Celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day

by Emily Walsh

What is Indigenous Peoples’ Day?

Do you remember the words: “In fourteen hundred ninety-two Columbus sailed the ocean blue”? Mythology about Columbus and the “discovery” of the Americas continues to be many American children’s first lesson about encountering different Indigenous cultures. Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a holiday that celebrates and honors Native American peoples and commemorates their histories and cultures. It is celebrated across the United States on the second Monday in October. This year Indigenous Peoples’ Day is today, October 12th.

The holiday originated in 1977 as a counter-celebration of Columbus Day, which honors Italian explorer Christopher Columbus. Indigenous Peoples’ Day recognizes that Native American people are the first inhabitants of the Americas, including the lands that later became the United States of America. Ultimately, the holiday urges Americans to rethink history by learning about Indigenous cultures in the United States.

In 1977 participants at the United Nations International Conference on Discrimination against Indigenous Populations in the Americas suggested that Indigenous Peoples’ Day replace Columbus Day. Today more than 10 states across the United States recognize the holiday.

How Can You Celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day?

Teaching more accurate and complete narratives and differing perspectives is key to our society’s rethinking of history and is important in celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Watching films with Indigenous actors, directors, and plots that highlight Indigenous issues is another great way to celebrate the holiday. The AU Library’s Indigenous Peoples of America streaming guide is a great resource and a great place to start looking.

What to Watch on Indigenous Peoples’ Day?

If you’re looking for a way to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day, consider learning more about Native American cultures through movies at the AU Library. These lists of documentaries and feature films created by Indigenous and non-Indigenous filmmakers that discuss Indigenous issues are a great resource and excellent place to start. If you’re interested in learning more about Indigenous experiences outside of the United States, the National Film Board of Canada has a collection of over 200 films created by Indigenous filmmakers that can be accessed for free online.

Feature Films and Documentaries Made by Indigenous Filmmakers Available via the AU Library

Reel Injun, Directed by Neil Diamond (Cree)

Documentary, DVD available at the Library through curbside pickup

“Hollywood has an impressive track record, one that spans more than 4,000 films, of blatantly misrepresenting Native people and their cultures. Featuring interviews with filmmakers and activists such as Clint Eastwood, Jim Jarmusch and Russell Means, Reel Injun delves into the fascinating history of the Hollywood Indian with razor-sharp insight and humor, tracing its checkered cinematic evolution from the silent film era to today.”

This May Be the Last Time, Directed by Sterlin Harjo (Seminole/Creek)

Documentary, streaming via the Library website

This May Be the Last Time traces the heartfelt journey of award-winning filmmaker Sterlin Harjo as he interweaves the tale of a mysterious death in 1962 with the rich history of the powerful hymns that have united Native American communities in times of worship, joy, tragedy, and hope. Investigating the stories of these songs, this illuminating film takes us on an epic tour as we travel with the power of the music through Southwest America, slavery in the deep South, and as far away as the Scottish Highlands.”

Drunktown’s Finest, Directed by Sydney Freeland (Navajo)

Feature Film, DVD available at the Library through curbside pickup

“On a beautifully desolate Navajo reservation in New Mexico, three young people, a college-bound, devout Christian woman; a rebellious and angry father-to-be; and a promiscuous but gorgeous transsexual woman, search for love and acceptance. As the three find their lives becoming more complicated and their troubles growing, their paths begin to intersect.”

On the Ice, Directed by Andrew Okpeaha MacLean (Iñupiaq)

Short Film, DVD available at the Library through curbside pickup

“In Barrow, Alaska, teenagers Qalli and Aivaaq find their bond tested when a seal-hunting trip goes wrong, resulting in the death of their friend.”

Miss Navajo, Directed by Billy Luther (Navajo/Hopi/Laguna Pueblo)

Documentary, DVD available at the Library through curbside pickup

“Reveals the inner beauty of the young women who compete in the Miss Navajo Nation beauty pageant. Not only must contestants exhibit poise and grace as those in typical pageants, they must also answer tough questions in Navajo and demonstrate proficiency in skills essential to daily tribal life: fry-bread making, rug weaving and sheep butchering. The film follows the path of 21-year-old Crystal Frazier, a not-so-fluent Navajo speaker and self-professed introvert, as she undertakes the challenges of the pageant.”

Kanehsatake: 270 years of resistance, Directed by Alanis Obomsawin (Abenaki)

Documentary, streaming via the Library website

“On a hot July day in 1990, an historic confrontation propelled Native issues in Kanehsatake and the village of Oka, Québec, into the international spotlight and into the Canadian conscience. A powerful feature-documentary emerges that takes you right into the action of an age-old aboriginal struggle. The result is a portrait of the people behind the barricades, providing insight into the Mohawks’ unyielding determination to protect their land.”

Smoke Signals, Written by author Sherman Alexie (Spokane/Coeur d’Alene)

Feature Film, DVD available at the Library through curbside pickup

“Story of the journey of two Coeur d’Alene Indian boys from Idaho to Arizona. Victor is the stoic, handsome son of an alcoholic father who has abandoned his family. Thomas is a gregarious, goofy young man orphaned as an infant by a fire which Victor’s father accidentally started while drunk. Thomas is a storyteller who makes every effort to connect with the people around him; Victor, in contrast, uses his quiet demeanor to gain strength and confidence. When Victor’s estranged father dies in Arizona the two young men embark on a journey to recover his ashes.”

Feature Films and Documentaries About Indigenous Life, History, and Issues Streaming via the AU Library

Amá, Directed by Lorna Tucker

Documentary, streaming via the Library website

“Amá is a feature length documentary which tells an important and untold story: the abuses committed against Native American women by the United States Government during the 1960’s and 70’s: removed from their families and sent to boarding schools, forced relocation away from their traditional lands and involuntary sterilization.”

Spirits for Sale, Directed by Folke Johansson

Documentary, streaming via the Library website

“When Annika is given an eagle feather by a Native American visiting Sweden, she realizes it is a sacred object which should probably not be in her hands. These days Native American ceremonies are being commercialized for “outsiders,” arousing resentment in the Native community. Annika sets out to find the feather’s rightful owner, a quest which takes her to American Indian communities in Albuquerque, San Antonio and to Bear Butte in South Dakota. She meets many Native Americans who are bitter, believing they are “the forgotten people.” But others are fighting to preserve their culture and their faith as well as to protect their land.”

The First People: The Last Word, Produced by Torsten Jansen and Hanne Ruzou for the Danish Broadcasting Service

Documentary, streaming via the Library website

“For the first time since their land was taken, many Native American tribes have the opportunity to take over the rights to the land they live on and create a cultural consciousness. The filmmakers travel around the United States, talking to an Indian attorney, a movie director, an artist, a nurse, and others. The question remains – will Native Americans be able to maintain their unique culture now that they are participating in the American dream?”

Roma, Directed by Alfonso Cuarón

Feature Film, streaming via Netflix and DVD available at the Library through curbside pickup

“With his eighth and most personal film, Alfonso Cuarón recreated the early 1970s Mexico City of his childhood, narrating a tumultuous period in the life of a middle-class family through the experiences of Cleo, the indigenous domestic worker who keeps the household running. Charged with the care of four small children abandoned by their father, Cleo tends to the family even as her own life is shaken by personal and political upheavals.”

Standing on Sacred Ground, Directed by Christopher McLeod

Documentary, streaming via the Library website

“Native Hawaiians and Aboriginal Australians resist threats to their sacred places in a growing international movement to defend human rights and protect the environment. In Australia’s Northern Territory, Aboriginal clans maintain Indigenous Protected Areas and resist the destructive effects of a mining boom. In Hawaii, Indigenous ecological and spiritual practices are used to restore the sacred island of Kahoolawe after 50 years of military use as a bombing range.”

Honorable Mention:

 También la Lluvia (Even in the Rain), Directed by Icíar Bollaín Pérez-Mínguez

Feature Film, DVD available at the Library through curbside pickup

“In the year of our Lord 2000, Spanish director Sebastián and his executive producer Costa are shooting a motion picture about Christopher Columbus, his first explorations, and the way the Spaniards treated the Indians. To get the film made within the limitations of their modest budget, Costa has chosen the Cochabamba area of Bolivia, the cheapest and most Indian of Latin American countries as the location. They hire many supernumeraries, local actors, and extras, and things go more or less smoothly until a conflict erupts over the privatization of the water supply, sold to a multinational. The trouble is that one of the local actors is a leading activist in the protest movement. 500 years after Columbus, a David vs. Goliath conflict erupts into the infamous Bolivian Water War, catching the filmmakers firmly in the middle.”

In Spanish or Gallego (Galician) with optional subtitles in English

Why We Buy DVDs

Yes, I know it’s 2020, but when I’m looking to buy a movie, I opt to buy the DVD, even if it’s slightly more expensive than a digital copy. This is primarily because I’m paranoid — my computer may crash, the file type may be phased out, a company’s server may crash, the company may … Continue reading “Why We Buy DVDs”

Yes, I know it’s 2020, but when I’m looking to buy a movie, I opt to buy the DVD, even if it’s slightly more expensive than a digital copy. This is primarily because I’m paranoid — my computer may crash, the file type may be phased out, a company’s server may crash, the company may revoke my purchase at an undetermined future point, or the company/platform I bought the video through may shut down, leaving me no way to access my purchases. With DVDs, they can’t disappear unless I lend them out to a careless friend, or lose them myself.

I, like many millennials (and honestly most of the entertainment-consuming public) love a good rewatch. I buy DVDs because I want to watch my favorite movies and TV shows again and again, without following the shows to various streaming services. If I want to watch Ten and Donna meet Agatha Christie, I just have to pull my Doctor Who box set off the shelf, not pay for the HBO Max streaming service. Maybe I’m feeling like crap and just want to binge the BBC’s 2009 Emma starring Romola Garai (it’s the best adaptation, fight me). I have it on DVD, so I don’t need to buy a Hulu subscription.

Certain people in my life used to roll their eyes at my DVD collection, but I’m happy to report that society seems to be coming round to my point of view, just look at this op-ed in the New York Times.

Veronica Walsingham makes the argument that DVD box sets are the most economic option for nostalgia viewing, and we here at Media Services agree. In fact, you can rent everything from Friends to Grey’s Anatomy to Spongebob from us… so why not give DVDs a try?

Movies for Independence Day

I’m usually wary of nationalism and patriotism, especially in the current political climate, but July 4th is the one day of the year where I indulge in a bit of “Heck yeah, America!” I eat a hot dog, watch 1776, and try and find a dramatic reading of the Declaration of Independence to attend. This … Continue reading “Movies for Independence Day”

I’m usually wary of nationalism and patriotism, especially in the current political climate, but July 4th is the one day of the year where I indulge in a bit of “Heck yeah, America!” I eat a hot dog, watch 1776, and try and find a dramatic reading of the Declaration of Independence to attend.

This year there’s apparently going to be tanks rolling around DC, so I think it’s appropriate that we take the day to examine whether or not America is living up to its ideals of freedom and equality in addition to celebrating. With that in mind, here are some of Media Services’ picks for Independence day viewing:

1776 (DVD 4969): This is my traditional 4th of July movie. It’s a wonderfully cheesy musical, but where else are you going to see the Founding Fathers sing about how turned on they are by independence and their wives?

John Adams (DVD 4993): This prolific HBO miniseries is a must-watch, even if this John Adams doesn’t sing.

A League of Their Own (DVD 1384): Do you know how hard it is to find a patriotic movie that isn’t focused on white men? It’s very hard. But A League of Their Own is a classic, and you should definitely watch it.

Independence Day (DVD 3111): Watch Will Smith defeat some aliens in the name of America.

The National Parks: America’s Best Idea (DVD 6341-6346, and streaming): Truthfully, I could have put any of Ken Burns’ documentaries on this list, but I decided on the National Parks series because I think we need to be reminded of what we have a duty to protect.

Hidden Figures (DVD 13951): Space Race! Hidden Figures is a great film, and strikes the right tone between celebrating what the US has achieved and examining it– we know we can (and need to) do better.

All the President’s Men (DVD 1789): Celebrate the 4th of July by celebrating the fruits of a free and independent press.

National Treasure (DVD 11187): I mean, come on:

The Sandlot (Streaming): This has a great 4th of July scene, and it perfectly captures what summer is about when you’re a kid.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (DVD 102): Good triumphs in the end, right?

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (DVD 111478): Ra ra America…. wait a minute. I love this film for a lot of reasons, and I think it’s important to watch on Independence Day because it asks an important question: how much freedom are we willing to sacrifice for ‘safety?’

The Bechdel What?

What’s the theme of this week’s whiteboard? Why, the Bechdel Test, of course! The Bechdel Test originated in a 1985 strip of Dykes to Watch Out For, a comic by renowned cartoonist (and MacArthur Genius Grant recipient) Alison Bechdel.  In order for a movie to pass her test, it must: Feature two or more named … Continue reading “The Bechdel What?”

What’s the theme of this week’s whiteboard? Why, the Bechdel Test, of course!

The Bechdel Test originated in a 1985 strip of Dykes to Watch Out For, a comic by renowned cartoonist (and MacArthur Genius Grant recipient) Alison Bechdel.  In order for a movie to pass her test, it must:

  1. Feature two or more named female characters
  2. Who talk to each other
  3. About something other than a man

This test is admittedly a low bar—a movie can pass with just one line of dialogue between two women. However, it’s frustrating that so many movies made today fail to pass, more than twenty years after the test’s inception. It’s also an incomplete measurement. Star Wars: A New Hope really, really fails the Bechdel Test, but it introduced the world to Princess Leia, who takes over her own rescue operation after Luke, Han, and Chewie start floundering. Four decades later, most recent addition to the main Star Wars films, Star Wars: The Last Jedi barely passes the Bechdel test, but characters like Rey, Rose, Leia, and Admiral Holdo are essential to the plot.

So, what’s a girl to do? Is there any good, uniform way to tell if a movie is sexist or not? Well, when I’m evaluating a movie, I like to add Kelly Sue DeConnick’s “Sexy Lamp Test,” in with the Bechdel for a more complete picture.

But what’s the Sexy Lamp Test? If you can replace a female character with a sexy lamp, and the main plot of the movie is unimpacted, then it fails the Sexy Lamp Test. Essentially, it’s a measure of how relevant a woman is to a story.

Unfortunately, there was no good way to highlight the Bechdel and Sexy Lamp tests on one small whiteboard. Still, we were dissatisfied with giving the movies we highlight a simple pass/fail grade. So we came up with the report card. We awarded movies that passed the Bechdel Test with flying colors (like Persepolis, Legally Blonde, Hidden Figures, and Thelma and Louise) an A+. Movies that passed by the skin of their teeth (like Rogue One) we gave Cs. Other movies that did a better job, but didn’t feature multiple Bechdel Conversations, we awarded Bs.

And if they failed the Bechdel Test? Then they straight up failed. No grey areas there. Because really. Women make up 50% of the world’s population. We talk about waaay more than mediocre men. We deserve to see ourselves in the movies we watch.

Happy Halloween!

In honor of this spookiest of holidays, we’ve created a staff picks list of our favorite Halloween movies and tv shows. While some of these might not be explicitly related to Halloween, they all give off a generally creepy vibe– perfect for everyone’s favorite holiday. Corpse Bride (DVD 13291) I watch Corpse Bride every Halloween … Continue reading “Happy Halloween!”

In honor of this spookiest of holidays, we’ve created a staff picks list of our favorite Halloween movies and tv shows. While some of these might not be explicitly related to Halloween, they all give off a generally creepy vibe– perfect for everyone’s favorite holiday.

Corpse Bride (DVD 13291)

I watch Corpse Bride every Halloween because it combines three of the spookiest things I know—the undead, murder, and emotionally repressed Victorians.  – India

City of Lost Children (DVD 5637)

This isn’t a Halloween movie per se and it’s not even a horror movie. But it is creep-tastic and shouldn’t be missed. Everything about it puts you on edge – directors Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s obsession with dampness, the odd looking cast of characters, and the whole stealing dreams from children plot. A movie that you enjoy watching but can give you disturbing dreams – I’m not saying I know this from experience – is right for the season. Plus Ron Perlman, so it’s a must. — Sean

Coraline (DVD 7449)

For Halloween I like to watch Coraline (DVD 7449). It gets creepier every year and makes for a good Halloween costume!! — Julia

Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas (DVD 4711)

I watch this movie at least twice a year, once in the fall and once for Christmas.  It’s been a family tradition since as long as I can remember and I’m a sucker for a good claymation.              — Rebekah

The Shining (DVD 2168)

A Stanley Kubrick take on a Stephen King novel, watch Jack Nicholson’s descent into insanity as he takes up a job as the winter caretaker of an abandoned hotel resort in order to have quiet time to finish his novel. A classic and a must watch—even for those not inclined to horror movies. — Justin

The Descent (3850)

Claustrophobes beware! An all-female cast is trapped in an unexplored cave system with something else lurking in the dark. This underground horror movie perfectly exudes that desperate desire to escape from the depths of the unknown. After watching, you’ll probably want to steer clear of any caves in the near future. — Justin

The Blair Witch Project (DVD 24)

In addition to being a watershed moment for the horror genre, The Blair Witch Project was a watershed moment for 15-year-old me–I was so profoundly terrified by the film it would be three years before I watched a horror movie again. — Jean-Luc

SpongeBob SquarePants Season 1, Episode 13 (DVD 14168)

Cartoons are not the first thing that comes to mind when you think Halloween, but that would be ignoring some of the best content out there! If you want to watch something short and fun, but also a little spooky, Spongebob is the obvious answer. Also the part where Spongebob’s costume came off at the end was terrifying as a kid (and even a little now). — Judy 

Thank You For Playing

One of the new DVDs we’ve gotten in Media Services looks just heartbreaking: Thank You For Playing (HU DVD 15330 and streaming) is a story about using an unusual medium to document a human experience. From our summary: When Ryan Green, a video game programmer, learns that his young son Joel has cancer, he and … Continue reading “Thank You For Playing”

One of the new DVDs we’ve gotten in Media Services looks just heartbreaking:

Thank You For Playing (HU DVD 15330 and streaming) is a story about using an unusual medium to document a human experience. From our summary:

When Ryan Green, a video game programmer, learns that his young son Joel has cancer, he and his wife Amy begin documenting their emotional journey in the form of an autobiographical video game. This film follows Ryan and his family over two years through the creation of “That Dragon, Cancer” as it evolves from a cathartic exercise into a critically acclaimed work of art that memorializes and personalizes their time and interactions with Joel and sets the gaming industry abuzz.

The cancer aspects are, of course, heartbreaking. And yes, Joel dies. You can read a bit more about the game on Wired. You can watch the trailer for the game here as well:

One thing I find so interesting is that this project would have been nowhere near as compelling or challenging had it been a book. It is specific to its medium. Finding the ways in which a video game can be emotional, often using quite rule-breaking gameplay elements from what it sounds like, is a real artistic accomplishment.

Recommended viewing for any of our friends in AU’s Game Design program.

A Chorus Line

On July 25th, 1975, A Chorus Line opened on Broadway. You can read a bit more about the play in this article about the playbill, or on Wikipedia. This musical is particularly interesting for capturing the real experiences of broadway dancers. It was developed out of workshops with dancers, and at least at first, the … Continue reading “A Chorus Line”

On July 25th, 1975, A Chorus Line opened on Broadway. You can read a bit more about the play in this article about the playbill, or on Wikipedia. This musical is particularly interesting for capturing the real experiences of broadway dancers. It was developed out of workshops with dancers, and at least at first, the “winners” of the evening changed based on performance. It became the longest running musical on broadway until it was surpassed in 1997 by Cats.

It’s pretty rare for musicals to have this type of documentary feel to them, and because the setting is a theater, A Chorus Line really pulls it off. You might compare A Chorus Line to, for example, Working which is based on a Studs Terkel book but is…um…maybe not the best musical. Although, man, check out this selection with Rita Moreno who is just beyond perfect:

Or you might compare it to Hands on a Hardbody, which is based on a documentary film, but seems to have a bit more of a story.

There is a 1985 film version of A Chorus Line (HU DVD 9659) starring Michael Douglas, but it’s pretty widely panned. But, in 2008, a documentary called Every Little Step (HU DVD 6224) returned to this musical. From our summary:

For over three decades, there’s been one singular sensation: A Chorus Line. This groundbreaking hit musical inspired by the emotional lives of dancers during the audition process. Now the story comes full circle and offers a revealing, unprecedented look at the auditions for the Broadway revival of the perennial classic. The music, the moves and the real-life drama, bringing you closer to the footlights than you ever thought possible.

However you choose to experience A Chorus Line, today’s a great day to do it!

Watch this year’s Oscar nominees

The Oscar nominees for 2017 are out! Keep in mind that awards are political and determined by the arbitrary makeup of whichever group is voting for them. That said, this year’s nominations already seem richer and more varied than usual. There’s far greater diversity, led not just by Moonlight and the recent hit Hidden Figures … Continue reading “Watch this year’s Oscar nominees”

The Oscar nominees for 2017 are out!

Keep in mind that awards are political and determined by the arbitrary makeup of whichever group is voting for them. That said, this year’s nominations already seem richer and more varied than usual. There’s far greater diversity, led not just by Moonlight and the recent hit Hidden Figures but across the board in acting and production categories. Most shocking for us, at least, was the Best Documentary nomination for O.J.: Made in America, the first Oscar nod for ESPN Films.

As always happens, most of the Oscar nominees were released late last year. You’ll have to go to the theaters to see La La Land, but we have a few of the nominated films available to check out.

Hell or High WaterHU DVD 13629
Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor, Best Film Editing, Best Original Screenplay

Captain FantasticHU DVD 13625
Best Actor

Kubo and the Two StringsHU DVD 13637 and HU BLU 13637
Best Animated Feature, Best Visual Effects

ZootopiaHU DVD 13259
Best Animated Feature

O.J.: Made in AmericaHU DVD 13289 and HU BLU 13289
Best Documentary Feature

Life, AnimatedHU DVD 13661
Best Documentary Feature

Hail, Caesar!HU DVD 13258
Best Production Design

The LobsterHU DVD 13642
Best Original Screenplay

See off the Obama presidency with Southside with You

Today is the last day of the Obama presidency, so we have a special recommendation from our latest batch of new titles. Southside with You is a pretty risky concept – a romantic drama based on Barack and Michelle Obama’s first date in Chicago. Casting the young Obamas while they’re still in the public eye … Continue reading “See off the Obama presidency with Southside with You”

Today is the last day of the Obama presidency, so we have a special recommendation from our latest batch of new titles.

Southside with You is a pretty risky concept – a romantic drama based on Barack and Michelle Obama’s first date in Chicago. Casting the young Obamas while they’re still in the public eye must have been extremely intimidating, but by all accounts, the film pulls it off pretty well. Critical reviews suggest that it’s a great romance movie, even ignoring the fact that it happens to be about the current president.

If you want to get wistful, now is the chance. Southside with You is now available for checkout (HU DVD 13639). Grab it now, because the AU Library will be closed tomorrow in observance of Inauguration Day. If you’re looking for something more timely for post-inauguration, consider Paul Verhoeven’s movies about violence, capitalism, and mass media instead.