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Native American Indian festival showcases heartfelt stories on film

The lives and stories of American Indians, past and present, will be shared through feature films and documentaries this week when the Native American Indian Film and Video Festival of the southeastern United States returns to Columbia.

The 12th annual festival runs Thursday through Sunday, and event founder Will Moreau Goins said it offers a window into the hearts of Indian country.

"It's having native people telling their own stories from a variety of perspectives," Goins said of the four-day event at the University of South Carolina's Russell House Theater and the Nickelodeon Theatre. "We have stories to tell and we're still telling them."

Presented by the Eastern Cherokee, Southern Iroquois & United Tribes of South Carolina Inc., the festival is the longest-running of its type in the Southeast and focuses on the richness and variety of Native American cinematic expressions. Throughout the weekend, independent filmmakers will share their dreams and world views through a series of feature films, documentaries and short takes.

Goins said the festival's primary goal is to educate visitors about contemporary Native American issues and documentaries. At the same time, he said, it will open up discussions on film and video literacy and its power to share Indians' stories.

Each film will be followed by discussions, panels and presentations that further explore topics presented in the films.

"We are showing things that are of current relevance to other people," Goins said. "It is so important to challenge what people perceive as Native American Indian expressions and our place in this society and our contributions to what we all call America."

This year's films include a documentary about Mohawk filmmaker Reaghan Tarbell of Quebec, who explores her roots and traces the connections of her family to the Mohawk community in Brookland, N.Y. Another film will showcase a new biography about Jim Thorpe, who became a sports icon in the first half of the 20th century and fought for equal pay for Native Americans in the movies.

"We've had the very best of filmmakers contribute to this event over the past years," Goins said.

The festival will be held at USC the first three days before moving to the Nickelodeon on Sunday.

"We're tremendously excited to be at USC again this year," Goins said. "We've always had some participation with USC coming to the Nickelodeon, but this time we're taking it to them. We'll be showing movies in the afternoon, so students can come to the Russell House, eat lunch and then go watch a film."

Goins said he is pleased with the festival's growth through the years. Since the inaugural event 12 years ago, the event has grown from two days to four.

"We've had lots of struggles, and the fact that we have survived 12 years is extraordinary," Goins said. "What makes this stand out is the storytelling about Indians by Indians. We're trying to tell an American story through a Native American perspective."

IF YOU GO

What: Native American Indian Film and Video Festival of the southeastern United States

When: Thursday through Sunday

Where: Russell House Theater on the USC campus and the Nickelodeon Theater, 937 Main St., Columbia.

Times: 12:30 to 2 p.m. Thursday; 1 to 2 p.m. and 6 to 9 p.m. Friday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Featuring: The stories of Native Americans through feature films, documentaries and short takes.

Admission: Free Thursday, Friday and Saturday at USC. Tickets to Sunday's film screenings at the Nickelodeon Theatre are $6.50 for the general public; $5.50 for students, seniors and active military; $4.50 for Columbia Film Society members and free to tribal cardholders.

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