Thu October 3, 2013
Arts District

Indigenous Film And Art Fest Tackles Multiculturalism Head On

As technology flattens the world, are distinct cultures being pressed out as well? Not if the Denver Indigenous Film and Arts Festival has anything to say about it.

Jeanne Rubin, of the Indigenous Film and Arts Festival, speaks with KUNC's Carrie Saldo.

For the past decade, Denver’s Indigenous Film and Arts Festival has brought together artists from around the world to celebrate and learn about other cultures.

Given the region’s western heritage, American Indian culture is likely what many think of when they hear the word indigenous. Jeanne Rubin, the director of the festival, is trying to broaden that perspective.

Jeanne Rubin, director of the Indigenous Film and Arts Festival speaks with Carrie Saldo at One Republic Plaza, which is a festival location showcasing contemporary indigenous art work.
Credit Stephanie Cochran, Arts District intern

“We take a worldwide view,” Rubin said. “So we always have films from American Indians in the U.S., from first nations in Canada, but we also get film from Maori, New Zealand, we get Australian Aboriginal film, we have been getting submissions from across the world.”

How and what it means to be a multicultural society is still being grappled with in the United States says Rubin.

“Which is why we want the voices of native cultures to be heard,” she said. “Because when people are talking about their own culture they bring a depth and an understanding that other folks don’t have. It’s not filtered through the lens of an anthropologist or somebody from more of a Western tradition.”

Radmilla Cody is one such authentic cultural voice.

In 1997, Cody was the first bi-racial woman (Navajo and African-American) crowned Miss Navajo Nation. She’s the subject of the documentary Hearing Radmilla, which is being screened at the festival.

Cody was also featured in the NPR series - 50 Great Voices, and this year earned Record of the Year at the Native American Music Awards.

“The art of singing for me is something that comes from within the soul. It is such a beautiful way to share messages to connect with people and to share, in this case the Diné culture,” Cody said in a recent interview about her work and participation in the upcoming festival.

In addition to film, the festival includes discussion forums, art displays, and hands-on community workshops taught by artists such as Louie Gong.

Hand-painted sneakers by the artist Louie Gong exemplify the fusion of indigenous and contemporary art forms.
Credit Courtesy of the artist

Gong, a member of the Nooksack tribe, creates work that fuses traditional and contemporary artistic expression on sneakers, shirts, skateboard decks and more.

Denver’s arts community seems to have connected with the various cultures that are highlighted during the Indigenous Film and Arts Festival. It has grown over the past decade from one venue with three nights, to a weeklong event held in variety of neighborhoods and venues [.pdf].

Perhaps that’s one way culture will transcend digitization.

Arts District is a collaboration of KUNC, Rocky Mountain PBS, and KUVO.