Posted by: Loren Coleman on January 22nd, 2009
The thought that all those cellphone cameras out there might result in more Bigfoot proof, in a roundabout way, actually has a new real-life footnote. You never know when a good idea might lead somewhere else.
“When me and my sister were coming home from my aunt’s funeral…I decided to go on the back roads hoping that we could talk because we were both upset about the funeral. I was joking around that we should get our camera phones out because we might see Bigfoot. Then there it was on the side of the road as we got closer. It saw us and then it took two steps across the road and it was gone,” recalled Clarissa Archilta of Apache, Oklahoma.
Archilta and her sister had their sighting of Bigfoot, the huge ape-like creature that has been legend in Oklahoma, about a year and a half ago.
How is this important and newsworthy versus routine and mundane? Well, the sighting has resulted in Archilta’s involvement in a new film project. She is putting her story on film with the help of the long-running history series on PBS, “American Experience.”
The Native American Public Telecommunications news service shares this:
The unique project is part of the debut of American Experience’s newest mini-series, We Shall Remain, an exploration of 300 years of Native American history in America slated to air in April.
The first workshop for the film project called ReelNative was held in Phoenix in 2007 and Native people of all ages with little or no filmmaking experience began on a two-week crash course of film production. Participants in the first workshop shot their footage with cell phones, representing the technology available today.
Since then, ReelNative participants have been given mini-DV cameras because of the higher technical quality. But whether cell phones or cameras were used, the stories themselves were unaffected. According to ReelNative organizers, it was the Native perspective—the voice of real Native people living in present day America—that was sought.
“By asking people to share their experiences, we were opening up a creative opportunity for a population that is underrepresented in American media,” said Sharon Grimberg, We Shall Remain executive producer. “I hope that these participants’ voices, and the stories we are telling on other platforms, will come together to create a mosaic of the Native American experience.”
At ReelNative workshops, which also have been held on the East Coast and recently at Comanche College in Lawton, Okla., participants are taught the basics of filming and interviewing, and then are set on their own to do their stories. The result has been films about childhood memories, personal struggles with identity or concerns about their future of their tribe or diminishing culture.
Other participants have shared their tribe’s creation stories or chronicled history, such as the first Native American to graduate from Harvard.
“It was hard to tell the world something I keep so close to my heart, while wondering if people will understand what the film is really trying to share and teach,” said Rebecca Nelson of the Salt River Pima Tribe, one of the first workshop participants whose film, A Freeway Christmas, tells of Nelson’s desire to have a Christmas for her younger brother as she had as a little girl when her family had more money. “But then I remembered the reason I agreed to participate in the first place—I knew my story needed to be told. It needed to be told the way it should be told, directly from me.”
Tvli Jacob (Choctaw), an experienced filmmaker who led the workshops on the East Coast and at Comanche College, said he hopes that ReelNative will entice workshop participants to continue telling their own stories or compel other Natives to get in the business.
“It’s about giving Natives a voice where they don’t have one,” Jacob said. “There is very little representation of Native people in filmmaking and this is a way to empower them.” Clarrisa Archilta (Apache) agrees. While she isn’t going to change her career anytime soon, she is glad she’s getting this chance to learn about the industry and tell her story. Tales of Bigfoot are large part of Native American Oklahoma history. Some tribes believe that Bigfoot protects cemeteries. Other tribes believe they are like medicine men and turn into trees.
“I know that some people aren’t going to believe it and I’m OK with that,” Archilta said. “…But some people think all Indians do is drink and powwow, and, really, you have all these Indian artists or musicians or doctors or massage therapists like me. It’s better to get these films out there to show people that we’re not just drunks or savages, and that we’re interesting and normal just like them.”
Films from the ReelNative project are available to view now on the We Shall Remain website and will be shown nationwide when the series premieres on PBS on April 13. For more
information about the series, go to here.