From left, Brooklyn Letexier-Hart and Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers in “Night Raiders.” (Courtesy of Night Raiders East)



Each year, a different theme emerges for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian’s Native Cinema Showcase.

After a few years of being virtual, the event is back in Santa Fe to run in conjunction with Santa Fe Indian Market.

The festival begins on Thursday, Aug. 18, with the screening of “Bootlegger,” at the New Mexico History Museum, 113 Lincoln Ave., and runs through Sunday, Aug. 21.

“This year’s overall theme is being conscious of the past and the legacies, all while imagining a better future,” says Cindy Benitez, Native Cinema Showcase program manager. “The year before, it was social justice. We never know which theme will emerge as we’re watching the films that get selected to the showcase.”

Featuring four days of screenings, Native Cinema Showcase provides a unique forum for engagement with Native filmmakers from Indigenous communities throughout the Western Hemisphere and Arctic.

All screenings are free and take place at the New Mexico History Museum, except for the Saturday night family-friendly feature of “Encanto,” which will take place at Santa Fe Railyard Park, 740 Cerrillos Road. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Benitez says this year’s program includes a total of 35 films — five features and 30 shorts — representing 30 Native nations in eight different countries: U.S., Canada, New Zealand, Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador, Colombia and Sweden.

There are 10 Indigenous languages spoken in the films, and genres include documentaries, music videos, kid-friendly shorts, films in Indigenous languages and more.

Benitez says the showcase has been a staple at Indian Market for more than a decade and it continues to grow.

She’s feeling positive with the increase in Native voices in TV and film.

“It’s been really fantastic because we’ve always been a platform for Indigenous voices,” Benitez says. “Some of the films we showcase may not get big exposure, but we can give those filmmakers that kind of showcase. We want to continue to have the voices heard from Native people and their communities.”

While there are 35 films selected for the showcase, Benitez says the number is only scratching the surface of the number of films the selection committee goes through.

“We’re not a showcase that does a call for films,” she says. “We pay attention to distributors and film festivals. The thing is for filmmakers, if you’re film doesn’t make the showcase, we do programming at our museums in New York and Washington D.C. where the film might fit.”

While the showcase has found a home in Santa Fe, the museum’s goal is to bring the showcase to Indigenous communities throughout the world.

“Some people can’t come to Santa Fe and simply don’t have the time,” she says. “Our foreseeable futures is trying to tap into other Indigenous communities and to have a wider-ranged audience. It starts with engaging the youth. They can see a film on screen and realize that they can do it too. It’s a cycle that we have to keep moving forward.”


(Schedule of events)

Thursday, Aug. 18

7 p.m.: Bootlegger (Canada, 2021, 81 minutes)

To be followed by a Q&A with director Caroline Monnet (Anishinaabe/French)

Friday, Aug. 19

1 p.m.: “Future Focused” shorts program (67 minutes total)

Family-friendly short films that are fun for kids of all ages

3 p.m.: “Twisted Tales” shorts program (57 minutes)

Shorts that invite the spooky, creepy and unfamiliar tales from the Indigenous perspective.

7 p.m.: “Night Raiders” (Canada/New Zealand, 2021, 97 minutes)

Saturday, Aug. 20

1 p.m. “Emergence” shorts program (82 minutes)

How can the past help people navigate an uncertain future?

3 p.m.: “Warrior Spirit” (U.S., 2021, 96 minutes)

Sunday, Aug. 21

1 p.m.: “Rise Above” shorts program (94 minutes) These shorts focus on the realities of rising above adversity and learning life’s lessons.

3 p.m.: “Daughter of a Lost Bird” (U.S., 2021, 66 minutes) Film will be preceded by two shorts and followed by a Q&A with director Brooke Pepion Swaney (Blackfeet/Salish) and Kendra Mylnechuk Potter (Lummi)

All screenings are free and seating is on a first-come, first-served basis; all screenings are held at New Mexico History Museum, 113 Lincoln Ave., except “Encanto”