[WE ARE HERE Festival] Thru her eyes: Indigenous films

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WE ARE HERE begins with a night of womxn directors reimagining indigenous narratives and uplifting their communities. 

The Aymara people of so-called Bolivia, understand time differently than western culture, looking towards the past with the future behind oneself. We face the past daily as we work to build our futures. Our filmmakers hold a thorough comprehension of this way of thinking. In this age of cultural amnesia, they recognize the importance of delving deep into the past in order to understand the future.

Centering indigenous women directors who have always been cultural creators, WE ARE HERE presents screenings of two short films by Laura Hinman and Barsha Maharjan. The feature film of the night will be Vai


One Big Selfie by Laura Hinman (2019)

One Big Selfie is an autobiographical documentary rendered into a fever dream. This film is a report on mental health, following the director’s reflections as a Native woman in white america. Her thoughts on identity are paired with visual performances. The footage is fragmented from various periods of young adulthood and merge in disjointed unity. She shares her experience with suicide and sexual assault, inserting day-to-day moments and conversations with friends. The topics range from dark to humorous, with an emphasis on unconventional storytelling. This is an archived journey of growth and ways of healing through expression. 

Chagu Bakha by Barsha Maharjan (2019)

Chagu Bakha is an animated short film about ancient folklore and a Deity in the Newar culture in Nepal. “My hope is that digital storytelling can reconnect young people from my ethnic group, the Newars, with our cultural identity. I explore digital storytelling with the memories of my hometown and my childhood within the Newari culture in Kathmandu,” says Maharjan. 

Vai, Directed by Nicole Whippy, ‘Ofa-Ki-Levuka Guttenbeil-Likiliki, Matasila Freshwater, Amberley Jo Aumua, Mīria George, Marina Alofagia McCartney, Dianna Fuemana, Becs Arahanga (2019)

Vai is a portmanteau feature film made by 9 female Pacific Island filmmakers, filmed in 7 different Pacific countries: Fiji, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Kuki Airani (Cook Islands), Samoa, Niue and Aotearoa (New Zealand). It is about the journey of empowerment through culture over the lifetime of one woman, Vai, played by a different indigenous actress in each of the Pacific countries. In each of these Pacific nations, ‘vai’ means water.



WE ARE HERE is three-day arts festival exploring Indigenous past, present and future, curated by Abrons Arts Center 2019 AIRspace Curatorial Resident Aru Apaza. The festival will include work by Indigenous visual artists, filmmakers and musicians who utilize their own technologies, ancestral knowledge, and survival tactics to reflect on what it means to live a “balanced” life during the “unbalanced” times of late stage capitalism.


WE ARE HERE is made possible by the New York Women’s Foundation, American Indian Community House, Abrons Arts Center and the Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance Leadership Fellowship.

The 2019-2020 Season at Abrons Arts Center is supported, in part, by generous grants from the Howard Gilman Foundation, the Mertz Gilmore Foundation, the Harkness Foundation for Dance, the Jerome Foundation, the Scherman Foundation, and other generous Henry Street Settlement funders. This program is also supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and support from the New York State Council on the arts with the support of Govenor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Image: Still from Chagu Bakha by Barsha Maharjan (2019)