This #100hardtruths was shared with me by my friend and mentor the anthropologist and scholar of indigenous media, Faye Ginsburg, the Director of the Center for Media, Culture and History at NYU, Co-Director of the NYU Council for the Study of Disability, and Co-Director of the Center for Religion and Media.

“I encourage readers of #100hardtruths to spend time with the incredible short stop-motion animation films of First Nations artist and storyteller Amanda Strong, an Indigenous Michif/Metis filmmaker and media artist from the unceded Coast Salish territory also known as Vancouver.

Her most recent work, Four Faces of the Moon, opened at the Toronto International Film Festival, as well as the Landscapes of Truth section at Canada’s imagineNative festival, both in 2016. The piece, like many of the Vancouver artist’s short films, is a hybrid, surreal but profoundly grounded work made with figures and tabletop sets that blend a steampunk and Indigenous aesthetic with First Nations histories and contemporary concerns. Four Faces is a tightly compressed (12 min) and moving account, “peeling back layers of Canadian colonial history,”  based on Strong’s own family, beginning with the knowledge passed down from her grandmother Olivine Tiedema Bousquet, a former senator for the Métis Nation of Ontario.  We see ghostly accountings of the buffalo hunts of the 1880s, and how mass extermination of the animal was ultimately tied to the systemic destruction of the Indigenous communities who depended on it for survival. The story is told with minimal dialogue in the languages of her ancestors (French, Michif, Anishnaabe, Cree), beginning and ending its time-travelling journey in the present day.

Her 2015 8 minute film made with Bracken Hanuse Corlert, Mia, is a story about environmental destruction affecting Indigenous communities in another part of the world, 2000 miles from from the Standing Rock struggle, telling a west coast version of the challenges to First Nations water protectors, through the story of a girl, Mia (salmon). The  film begins with a haunting urban cityscape. Indigenous street artist Mia roams the streets before she encounters sacred waters and hand drawn salmon; she eventually  joins them, shape-shifting across species.

Her work Haida Raid 3: Save Our Waters, invites us to join forces with protests against of super tankers moving through Haida Gwaii waters. And there are more, all extraordinary reminders of the many ways to tell important truths. As Strong explains:  “Our oral histories, our oral stories are our truth.”

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NYU Culture and Media @ 20

September 11, 2011

I made a quick trip to NY to attend the celebration for NYU’s Culture and Media Program which I participated in somewhat unofficially in its earliest years by taking the courses Ethnographic Film I and II at the tail end of my Cinema Studies doctoral course work. This participation changed my work (and life, ultimately) in a variety of ways, most critically leading me to the unparalleled Faye Ginsburg, and allowing me to reframe my dissertation on AIDS activist video through ethnographic film’s focus on representation as a lived, cross-cultural, ethical experience rather than cinema studies’ then choke-hold on the text. Faye went on to be my mentor, and it is her endless dedication that was life-changing, literally connecting me to Pitzer, where I have spent the majority of my career. Hopefully, I believe, also life changing in that I have spend these years trying to be at least half as fine a feminist mentor as was bestowed to me, following Faye’s lead.

And clearly, in this I am not alone. There was a huge turn-out for the day-plus long event, and here we could see the profound legacy of feminist mentoring, teaching, and institution-building: a room full of warm, smart, innovative, feminist anthropologists and media studies scholars, racing around the globe, mixing production, theory, and on the ground commitment in their studies and teaching. It was a profoundly moving reminder that our efforts as teachers are the most meaningful in the creative and intellectual possibilities we can enable for the  lives and work of those that follow us. Thanks Faye.