October 8, 2020

LA SkinsFest

On Monday October 12, LA Skins Fest, the annual festival that celebrates Native American filmmaking, comes to the School of Cinematic Arts with a showcase of engaging short films. LA Skins Fest first launched in 2007, as part of the City of Los Angeles’ celebration of Native American Heritage Month, celebrated each November. It is overseen by award-winning producer Patricia Gomes, who is P’urepeche and grew up in Los Angeles. She says the festival is an important event for Native American filmmakers. “The mission of the LA Skins Fest is to provide the genuine voice of Native American filmmakers, writers, actors, and artists,” says Gomes. “There is a lack of opportunity for the Native American voice to be heard and we want to create a platform for our community.”

The LA Skins Fest Showcase is presented in collaboration USC Visions and Voices and the School of Cinematic Arts. To plan it, Gomes teamed up with Stacy Patterson, Program Manager for the Media Arts + Practice division, who is also of Native American heritage. Patterson says the showcase will underscore the diversity inherent in Native American art and culture, and will help build community. “Viewing these works, while being entertaining and engaging, may help dispel any lingering notion that there is only "one" Native narrative, only one history or story to be told and from only one viewpoint,” says Patterson. “Instead, we know that Indigenous people are vibrant creators and storytellers in all genres and through all media. Access to these projects is especially important for those in our community who want to add Native films and narratives to their curriculum and research. What better way to do so than by joining a screening and engaging with the makers?”

 Gomes says showcases like these benefit both the academic community and provide exposure to the School for recruiting talented Native American students, a community that is severely underrepresented at the SCA. “Inclusion of Native Americans in the academic space is crucial to our community but also important for non-Natives to gain perspective on indigenous people and tribes,” says Gomes.

Patterson says it’s also fitting that the showcase is happening on Indigenous People’s Day, which was established as a holiday in Los Angeles in 2017 to acknowledge and celebrate the indigenous land the city sits on, and the cultures of the first Americans. She adds that the plan is to bring more programming from Native American creators to SCA. “I hope this is an annual event, and in November, we can celebrate Native American History month with additional programing. Then perhaps in spring, we have another event, for no other reason than to share more of the incredible work Indigenous creators are putting into the world, and perhaps in other areas like animation, installation and/or interactive media.” 

RSVP HERE to attend the LA Skins Fest showcase, which will feature the following films and will be followed by a discussion moderated by Kapena Baptista, a student in the graduate Peter Stark Producing Program.

  • Gently, Jennifer (Directed by Doane Tulugaq Avery. Running Time: 10 min.)
    Set in 1982, Gently, Jennifer is a coming-of-age short film about two teen girls exploring body image while looking through an older brother’s magazine.
  • Douk (Directed by Michelle Hernandez. Running Time: 17 min.)
    A Native American family confronts the harsh reality of being split apart from their daughters.
  • Escape (Directed by Youth of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. Running Time: 24 min.)
    Two misfit teens are tempted to end their lives in order to escape harsh and oppressive circumstances. Their story addresses topics such as teen violence, poverty, substance abuse, bullying, homophobia, and domestic abuse.
  • Ka Piko (Directed by Bryson Chun. Running Time: 9 min.)
    A young Native Hawaiian struggles with his tenuous connection to his culture. When his girlfriend dies during childbirth, he is forced to complete a traditional indigenous birthing ritual and journey with his girlfriend’s overbearing father. 

The full LA Skins Fest film festival will run from November 17th to 22nd.  The organization also runs year-round programs, events and other opportunities for Native American writers, showrunners and youth, which Gomes says provide “consistent outreach to tribes, indigenous communities and Native American organizations. This allows us to have a strong constituency of Native Americans interested in media and also provides the possibility for new emerging voices.”

For more information go to laskinsfest.com.