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Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict


A recent Los Angeles film festival that ran from May 22-25 highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. The Garifuna International Film Festival was created by a Garifuna woman from Central America, Freda Sideroff, who wants the world to know more about her culture.

The films focus on peoples like the Garifuna -- Central Americans of combined African, Carib and Arawak descent.

Filmmaker and actor Ruben Reyes is Garifuna and co-produced the movie Garifuna in Peril.

“We come to the United State and other countries, then our children want to be American. But when we teach them the importance of being Garifuna, then they start to show interest in the language,” said Reyes.

A story from the Pine Ridge reservation of Lakota people, called The Holy Man: The USA vs Douglas White, looks at a spiritual leader accused of a crime and imprisoned. The filmmakers found flaws in the case and had it reopened, against a backdrop of neglect and poverty, and a rich culture.

The film was made by husband and wife team Simon Joseph and Jennifer Jessum, and narrated by actor Martin Sheen.

“It is kind of a small story that takes on some bigger issues,” said Jessum.

Dancer Olu Yemisi documents her dance troupe with roots in Latin, Caribbean and American jazz in the film Rhythm and Body Language.

“This film actually follows some years of us actually performing in different venues,” said Yemisi.

A Cantonese-language film, Red Passage, looks at a different kind of culture clash in 1970s Hong Kong when a few leftist schools in the British colony promoted radical ideas then current in mainland China during the Cultural Revolution.

The story is based on the childhood of filmmaker Ho Yi.

“When this boy got into this kind of school, he suffers and feels lonely and feels confused,” explained Yi.

Festival founder and organizer Sideroff said some films focus on culture conflict and others on loss of language.

“The aborigines, the Hawaiians with their language, and we have the Welsh,” said Sideroff, listing languages in danger of dying out.

She says they are languages and cultures worth preserving.

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