Imagining the Indian will close out California’s American Indian & Indigenous Film Festival on Sunday, April 3, 2022.

By: Feb. 02, 2022
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The timely documentary Imagining the Indian: The Fight Against Native American Mascoting will make its world premiere at California's American Indian & Indigenous Film Festival. The festival highlights the best of current films from American Indian filmmakers, producers, directors, and actors working through Indian Country. Imagining the Indian will close out the Festival on Sunday, April 3, 2022 with a screening, Q&A, and post-screening reception.

"We are so proud to premiere this film at California's American Indian & Indigenous Film Festival. We made this film for the good of Indian Country and with the support of Indian Country, and we are excited to debut at a festival focused on Native films and filmmakers," said Co-Director and Co-Producer Ben West.

Imagining the Indian is a comprehensive examination of the movement to eradicate the words, images, and gestures that many Native Americans and their allies find demeaning and offensive. Included among those is the former name and imagery of the Washington Football Team. While the filmmakers are encouraged by the Team's announcement to move away from the racist name they profited from for decades, they realize that the fight against Native American Mascoting is far from over.

The Kansas City National Football League (NFL) Team, the Chicago National Hockey League (NHL) Team, and the Atlanta Major League Baseball (MLB) Team remain adamant that they will not change their team names or practices, including the insidious Tomahawk/Arrowhead Chop. Additionally, close to 2,000 secondary schools throughout the country still have harmful Native themed mascots. Imagining the Indian seeks to shine a light on these harms.

"Changing the Washington Football Team's name is long overdue, but the victory is only piecemeal until the other pro and amateur teams also choose new names," said Co-Director and Co-Producer Aviva Kempner.

"And eradicating Native American mascoting will rid us of its perniciousness, which is that exposure to it is at the root of negative stereotyping and treatment of all people of color," said Co-Producer Kevin Blackistone.

The filmmaking team behind Imagining the Indian looks forward to premiering the film at California's American Indian & Indigenous Film Festival. The film is made possible by generous support from Executive Producers Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation and San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, and Co-Executive Producers Jessica and Steve Sarowitz.

The film is produced by the Ciesla Foundation, Co-Directed and Co-Produced by Aviva Kempner and Ben West (Cheyenne), and Co-Produced by Kevin Blackistone, Yancey Burns, and Sam Bardley. Interviewees include Activist Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne/Hodulgee Muscogee), Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo), Olympic Gold-Medalist Billy Mills (Oglala Lakota), Founding Director of the National Museum of the American Indian W. Richard West Jr. (Southern Cheyenne), Washington Football Team legend Charles Mann, Congressman Jamie Raskin, Broadcaster Bob Costas, and NAACP President Derrick Johnson, among many others.

Watch the new trailer here: