7th annual AIFF comes to BC

Tracy Rector, this year's key speaker.
Tracy Rector, this year's key speaker.

Sit back, relax, and get ready to plunge into a cultural experience at the 7th Annual American Indian Film Festival (AIFF) from November 5-7 in the Carlson Theater on campus.

AIFF is a grassroots organization put together by individuals from within and beyond the Bellevue College community to honor independent film by Indigenous Peoples from North America.

Phil Lucas, who passed away in 2007, created the Festival in 2003. He was a Bellevue College instructor and an Emmy-winning, internationally known producer of feature films and documentaries. During his career spanning over four decades, Lucas produced and directed 107 feature films. He was one of the first Native Americans to break through in film in an industry where native voices are underrepresented and rarely heard.

When Lucas passed away, Sara Sutler-Cohen collaborated with a small group of individuals who were either involved with the festival or were called to serve in honor of Lucas and took over as core planners of the festival. Sutler-Cohen is now the programming director of AIFF.

Despite being under different leadership, the Festival has stayed true to its legacy as a forum to discuss issues affecting Native Peoples across the country and showcase hard-hitting filmmakers, performers, and actors in Native film.

This year’s festival will include an entire weekend day, Saturday, November 7. The day will be devoted to young Native filmmakers from the greater Puget Sound region that are a part of Native Lens, a Native-run, non-profit program of Longhouse Media that teaches digital filmmaking and media skills to indigenous youth. The students learn to use film as a form of social expression, cultural preservation, and social change. At AIFF, these young film makers get a chance to tell their own stories about life, culture, and community by screening their films and speaking about them in front of a diverse audience of people.

Tracy Rector is the Executive Director of the Native Lens program and co-founder of Longhouse Media in Seattle and is also the keynote speaker for this year’s festival. Rector specializes in Native American Studies, traditional plant medicine and documentary film. Amongst her other projects, she is the co-producer of “Teachings of the Tree People,” a documentary about Bruce ‘subiyay’ Miller and producer of “March Point,” an award-winning Native Lens production. Both films have been nationally broadcast on PBS and the National Geographic Channel, and have gone around the national and international film circuits, winning several awards and gaining international recognition. Rector is the recent recipient of the Native American Public Telecommunications Producers grant and Horace Mann Award.

“Simply put, we can expect great things from Tracy Rector’s films and keynote presentation this year,” said Justin Hart, Budget Chair.

After a live performance from Onestaa, a local hip-hop artist, at 6:45 p.m. on Friday, Rector’s keynote address will be followed by screenings of three of her short films: “Bunky Echo-Hawk: A Proactive Artist,” “Unreserved: The Work of Lou Gong,” which will be a Seattle premier, and “Teachings of The Tree People.”

Along with the films and performances, there will also be free food. The 3rd Annual Phil Lucas Memorial Potluck begins at 4:45 p.m. on Friday and a community potluck will be held at 5 p.m. on Saturday. All are welcome to join the AIFF filmmakers, featured artist Louie Gong, and planning board members for these potlucks.

With over 15 films featured, this year’s AIFF will not only be a special opportunity for the many filmmakers and artists to present their work, but also for the students attending. “I hope that students leave with a better understanding of who Native people are, improved skills for critiquing and breaking down stereotypes, and a stronger sense of community pride and inclusion,” says Hart.