Courtesy AIFI
Cree Actress Imajyn Cardinal in ‘The Saver’

41st Annual American Indian Film Festival: November 4–11, 2016

Lisa J. Ellwood

The American Indian Film Institute (AIFI) in San Francisco has an illustrious history of presenting stories of Indigenous cultural affirmation, resistance and survival, as well as opportunities for the professional development of Native talent. These themes continue with the 41st annual American Indian Film Festival, November 4–11.

This year’s festival includes 13 program blocks of screenings, appearances by filmmakers, actors and directors, Q&A sessions, and entertainment concluding with the American Indian Motion Picture Awards Show on November 11. All festivities are open to the public.

Opening Night Reception

Feature Film: The Saver. The story of teenaged Fern, a girl who finds herself orphaned in the middle of a harsh Montreal winter. Determined to avoid her mother’s tragic fate, Fern sets out to build a new life for herself. When Youth Protection comes looking, she runs. At one of her mother’s cleaning jobs, she finds the book 50 Ways to Become a Millionaire. ‘All you need to do is save,’ it promises. Fern decides to do just that, replacing her grief with the quest to become a millionaire.

Based on the young adult novel of the same name by Edeet Ravel, The Saver was written, directed and edited by award-winning filmmaker Wiebke von Carolsfeld (Marion Bridge, Stay). The Canadian Drama is nominated for Best Film, Best Director, and Best Actress in AIFI’s American Indian Motion Picture Awards. Cree Actress Imajyn Cardinal will be in attendance.

Short films My Once Life, Injunuity (nominated for Best Animation), and Ishi’s Return (nominated for Best Documentary Short). Opening Night Advance Tickets are available at

Festival Highlights:

Film screening, matinee and evening, including these featured films:

Imajyn Cardinal, The Saver
Elle-Maija Tailfeathers, On the Farm
Caleb Behn, Fractured Land
Rykko Bellemare, Before the Streets/Avant Les Rues
Q’Orianka Kilcher, Te Ata

Advance Tickets for each of the 13 program blocks can be accessed via

American Indian Motion Picture Awards Show: Hosted by Tlingit, Koyukon-Athabascan, and Irish Actor Martin Sensmeier and East Prairie Metis Settlement, Alberta Actress Roseanne Supernault, AIMPAS takes place on Friday November 11, 2016 at the Fillmore Heritage Center, 1310 Fillmore Street, San Francisco. This year’s nominees can be reviewed at

AIMPAS 2016 Entertainers include award-winning Navajo Nation comedy duo James & Ernie Comedy (James Junes and Ernie Tsosie III); Tla A’min Nation actress/singer Ta’Kaiya Blaney; and singer-songwriter, musician, producer, and Seminole Tribe of Florida Nation members actor Spencer Battiest and his brother, Hip-Hop performance artist and music producer Doc Battiest.

Doors open at 6pm, Awards show @ 7pm. Tickets are $20 in advance via and $25 at the door on the night.

CBS Casting Workshop: Native actors won’t want to miss a rare one-on-one interactive workshop with the Vice President of Casting of CBS on November 10th, 10am–11am. An initiative of the CBS Diversity Institute, which aims to give marginalized communities opportunities in front of and behind the camera, workshop participants will learn how to audition, establish their brand, and market themselves with the goal of ultimately getting cast. Seating is limited and participants are required to bring headshots. Register online at

In a press release announcing the festival The American Indian Film Institute introduced this year’s line-up with the statement that it “stands in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of North Dakota and their thousands of native and non-native allies in the struggle to protect their waters and homelands against bio oil and the development of the Dakota Access Pipeline. This is the most recent of the ongoing struggles of indigenous peoples of this continent to protect and preserve their homelands and ways of life against colonial and capitalist interests.”

AIFI also reaffirmed its commitment to stories of cultural affirmation, resistance and survival in voicing its support of the #NoDAPL Water Protectors. “The contemporary medium of cinema as a tool for a very ancient art – storytelling – has always been at the core of the American Indian Film Institute, and our festival,” AIFI Founder and President, Michael Smith (Sioux) stated. “As we move into our fifth decade, we’re more committed than ever to spotlight and share these vital stories – films, by, for and about American Indian and First Nations peoples – with all communities. This is the best of Native cinema, and we’re excited to celebrate the 41st annual American Indian Film Festival with our filmmakers, entertainers and audiences.”

The 41st annual American Indian Film Festival® is sponsored by: Comcast NBCUniversal, Jackson Rancheria CA, Muckleshoot Indian Tribe WA, Comcast Streampix; Media Partners: Chickasaw Nation Oklahoma, National Indian Gaming Association, CBS NY, Tulalip Tribes WA; Venue Sponsor: AMC Van Ness 14; Foundation Partners: The San Francisco Foundation, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, George Lucas Family Foundation; and the San Francisco Grants for the Arts.

AIFI invites all communities to celebrate November American Indian Heritage Month. The AMC Van Ness 14 theaters (1000 Van Ness Ave.), is the venue for the festival’s line-up of live short, animation, documentary and feature films, plus public service and music videos, and youth films from AIFI’s Tribal Touring Program. Advance tickets for the film festival and awards show are available thru

Connect with AIFI online:

Twitter: @AIFISF




Follow ICTMN Correspondent Lisa J. Ellwood on Twitter at

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