A History of Films By and About Native Americans
This course will explore the dramatic changes that have occurred in the last century in the way Native Americans have been represented in the medium of film. Beginning with silent films like The Vanishing American and moving forward to contemporary films written, directed, and acted by Native Americans, the class will progress from the study of stereotypical images of Hollywood films to the current era of the Native American Renaissance, which has produced films like Smoke Signals, Whale Rider, and The Fast Runner. Because the course is cross-listed in Religious Studies, English, and Anthropology, we will focus on the power of film to convey dimensions of Native American cultures that are more difficult to appreciate in written accounts. In other words, film is able to convey dimensions of the oral tradition, material culture, and the spiritual significance of the land much more effectively because of the visual and audio components of the medium. The films will be situated in a richly nuanced historical and cultural context in order to provide students with a fuller sense of the Native cultures that are the subjects of the films studied during the semester.