For a decade, films featuring or made by American Indians have been the focus of Sapatq’ayn Cinema, the University of Idaho’s annual Native American Film Festival. Two of this year’s films have deep local connections.
Saturday’s film, “Horse Tribe,” is about the Nez Perce Tribe’s efforts to establish a new breed of horse based on centuries of cultural traditions. Friday night’s film, “Shouting Secrets,” stars Chaske Spencer, a Clearwater Valley High School graduate of Nez Perce heritage who got his acting start at the Lewiston Civic Theatre.
Spencer is now best known for playing werewolf Sam Uley in the “Twilight” film series. He’s currently in Australia shooting the pilot for a Western for NBC. It’s not as well known that he won Best Actor for his role in the independent film “Shouting Secrets” at the American Indian Film Festival last November in San Francisco. The movie won Best Film.
“Shouting Secrets” is the story of an uneasy family reunion when a New York writer, played by Spencer, comes home to the reservation after his mother suffers a stroke. He is not exactly welcomed after the success of his tell-all autobiographical novel.
Director Korinna Sehringer will present the film at 7 p.m. Friday at the Kenworthy Performing Arts Centre in Moscow. She says the original script featured a white middle-class family. It was not going anywhere when someone suggested placing the tale in a different culture.
“It is a very universal story,” says Sehringer, a native of Zurich, Switzerland. “It really needed another aspect of something that is not familiar to most of us.”
They hired American Indian writer Steven Judd to rewrite the script. Judd, a Kiowa/Choctaw, is the writer and director of “Search for the World’s Best Indian Taco,” showing at 7 tonight at the Sapatq’ayn festival. He will introduce the film that won Best Live Short Film at the American Indian Film Festival. Also showing tonight is “More Than Frybread,” a feature-length mockumentary presented by writer, director and producer Travis Hamilton.
To cast “Shouting Secrets,” Sehringer searched the Internet for experienced American Indian actors and fresh faces.
“It was easy to get them because they liked the script,” she says of the film, which is a contemporary look at American Indian life shot at Arizona’s San Carlos Apache Reservation. She says their reaction was, “finally we get to just play real people.”
“I was aware Native Americans are usually shown riding horses or being drunk on some reservation. That’s kind of the perception we get. I thought it would be time to show them in a different light, show them as the same kinds of human beings as everyone else with the same trials and tribulations.”
Sehringer, who was one of the directors of television’s “Survivor” in Malaysia, says she was surprised when the film won Best Film at the American Indian Film Festival.
“I was the only Caucasian in competition. I didn’t expect they would give this award to a Caucasian, a white blonde female,” says Sehringer, who splits her time between Zurich and Los Angeles.
She believes Spencer won best actor because of his strengths in drama and dramatic scenes.
It’s tough times for independent films, Sehringer notes, and the future of “Shouting Secrets” is uncertain.
“As much as I wish or hope it will get into theaters I don’t know,” she says. She continues to submit it to film festivals. She’s happy to bring the film to Moscow.
“I’m glad that they’re offering venues like this to raise awareness of things artists do that don’t have the big budgets or wide theatrical distribution. It gets the word out. People see it and maybe other things happen from there.”
Admission is free to all films.