WASHINGTON (Aug. 3, 2011)—A navigator reawakens Polynesian pride and tradition by sailing to Tahiti without modern navigation instruments. A group of street children and middle-aged paraplegics overcomes adversity to form a musical band in central Africa that wins the 2009 Artist Award at the World Music Expo. Three families in Laguna Pueblo prepare for an ancient tradition of honoring their family members with modern twists. These contemporary stories featuring indigenous and under-represented minority cultures are among the nearly 40 films representing 47 cultures from 24 countries that will be screened at the 2011 All Roads Film Festival Sept. 14-18, at the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C. This year’s theme is “Stories That Shape Our World.”
The five-day event also will include a “Global Groove: DJ Dance Party,” hosted by DJ Dave Nada and DJ Underdog, panel discussions by a number of the filmmakers and two photography exhibits. One photography exhibit will feature works from three provocative voices in the photography medium, each at different points in their careers; the second is an exclusive view into two cultures where photography by outsiders has been severely restricted. Several filmmakers will participate in two panel discussions, “Latinos in Modern Media” and “Indigenous Communities, Film and the Environment,” as well as discussions following their film screenings where they will talk about their careers and the continuing innovation of indigenous filmmaking.
“The indigenous content in this year’s festival is unprecedented,” said Francene Blythe, director of the National Geographic All Roads Film Project. “Not only are the films and photography exhibits fresh and exciting but they also capture an underlying human spirit of perseverance.”
Some of the year’s stand-out films are National Geographic Entertainment’s “Benda Bilili!,” a documentary from the Democratic Republic of Congo about the journey of a paraplegic street band; “Kawa,” based on the novel “Nights in the Gardens of Spain” by “Whale Rider” author Witi Ihimaera, that tells the story of a man who has everything: a beautiful wife and family, wealth — and a gay male lover; and “Sky Dancer,” director Jody Kemmerer’s documentary from Tibet about the first and only female master incarnate Tibetan monk, Khandroma Kunzang Wangmo.
Other notable films include “Visions of Atzlan,” a documentary by veteran Chicano filmmaker Jesús Salvador Treviño about the 1960s Chicano artists’ movement and its influence on contemporary Mexican American artists; “Matariki,” director Michael Bennett’s first feature film from New Zealand, which tells the story of five lives intertwined by one incident; and “GRAB,” an All Roads seed grant documentary about Grab Day in the traditionally private Laguna Pueblo community, directed by Billy Luther, award-winning director of “Miss Navajo.”
The festival will screen a number of shorts in addition to its roster of narrative and documentary features, including several free matinee screenings and a free family program of short films for children ages 7 and up.
“Road to Kurdistan,” “My Mother’s Daughter” and “Teta (Grandma),” all All Roads seed grant films, and “God Is a Liar: Tradition and Change in Turkana” will be making their world premieres. “Maydoum,” “Tales from the Daly: Nauiyu Nambiyu,” “The Winter Boy” and “Skabmagovat: Tundra of Árvas” will be making their North American premieres. “Benda Bilili!,” “Silvestre Pantaleón,” “Matariki,” “Taku Rakau E,” “Koro’s Medal,” “Va Tapuia (Sacred Spaces),” “Quite an Ugly Frog,” “Reindeer Princess” and “By the Rapids – ‘Invasion at Turtle Island'” will be making their U.S. premieres. “GRAB,” “Run Red Walk: A Navajo Sheepdog,” (an All Roads seed grant film) “Wapawekka,” “When All the Leaves Are Gone,” “Rooz Az No,” “The Rocket Boy” and “Mana I Ka Leo: The Power of the Voice” will be making their Washington, D.C., premieres.
The 2011 All Roads Photography Program exhibit features photo essays from awardees in three categories: emerging photographer Ernesto Benavides (Peru), mid-career photographer Kuang Huimin (China) and pioneer photographer Samer Mohdad (Lebanon). The second photography exhibit displays two essays entitled “GRAB: The People, Land and Tradition of Laguna Pueblo” and “Sky Dancer: Moments of Devotion,” as extensions from two films, “GRAB” and “Sky Dancer,” that are featured in the festival.
For his photo essay “The Fallout of the Guano Fever,” Benavides offers an insightful look at the guano, or bird dropping, industry. His artful images relay the crucial connection between humanity and nature. Huimin’s “Changes during 20 years in the old Miao village – Basha” explores the changes that are modernizing the old Miao village through the growth of China’s economy. Mohdad’s photo essay, “Mes Arabies, 1989-1999,” portrays diversity and contradictions of the modern Arab world.
Photo essay “GRAB” presents the work of three non-native photographers accompanying a documentary crew under the direction of filmmaker Billy Luther. They were given intimate access to Luther’s own Laguna Pueblo, where outside photography is not allowed, but permission was granted to document the pueblo’s preparation for the tradition of Grab Day. “Sky Dancer: Moments of Devotion,” captured during the production of “Sky Dancer,” a documentary film about the life and teachings of Khandroma Kunzang Wangmo in a remote nomadic community on the Tibetan plateau, shows a remarkable woman whose selfless dedication to humanity transcends boundaries and prejudices. These free photography exhibitions will be in the National Geographic courtyard and inside the M Street lobby in the Grosvenor Gallery from Sept. 1 to Nov. 13, 2011.
On Saturday, Sept. 17, All Roads will host “Global Groove: DJ Dance Party,” featuring the electronic dance music Moombahton, a cutting-edge combination of Dutch house music and Reggaeton, from DJ Dave Nada and afro beat music from DJ Underdog. Tickets for this event are $20 for the general public and $18 for members.
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 $100 for the general public and $80 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.nglive.org.
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, professional networking opportunities, and exhibits their photo essays during the All Roads Film Festival.