43rd annual American Indian Film Festival set for Nov. 7-10 in San Francisco | FirstNationsFocus.com

43rd annual American Indian Film Festival set for Nov. 7-10 in San Francisco

Special to First Nation's Focus

Michael L. Smith, founder and president of the American Indian Film Institute and AIFF, died Feb. 14, 2018. He was 66.

SAN FRANCISCO — Following the sudden passing of founder and president Michael Smith this winter, the 43rd annual American Indian Film Festival will carry on as scheduled, Nov. 7-10 in San Francisco.

Family, filmmakers and entertainers will unite to both pay tribute to Smith — the visionary Sioux man from the Relocation era, whose vision opened doors for Native American and Canada's First Nations filmmakers — and to move forward, the way Smith, who walked on to the spirit world on Feb. 14, would have wanted.

AIFF 43 opens Nov. 7 with an evening of enlightening, educational and dynamic cultural content, beginning at 7 p.m., at Brava for Women in the Arts, 2781 24th Street, in San Francisco.

First up is the world premiere of "We," a music video starring Thunderbirds Raised Her, directed by The Stylehorse Collective. Thunderbirds Raised Her features three sisters — Katherine Jefferson, Billie Lynn Kennedy Jefferson and Dani Kili Kennedy Jefferson — who are Assiniboine Sioux-Coast Salish Indian, and based at the Lummi Nation in Washington state.

The American Indian Film Festival will then screen the San Francisco premiere of "Living Here," a Documentary Short from Sarah Baril Gaudet of Canada. A story of solitude and wind, told with the poetry of Nunavik's stark tundra and the beauty of young Martha's words, "Living Here" is an unforgettable glimpse of her vast homeland, evoking a true sense-of-place.

Next up is "Turning Tables," a Documentary Short film directed by Chrisann Hessing featuring Joshua DePerry, AKA Classic Roots, a Toronto-based music producer and performer who's pioneering the "PowWow Techno" genre, and redefining what it means to be urban and Indigenous.

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Opening night of AIFF 43 will wrap with "Kayak to Klemtu," a 90-minute feature film directed by Zoe Hopkins of Canada. "Kayak to Klemtu" is the story of Ella, an intrepid 14-year-old First Nations girl, determined to navigate the length of the Inside Passage, via kayak. Her mission: to testify against a proposed pipeline that would force oil-tanker traffic through her the waters of her beloved homeland.

“Kayak to Klemtu" stars Ta'Kaiya Blaney, Lorne Cardinal, Evan Adams ("Smoke Signals"), Sonja Bennett, Sarah Kelley and Jared Ager-Foster, and is nominated AIFF's Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress awards.

AIFF 43 will also present the American Indian Motion Picture Awards Show on Nov. 8, 7-10:30 p.m., at Brick & Mortar Music Hall, 1710 Mission St., San Francisco. It will feature live entertainment by comedian Jack Keliiaa, the trio-vocal group, Thunderbirds Raised Her, continuing with the awards recognition, hors d'oeuvres and drinks.

The evening will conclude with a dancing as we enjoy music by Classic Roots a brand of Electronica and powwow techno. Advance tickets $25 / $30 at the door.

The Official Festival Artist of the 43rd annual American Indian Film Festival is Del Curfman, the Crow artist who created a moving tribute to Michael Smith, who started the American Indian Film Festival in Seattle in 1975. The acrylic piece, entitled "Kindest Regards,” will adorn the cover of the film program, and posters will also be available for sale during the festival.

For over four decades, Michael Smith inspired countless American Indian and First Nations storytellers to write, direct and produce their own films, and AIFI's Tribal Touring Program created many first-time filmmakers, giving Native youth the opportunity to see their films screened at the American Indian Film Festival.

Smith's impact and legacy will remain immeasurable, as the community who gathered to support his work now heralds its second-generation leader: producer Mytia Zavala, the daughter of Smith and Lucinda Spencer, his wife of 40 years.

Buoyed by loyal family, friends and volunteers from the Native film community, Zavala steps into the spotlight with her vital role as executive producer of AIFF — work her father encouraged her to continue.

"The American Indian Film Festival had completed its 6th annual when I was born,” Zavala said. Over the years, I watched my parents work hard every year to produce a show they could be proud of. I learned what it meant to work hard, and keep grounded. As years passed, I watched the festival evolve to what it is now, a place to feel inspired, to feel proud, to learn, laugh, and cry.

“A place to reunite with old friends and make new ones. And most of all, a place to celebrate film. I will always be grateful for my dad's teachings. I am honored to continue his legacy."

Go to http://www.aifisf.com to learn more about the 43rd annual festival.