Native American Film Academy and Climate Film Festival

Grantee:  Wisdom of the Elders – Native American Film Academy and Climate Film Festival
Location:  Portland, Ore.
Award:  Community Inspiration Program
Discipline:  Pilot Demonstration Project
Web Site:

Wisdom of the Elders’ (WOTE) Native American Film Academy and Climate Film Festival provides a rigorous training program for young Native filmmakers plus screening venues for their films. With the goal of addressing the pressing social issue of climate change, this ambitious pilot project empowers young Native filmmakers to connect with their elders and bring their stories to a wider audience as they present Native views on climate change and the various ways it affects tribal communities along with how those communities are responding.

Wisdom of the Elders’ (WOTE) Native American Film Academy has allowed the collective to share its outstanding film and video-production studios, expertise and experience with an annual cohort of Native youth, all with strong connections to their tribal communities. The Academy is empowering these emerging filmmakers with a very high level of training in videography, postproduction editing, television studio production and filmmaking.

Throughout their Academy training the students are individually guided and mentored by professional filmmakers and producers. Post-training, and with this superior mentoring, each student will create a 30 minute documentary on the threat climate change poses to indigenous lifeways within their tribe, including first foods such as salmon, camas root, huckleberries and water. The first cohort of students represents the Wasco, Warm Springs and Nez Perce nations and their films will debut in 2017.

Presented in a traditional storytelling format through tribal elders, the project strengthens the students’ cultural connections as it fosters greater intergenerational communication. These films will serve as strategic communications tools for creating community awareness and change within Native communities of the Northwest. In addition to the documentation of cultural practices, this arts-based community development project will acknowledge Native expertise in land stewardship, and through the films’ distribution, increased awareness and possible advances in social justice.

Recognizing the value of this project, a growing list of organizations and individuals has joined the NACF/WOTE partnership to commit funding, venues, talent and knowledge. Since the NACF commitment to the project, support has been obtained from the Institute for Tribal Government (Portland State University, Center for Public Service), Lawrence Johnson Productions, Portland Art Museum, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), Oregon State University (School of Language, Culture, and Society), University of Oregon (College of Arts and Sciences), Oregon Community Foundation, The Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians (ATNI), the National Endowment for the Arts and many other in-kind contributors.

The long-term vision is that the Native Film Academy’s work will go on to screen at film festivals worldwide annually educating the greater public, and that this program will continue to produce a life-changing and positive impact on Native youth filmmakers.

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