Documentary filmmaker Billy Luther brings mindful and personal depictions of the complexity of reservation life to the screen, inspired by his Navajo, Hopi and Laguna Pueblo heritage.
His first film, “Miss Navajo” (2007), journeys through an annual pageant, which his mother won in 1966. He shows how today’s pageant contestants demonstrate mastery of cultural practices necessary to win the award, like fluency in their language and knowing how to skin and butcher a sheep single-handedly. Luther’s moving debut premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, broadcast nationally on PBS’ Independent Lens and was honored with a 2007 Michael Moore Special Founders Prize.
In 2011, Luther released “Grab,” a film about the Laguna ceremonial practice of giving. His work takes viewers into the lives of families who have pledged to gift the community as they prepare to toss cultural items, food and other goodies from the roof of their house for participants below to “grab.”
With the support of an NACF Artist Fellowship in Film, Luther will develop a film about Hopi artists. In this third film of his identity trilogy, the producer/director plans to tell the stories of young Hopi artists without interfering in the private lives of the artists at work.
Luther studied film at Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass. The Sundance Institute invited him to participate in its Native Film Program in 2007, and now Luther mentors new Native Film Lab participants.
During his fellowship year, NACF Film Fellow Billy Luther (Navajo/Hopi/Laguna Pueblo) co-directed Rebel Music: Native America for MTV.
Trailer for “Grab” by Billy Luther (Navajo/Hopi/Laguna Pueblo), NACF Film Fellow
Trailer for “Miss Navajo” by Billy Luther (Navajo/Hopi/Laguna Pueblo), NACF Film Fellow