Getting Ready for the Flaherty Film Seminar

Getting Ready for the Flaherty Film Seminar

Shawna Begay is currently studying for her PhD in Educational Technology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She also works as a Graduate Assistant.

Date Posted: 
2012-06-12 00:00

Blog Series:


This past year has been very enlightening for me as a person, educator and student. A year ago I was accepted into a doctoral program at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. I thought that my destiny had already started with a terminal degree in film production. However, there is always more to learn if you are willing to take your aspirations to the next level.

When I started on my doctorate degree I wondered what I was getting myself in to? Why do I want to take that road as a poor student once again and do this to myself, racking up more student loans? The reason wasn’t clear then, but it is clear to me now. As cliché as it sounds, everything happens for a reason and sometimes we may not know what the reason is until we look back at our lives and see the bigger picture. A year later, I can see the bigger picture and it is becoming clearer. And with this clarity, I’m also becoming more passionate about my future as an educator and educational media producer.

I was chosen as a Flaherty Film Seminar Fellow for this year’s week long extravaganza of indigenous films from all over the world by Vision Maker Media. I am excited, nervous and hope that my intellectual film brain synapses start working again. This year the seminar is focusing on the theme “Open Wounds,” and films will be programmed by Josetxo Cerdán. This year’s theme is about the changing perspectives “on politics, the economy, technology, culture and ethics over the past Century, and explore how filmmakers contribute to new ways of seeing the world based on their own heritage.” It all sounds so exciting and educational. 

The seminar has been going on for over 50 years and is considered the longest, continuous film event in North America. The name comes from “The Father of Documentary Film,” Mr. Robert Flaherty. You may know him from a little documentary he produced and directed called, “Nanook of the North.” The Seminar prides itself on “exploration and non-preconception.” Film as an art form allows us to explore the worlds around us. And the non-preconception part is a bit different from any other film festival or screenings I’ve ever been to. The Seminar starts in less than a week and we have no idea what we will be watching prior to entering the theater. Thus, we have no preconceived notion of what we expect to watch. I assume this allows the viewer to be completely involved in the film on a more intimate level than if they went in with prior convictions or expectations. I think it is brilliant.

I’m still working on narrowing down my dissertation idea. I want to develop educational media for tribal communities with an emphasis on revitalizing indigenous languages, especially those that are becoming extinct. Everything that I have been doing this past year has been helping me develop this idea and I have been learning more skills on how to execute this idea. I am looking forward to this seminar in the great hopes to see other indigenous filmmaker’s perspectives, hearing different struggles, seeing what works, what doesn’t work and see some good educational story telling done on screen. I am looking forward to the experience of a life time and hoping that this trip will help me further my knowledge in my field of study.

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