Interview: Tweed, Director, Native Spirit Film Festival

With the Native Spirit Film Festival in full swing, I catch up with the Festival’s Director, Tweed, to learn more about the annual event and why it’s so important to the Indigenous communities it represents. 

Tweed, thank you so much for speaking with me today, how long have you been directing the Native Spirit Film Festival and how did you first get involved with it? 

I was appointed director in 2015, I started working with the festival in 2007, but I’ve been involved with Indigenous cultures since my early 20’s. I originally came from the fine art work, or as we call it today, ‘other people’s property ’, however I realised that what I was reading and hearing about in the media and what I had been taught in school wasn’t actually 100 per cent correct. 

My interest in other people’s cultures, the way different people live and their beliefs encouraged me to get involved with NSFF. I credit my grandmother for this, who used to travel quite far for her time and send back postcards and write reports on her adventures. So from a young age I wanted to visit countries like Mongolia or Tibet. The arts, with the skills, materials and science involved, it was all very magnetic and was something I got drawn to. 

Is there a specific theme running through this year’s festival?

We tend to not use a formula. Instead we allow the filmmakers to decide and see what films come and what themes arise from that. A lot of that is influenced by what’s been happening in the countries or to those people and communities that year. So the themes naturally present themselves through the films and all filmmakers, producers and screenwriters have to be Indigenous to submit their films to us. This is called Narrative Sovereignty, people telling their own story themselves. 

When you are curating the festival are there specific criteria that you look for when shortlisting films?

The first criteria is the storytelling. That’s the singular most important thing. Is the story important for the people that are telling it? Is it important for other people to hear, who may not have heard anyone from the community where they are from telling their own story? Regarding the production, although important, we take into account where the filmmakers are coming from and the resources they have to hand. 

Why do you think the NSFF is so important to the Indigenous communities in represents?

It may sound like a clichè but it’s about getting people’s voices heard and getting the filmmakers out there. This is what the Native Spirit Film Festival is all about, it’s a cultural exchange allowing Indigenous people to share their stories. We are helping the Indigenous Filmmakers to be heard. 

Did you know?

Humans can make around 160 sounds in the throat and mouth? The indigenous Khoisan or San languages, a unique group of African languages spoken mainly in southern Africa, use 130 sounds with extensive use of click consonants.

In comparison, English has 25 sounds and French has just 20. 

Why is sharing stories through film this way so important?

Many of our films are in native languages (subtitled) which is really important, not only to young people whose languages may be maringalised, but also where there may only be a handful of people in the community that are speakers – to be able to share that is key.

Language is so important, particularly now when the world is facing so many problems. It’s one of the first organising structures that people use and language is what bonds us. If people lose their language they lose their identity.

By disregarding or suppressing the languages which may have been around for thousands of years, you’re basically losing a toolkit which may well have the solution. By allowing people to share their own stories you are widening your own knowledge base. 

What can people expect from the #NSFF2021?

During the festival, people will have the opportunity to see cultures, films and languages they don’t see anywhere else easily. They will be exposed to new experiences and hear stories first-hand. It’s like travelling and meeting new people, you come away a slightly different person, you learn more about yourself and you learn more about other people.

As usual, this year’s festival is packed with amazing talent from all over the globe. We have animation film and we’ve also included horror stories this year. There will also be an opportunity to see the Pitt Rivers Museum Beyond the Binary exhibition which will open minds to different ideas of gender and gender fluidity as well as an opportunity to learn more about the origins of women’s suffragette movements and much more!

There’s something for everyone from all ages groups. I encourage everyone to get involved and watch a screening and learn something amazing about the world and the people that live in it.

Thank you so much to Tweed for speaking with me on this year’s #NSFF2021, if you’d like to learn more you can read the full story, see the weekly listings, donate or sign up to volunteer.

You can also keep up to date with the #NSFF2021 on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

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