Jim Fortier (Metis/Ojibwe) sits in the hot Arizona desert and stares at the location for his latest documentary, Bad Sugar.

This is no glamorous Hollywood movie set; there are no celebrity actors and no expensive special effects. This is a film about real people.

In the film capitol of America, just getting a start can be an obstacle too difficult to overcome.           

Randy Reinholz remembers sitting with three young Native people on a reserve somewhere in southern Canada several years ago and bringing up the idea of going to college. After a few chuckles, the students tell him that attending a university is simply out of the question.

“I never could come up with a reason why they couldn’t go to college,” Reinholz said. “But they had that impression of themselves.”

Rhiana Yazzie has been entertaining people with her creative writing since the third grade—just ask her mother.

“My mom tells me that my teacher said the whole class would always look forward to the story that I had written,” said Yazzie (Navajo). “It was sort of like, oh yeah, I have been writing stories for a very long time.”

So when it came to choosing a profession while attending the University of New Mexico, Yazzie already had a good idea of what she wanted to do.

Outside of southwestern America and Mexico, the life of Spanish explorer Juan de Oñate is somewhat unknown.  The man commissioned by Spain in the 15th century to colonize and spread Catholicism in the area is seen by some as a conqueror or a hero--or ruthless destroyer by others.

When El Pasoan and filmmaker Cristina Ibarra, 35, read a New York Times article about the El Paso City Council approving money to erect a statue of conquistador (conqueror) Oñate, she knew she had a compelling project. 

John Gregg has known for a while that moving away from Lincoln, Neb., was a possibility. But the longtime AIROS manager and now project coordinator for Native Radio Theater has decided it’s time after 12 years producing Native American radio for NAPT.

Gregg’s wife, Martha, completed her Ph.D. in mathematics and the family will move to Sioux Falls, S.D., where Martha will be teaching college this fall.

He picked up his first projector and roll of film during his first job at a movie theater at age 12 and filmmaker J. Carlos Peinado hasn’t put them down since. For writer, director, producer and now professor Peinado, filmmaking is more than a passion. It’s a way of life.

Growing up in the heart of the Black Hills as a boy, South Dakota Public Broadcasting producer James P. Sprecher could not imagine then how often he would someday feature Native people in his films, as the Black Hills, or Paha Sapa, are a source of spirituality and the place of origin for surrounding tribes.

Although Tracy Rector has always enjoyed working with youth, it’s hard to imagine her working in film. A graduate of Evergreen State College in Washington, Rector wanted to pursue herbology and work with Native medicine. She went on to earn her B.A. in communications and Native American Studies, and then a master’s degree in education from Antioch University in Seattle.

There was a time that Robert Vestal would have proclaimed competitive wrestling to be his life. When his back gave out, it put an end to that dream but not without shining a light, a spotlight, perhaps, on another.

Vestal, writer and director of a new radio play called The Bullfrog Lover, which is a fable derived from interviews recorded by anthropologist James Mooney in the 1800s with the Cherokee. It is performed by Cherokee high school students from North Carolina with Vestal's guidance.

Vision Maker Media says goodbye to Blue Tarpalechee (Muscogee-Creek), who has been a project coordinator with Vision Maker Media since 2011. In this role, he coordinated educational resources for the organization and served as associate producer for the highly anticipated upcoming series "Growing Native," hosted by Chris Eyre.

His work is widely regarded throughout Indian Country as the best contemporary storytelling of the joys and trials of being Native American. Even People Magazine called him “the preeminent Native American filmmaker of his time.”


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