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Pocahontas Reframed Film Festival brings awareness to Native American stories

Pocahontas Reframed Film Festival
Still image from Sister Rising, a film screening at Pocahontas Reframed Film Festival 2021. (Image used with permission from PRFF)

The 5th Annual Pocahontas Reframed Film Festival opens this weekend with more than 20 films representing under-told Native American narratives and bringing awareness to indigenous stories and contributions over the centuries. In addition to the wide selection of feature and short films, the festival will offer panel discussions and filmmaker forums, as well as Native American art and music.

Brad Brown, director of Pocahontas Reframed and member of Virginia’s Pamunkey Tribe, explained the unique contribution this festival brings to the larger community: “Storytelling and filmmaking have suffered from a dearth of representation of important groups that influenced American democracy, notably Native Americans. Native culture is rich, steeped in history and multifaceted, yet mainstream films do not often capture this nuance.”

In fact, Pocahontas Reframed is the only one of its kind on the East Coast.

Featured at the festival is Searching for Sequoyah (2021), a documentary airing on PBS during November, also Native American Heritage Month. The film chronicles the final journey and mysterious death of Cherokee visionary, Sequoyah, who created the Cherokee writing system, or syllabary. The documentary premieres on VPM PBS, November 29 at 9 p.m. 

“There's so much about Native history that is either unknown, or taken for granted, or not talked about at all,” said LeAnne Howe (Choctaw Nation), writer and producer for Searching for Sequoyah. “We believe this film brings forward the narrative that the Cherokee had a writing system in place. Sequoyah invented it. He tried to unite Cherokees who had gone to Mexico and bring them back into the Cherokee Nation in Palawan. And he died doing that.”

Howe will be a featured speaker at the festival, where she will read from her book Savage Conversations (2019) about the ghosts that tormented Mary Todd Lincoln in the aftermath of the mass execution of thirty-eight Dakotas, ordered by her husband in 1862.

While stories such as these are difficult, the festival emphasizes their importance.

“Representation matters,” explains Brown. “It matters because it impacts how we interact with our fellow Americans, the way that we educate our children, and it shapes our path forward as a democracy.”

Pocahontas Reframed Film Festival begins this Friday at 10 a.m. and runs through Sunday evening. All films, performances, and forums will be at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, where social distancing rules apply.

Ticket options include VIP, weekend, and virtual passes and are available for online purchase. The festival provides discounts for military, police, firefighters, and hospital workers.

VPM is a sponsor for the Pocahontas Reframed Film Festival.