogue or human-made sound. Even as she is screaming from the painful transformation, viewers cannot hear the woman. The lack of sound from the Native woman serves to remind viewers of the silencing of Indigenous women’s stories, especially regarding the many missing and murdered Indigenous women whose stories have been silenced in widespread media. The pops of red in the otherwise black-and-white short film also reflect this, as the well-known symbol of protest for the missing and murdered Indigenous women is a red handprint over protesters’ mouths.

The second location was the Fireplace Lounge in Commons. There, the short film “Together in Smoke” by Rhiana Yazzie was shown. This short film explores Native love through the recitation of a poem and clips of a couple’s moments together. This unique blend of poetic narration and visual storytelling not only showcased the creativity of Rhiana Yazzie but also provided a captivating glimpse into the nuances of Indigenous relationships. The poem speaks of a partner’s cigarette smoke as a “nicotinic” ode to home. The speaker asks for reassurance of the continuation of tradition, life and home – even though these things can no longer be seen. The poem speaks of comfort in one another and one another’s Indigeneity and understanding. The pamphlet describes the short film as “a poignant ode to everyday, cherished experiences of Native love.” This is the quintessential sentence when speaking on what it means to be Native in contemporary society. It encapsulates the film’s ability to embrace the mundane aspects of life, appreciating the beauty within the routine of Indigenous experiences and relationships. This film captures one Native experience by capturing the mundane. It captures what Indigenous life is: life. 

The third location, the Immersive Media Studio in Coram Library, showed the short film “✧Ⓑ☠☻Ⓛ♡Ⓞ✇☟Ⓞ☁☽Ⓓ✰ ⓜⓐⓣⓔⓡⓘⓐⓛⓢ✦” (Blood Materials) by Fox Maxy. This short film was compiled using Fox Maxy’s iPhone footage and popular songs. The deliberate choice to employ iPhone footage transcended the traditional boundaries of filmmaking, offering a raw and unfiltered perspective into the artist’s personal camera library. The recognizable and relatable nature of videos shot on a phone contributed to a shared sense of familiarity, allowing the audience to navigate the intimate corners of the creator’s life. Not only is the viewer seeing into the creator’s personal camera library, but it also causes the viewer to reflect on their own library. The shared moments and emotions captured on screen resonated with the audience on a personal level, triggering contemplation about themselves and the Native creator. This connection makes this work much more accessible. 

Despite my original doubts, the Presence is Power film fest succeeded in not only showcasing the talent and diversity of Indigenous filmmakers but also in challenging stereotypes and presenting Indigenous stories in a contemporary light. The interactive elements, such as the travel pass and raffle proposition, engaged the audience and encouraged attendance at all locations, allowing viewers to experience the rich tapestry of Indigenous narratives. The films themselves, whether addressing the silenced stories of Indigenous women or celebrating the everyday moments of Native love, highlighted the modern existence and importance of Indigenous people. The immersive and intimate nature of the festival left a lasting impact, fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation for the multifaceted experiences within Indigenous communities. I really hope the Bates Art Museum does more events like this in the future, and I would highly encourage more Bates students to attend them! 


The Feathered Girl Madeline Easley

Angakusajaujug: The Shaman’s Apprentice Zacharias Kunuk 

Wagon Burners Steven J Yazzie

Bear NewsCharine Pilar Gonzales 

My Father’s ToolsHeather Condo 

Muscogee (Creek) HymnElisa Harkins 

Together in SmokeRhiana Yazzie 

Sunflower Siege EngineSky Hopinka 

AkiMarcella Kwe (Marcella Ernest) 

CHAAC+YUMRoberto Fatal; Snowflake Calvert; and XAV-SF

✧Ⓑ☠☻Ⓛ♡Ⓞ✇☟Ⓞ☁☽Ⓓ✰ ⓜⓐⓣⓔⓡⓘⓐⓛⓢ✦ Fox Maxy 


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