Shiprock, NM – The Second Annual Navajo Film Festival took place this weekend at the Phil Thomas Performing Arts Center in Shiprock, NM. Ní’tsíí Níłtsą Yaahaalne’ (Hair Tells the Weather) by Cherylee Francis was the clear favorite of both the panel of judges and audience, taking both the Audience Choice Prize and First Place overall.
Second and third place went to Silly Billy Diné: Na’niłkaadí (Silly Billy Diné: Sheepherder) by Benford Beco Begay and First Lessons by Luke Hunt, respectively. Film submissions spanned numerous genres, themes, and styles, from an animated children’s short to a serious look on the importance of authentic indigenous artwork, and from a day in the life of a half-Brazilian, half-Navajo six-year-old to a stylized metaphor about the dehumanization of those who identify as two spirit. A total of $800 in prize money was awarded.
“It was a great event this year. I was incredibly proud that both the number of submissions and size of the audience increased from last year. We are so grateful for the continued support from the community,” said Michael Lewis, co-organizer of the event. “Our focus for next year is to increase the number of children and teenagers who participate. We’re excited to partner with other community organizations in the future to help grow an event that so many are passionate about.”
The event was hosted by local comedienne Chizz Bah, who celebrated the filmmakers’ efforts to make art in the Navajo language, even while poking fun at the ups and downs of using Navajo in daily life. The event also featured a musical performance by the band Our Last Chants and a presentation by Brent Garcia, the director of Film Four Corners, whose organization is dedicated to bringing the film industry to the Farmington area.
It also featured a short exemplar film made by Festival Director Tacey Atsitty. “I put something together, that I’m actually really proud of, using nothing but my cellphone. I shot it, edited it, and uploaded it, all in the course of a single afternoon. While we are always thrilled to receive high-quality submissions, we want everyone to understand that you don’t have to be an expert to produce something amazing that showcases the Navajo language.”
The Festival concluded with a small reception to celebrate the winners.