WASHINGTON (Aug. 12, 2010)—A young Maori boy must reconcile long-held fantasies with reality when his long-missing father reappears, proving not to be the hero the boy thought he remembered. An awkward Alaskan teen reconnects with her Eskimo heritage while rallying her fellow misfits to compete in a school competition. A young Somali woman transforms from refugee to international supermodel and advocate for women’s rights. These contemporary stories featuring indigenous and under-represented minority cultures are among the nearly 30 films representing 55 cultures from 21 countries that will be screened at the 2010 All Roads Film Festival, Sept. 28-Oct. 3, at the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C. This year’s theme is “Inspiring Stories Connecting Cultures.”
The six-day event also will feature an outdoor photography exhibit with works from three provocative voices in the photography medium, each at different points in their careers, and a Basement BhangraTM Dance Party hosted by internationally renowned DJ Rekha. Several of the filmmakers will participate in a panel to discuss their careers and the continuing evolution of indigenous filmmaking.
“Indigenous culture is rooted in rich storytelling, so it’s not surprising that we have been able to find such high-caliber films for this year’s festival,” said Francene Blythe, director of the National Geographic All Roads Film Project. “Whether the stories are comic or tragic, they will resonate with audiences because they involve characters and stories that are relatable and are told with charm, wit and wisdom.”
Some of the year’s stand-out films include “Boy,” a hilarious, heartfelt coming-of-age tale about magic, heroic fathers and pop star Michael Jackson, directed by All Roads seed grantee, festival alum and Academy Award nominee Taika Waititi; “Reel Injun,” a documentary by Canadian First Nation filmmaker Neil Diamond that humorously looks back at more than 55 years of Hollywood film stereotypes of American Indians; and “Samson and Delilah,” winner of the Golden Camera award at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. This film, directed by Warwick Thornton, follows a young couple from Central Australia when tragedy forces them from their tribal community and sends them on a journey for survival.
Other notable films are “Dear Lemon Lima,” by All Roads seed grantee Suzi Yoonesi, in which a Yup’ik (Western Eskimo) teen uses her school’s World Eskimo Indian Olympics-inspired competition to try to win back the heart of her first true love; “For the Next 7 Generations,” an inspiring documentary about 13 indigenous women from around the world who come together to increase global environmental consciousness; and the U.S. premiere of National Geographic Entertainment’s newest film “Desert Flower,” the Cinderella-like true story of international supermodel Waris Dirie’s transformation from Somali refugee to a United Nations Special Ambassador for women’s rights.
This year All Roads will include a retrospective honoring the work of pioneering Maori filmmaker and All Roads adviser, the late Merata Mita, a key figure in international indigenous filmmaking. In addition to her work mentoring filmmakers with All Roads, she served as a script adviser for the Sundance Film Institute, and earlier this year was awarded the Companion of the Order of New Zealand Merit for her contributions to filmmaking.
The festival also will screen a number of shorts in addition to its roster of narrative and documentary shorts and features.
“Desert Flower” and “Samson and Delilah” will be making their U.S. premieres at All Roads. “Reel Injun,” “For the Next 7 Generations,” “Boy,” “The Search,” “CBQM” and “Dear Lemon Lima” will be making their Washington, D.C., premieres.
This year’s photography exhibit features photo essays of the 2010 All Roads Photography Program awardees in three categories: emerging photographer Sumit Dayal (Kashmir), mid-career photographer Tomás Munita (Chile) and pioneer photographer Rashid Talukder (Bangladesh).
For his photo essay “On Going Home,” Dayal attempts to reconnect with the culture and history of his ancestors in Kashmir, a region that has been at the center of conflict between India and Pakistan for decades. Munita’s “Lost Harvest — The Death of Loa River” explores how the drying out of a river through Chile’s Atacama Desert, the driest on Earth, has affected the surrounding communities and industries. Talukder, a photographer for nearly 50 years, documented the most crucial period in his homeland’s history for his photo essay “The 1971 Liberation War,” never hesitating to put himself at risk to capture Bangladesh’s journey toward independence. All Roads will mount a free exhibition of these photos in the National Geographic courtyard from Sept. 27 to Nov. 21, 2010.
On Saturday, Oct. 2, critically acclaimed music mixologist DJ Rekha will present her popular Basement BhangraTM Dance Party, which melds the traditional Bhangra music of South Asia with the hip-hop beats of today. Opening up the evening, and the dance floor, will be local organizer Lunchbox Theory’s monthly party “Afrobeat for Ya Soul,” featuring DJ Underdog. Tickets for this event are $20.
Tickets for each All Roads film are $10 for the general public, and $8 for National Geographic members. Festival passes, which include the Saturday concert, are $114 for the general public and $88 for members. To purchase, visit the National Geographic ticket office at 1600 M Street N.W., Washington, D.C, call (202) 857-7700 or order online through www.tickets.com.
A full festival schedule will be available at www.nationalgeographic.com/allroads.
The All Roads Film Festival is part of the All Roads Film Project, a National Geographic program created to provide an international platform for indigenous and under-represented minority-culture artists to share cultures, stories and perspectives through the power of film and photography. In addition to providing a venue for their films, All Roads offers its filmmakers and photographers a series of networking opportunities and awards a minimum of 10 seed grants a year to support the development and production of film and video projects by or about indigenous and under-represented minority-culture communities. Seed grant recipients are considered for inclusion in the All Roads Film Festival and other National Geographic-affiliated broadcast outlets. The All Roads Photography Program provides photographers with award money and professional networking opportunities, and exhibits their photo essays during the All Roads Film Festival.