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Even after 16 years, Will Goins, director of the Native American Indian Film & Video Festival, is passionate and excited about and the event he’s put together in Columbia since 1997.
“We’re introducing new audiences to Native American filmmaking," he says. “It has grown to accept music videos, industrial [films], trailers ... horror and our first R-rated film.”
Part of that growth is the festival’s expansion into Carmike Cinema 14, the multiplex near Columbiana Mall. Goins is enthusiastic about the prospect of Native American indie films reaching out to the masses in the large, mainstream commercial venue.
"People will accidentally stumble onto a great film," he says.
Nov. 1 marks the opening night of the festival at Carmike 14 with a showing of Chasing Shakespeare featuring Danny Glover as the protagonist, William Ward, who recalls the troubled story of his love with Venus, a Native American belonging to a clan with a sacred communion with lightning. This is followed by Bury My Heart With Tonawanda, a film about a boy with Down’s Syndrome who is taken in by the Tonawanda Seneca Nation. Next comes The Cherokee Word for Water, a documentary about Wilma Mankiller, the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation. If you miss any of the films on opening night, they will be featured again on Nov. 2. Both days begin showings at 7:30 p.m.
As proud as Goins’ is of the opening night at Carmike, he’s equally proud of the happenings within Columbia’s bounds, with this being the first year the City of Columbia has officially supported the festival. On Nov. 3, the festival will move to Columbia’s western neighbor at Conundrum Music Hall. Beginning at 10 a.m. and going until 10 p.m. documentaries, shorts, music videos and more pertaining to Native American culture, artist, and topics will be shown. Of note will be the screening of Thunder Being Nation, a documentary by Steven Lewis Simpson filmed over 11 years about the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Simpson emphasizes that the story is told not in an academic way, but with the goal of reconciling the history and contemporary circumstances of the Native residents using their own voice.
On Nov. 4 and Nov. 5 the festival comes back to Columbia’s Main Street with screenings at The Nickelodeon beginning at 8 pm. Features include Urban Rez, a documentary by Larry Pourier on the modern-day effects of the federal government’s relocation of Native American’s off of reservations and into urban areas during the first half of the 20th century, and **A Saint of Sins in a Den of Thieves, the first R-rated film in the festival’s history. Seemingly in the vein of Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, the film follows the fateful meeting of the cunning Trickster and the carefree Diana Maria. After Nickelodeon screenings there will be Q&A sessions with the filmmakers and attending actors.
Sixteen years into the festival, for Goins it's still about one thing.
“I want to share the storytelling, introduce people to Native American culture, ancient and contemporary," he says.