Recovering Voices was proud to present the inaugural Mother Tongue Film Festival from Sunday, February 21st to Saturday, February 27th, 2016. The week long festival that began on United Nations International Mother Language Day, February 21st, celebrated the mother tongues of communities from around the world and showcased short and feature-length films representing nineteen languages from eight countries. This was the first of what will become an annual film festival celebrating mother languages.
The Film Festival hosted seven screening programs in five venues around Washington, D.C. including at the National Museum of Natural History, National Museum of the American Indian, National Museum of American History, the Atlantic Plumbing Cinema, and BloomBars, a community arts center in northwest DC. In addition to the varied film programming, each venue afforded attendees a different experience, with capacity crowds at the Monday and Tuesday night programs.
Ambassador Tim Groser of New Zealand (right) introduced film producer Tainui Stephens (Te Rarawa) before the screening of The Dead Lands on Friday night. Image Credit: Embassy of New Zealand.
The highlight of the Mother Tongue Film Festival occurred at Friday’s closing night screening featuring the action-packed Maori film The Dead Lands by Toa Fraser. This program was presented with support from the Embassy of New Zealand at the National Museum of the American Indian and Recovering Voices was honored to have the Honorable Tim Groser, Ambassador of New Zealand in attendance and give introductory remarks. Following the screening attendees enjoyed an in-depth discussion with one of the film’s producers, Tainui Stephens (Te Rarawa), and were treated to outtakes from the filming.
Other highlights of the festival included multiple opportunities for filmgoers to ask questions and get answers from filmmakers on Sunday, February 21st and Tuesday, February 23rd. Manuelito and Jennifer Wheeler (Navajo), the force behind translating and dubbing Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope into the Navajo language were joined by filmmakers Zoe Leigh Hopkins (Heiltsuk/Mohawk) and Steven Paul Judd (Kiowa/Choctaw) to answer questions about making indigenous language films. At the following screening on Sunday, February 21st, filmmaker Gaston Lacombe was joined by National Breath of Life co-director Gabriela Pérez Báez and board member Mary Linn to discuss issues of language revitalization after the premiere of his film, Breath of Life: Revitalization North America’s Native Languages. Tuesday night’s attendees also had the opportunity to ask questions of filmmaker Steven Paul Judd, whose short films were featured at that screening. Recovering Voices hopes to encourage conversations about language diversity and revitalization on an accessible and modern platform through screening both mother language films and translations of pop culture classics like Star Wars.
Image Credit: TM & ©2013 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Used Under Authorization.
Presented in partnership with the Smithsonian Folklife Festival’s 2016 Basque: Innovation by Culture program, Monday night’s screening of Loreak showcased the Basque language, Euskara. Attendees were delighted to hear the screening’s introduction in both Euskara and English thanks to the D.C. Basque Club. This film program was only the beginning of Basque public programs in Washington, D.C. planned by the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, which opens June 29. Be on the lookout for more upcoming events as Festival approaches.
Recovering Voices would like to thank the supporters of the first annual Mother Tongue Film Festival and all those who joined us for a screening who helped make this festival a success. Funding support for the Mother Tongue Film Festival was provided by the three pan-institutional Smithsonian Recovering Voices partners: National Museum of the American Indian, National Museum of Natural History, and the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, as well as the Embassy of New Zealand.