It is a real treat to follow the propaganda of Thanksgiving with a couple of preview screeners for the imagineNATIVE film and media arts festival. Both are shorts but if representative of the quality of the rest of the offerings - including a concert by A Tribe Called Red which is guaranteed entertainment - the festival will be endlessly intriguing and thought-provoking.
Artist and self-proclaimed provocateur Kent Monkman has a world première of his film Miss Chief: Justice of the Piece. While not visually stunning - though Monkman as Miss Chief Eagle Testikle is absolutely, utterly, fabulously stunning - this documentation of a performance piece at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian is aurally witty and deliriously funny. Miss Chief channels Judge Judy's persona and dispenses a crash course in blood quantum laws, imperialism and the dismal politics of the plight of Native Americans/Canadians. The points are made with a sugar-coated knife and escalate into uproarious farce much aided and abetted by Miss Chief's eye rolls and drag queen witticisms. By the time she states, "Isn't culture a better way to define ourselves?" the live audience is laughing in a combination of helpless mirth and well-lanced guilt. A masterful performance piece and a provocative film.
Alaska is a Drag is more filmic and a heartwarming gay rom-com distilled to 13 minutes. The irresistible Martin L Washington Jr is a plucky heroine whose fantasies tend to come to life on, and off, the floor of an Alaskan fish factory, and Spencer Broschard is a suitable hero/object of attainable desire. Alaska is a Drag has been in many festivals and gives an energetic and optimistic twist to the usual tragic gay bullying/homophobic tales without getting saccharine or losing any realism.
Miss Chief does a pointed but hilarious riff on the tragedy of Native culture's dismissal of the two-spirited and the berdache concluding with, "The most insidious part of colonization is the self-hatred." Judging from these samples from the imagineNATIVE festival, her work is already bearing fruit.
Both films screen as part of the 14th annual imagineNATIVE film + media arts festival running Wed, Oct 16 to Sat, Oct 19. imaginenative.org