Native Film Fest Debuts in San Antonio

San Antonio's first-ever indigenous film festival premieres with packed lineup

San Antonio's first indigenous film fest premieres with packed lineup

Ronnie Bodean film still
Wes Studi, the Academy Award's first-ever Native American honoree, stars in Ronnie BoDean. Photo courtesy of Talōm Aptzāi Film Festival

In recent years, there has an increasing diversity in film festivals showcasing cinematic works by and about women, the LGTBQ+ community, and communities of color. But Native Americans, historically, have been lacking opportunities to tell their stories while simultaneously being stereotyped and marginalized in mainstream movies.

On August 25, the Guadalupe Theater will debut Talōm Aptzāi Film Festival, San Antonio’s first indigenous film festival and a unique venue for Native communities across the Americas to tell their stories. 

Talōm Aptzāi means “ancient fire” in Pajalate, a Coahuiltecan language, and is meant to convey the tradition of storytelling around a fire. The festival is a daylong affair, running from noon to 9 pm and is free to the public.

According to organizers, it will be the first film festival of its kind in Central and South Texas, featuring back-to-back showings of shorts, documentaries, and feature films that address diverse topics relevant to Native Americans past, present, and future.

The festival is also being presented by American Indians in Texas (AIT), a local nonprofit group, as part of its 25th anniversary in San Antonio.

Scott Pewenofkit, festival curator, selected films to serve as a window of understanding, while also opening doors of communication between Native Americans and non-Natives in the community, according to a press release.

Hailing from the Kiowa tribe from Oklahoma, Pewenofkit’s interest in Native film comes from what he calls a love for filmmaking and its ability to enrich people’s view of people and the world. “Film can express cultural ideas, preserve them, and still connect with people in ways that no other art form can,” Pewenofkit said in the news release.

The chosen films cover subjects such as cultural appropriation, substance addiction, gender dysphoria and stereotypes, forced family separation, social and health inequities, unjust labor practices and spirituality.

“The festival was curated to highlight the wide array of voices and types of movies that are part of Native cinema currently,” Pewenofkit said in the release, and are set or filmed in places such as San Antonio, the U.S. Southwest, Alaska, and Mexico.

Talōm Aptzāi is broken into four parts, each buffered with 30-minute intermissions. The day begins with Gathering Around the Fire at noon. Gathering ... will screen five short films tackling everything from cultural appropriation of Native headdress to an alcoholic woman's last day.

The second part is entitled Indigenous Futurism and begins at 1:35 pm. Movies screened in this portion tackle the future of Native peoples through both shorts and a feature film.

Community in Focus begins at 3:35 pm and screens three compelling documentaries, one of which examines the San Antonio pecan shellers’ strike of 1938. It is followed by the final segment, For the Generations, which begins at 7 pm and features a mix of shorts and feature length films examining the future of Native peoples.