Hear from Bird Runningwater, the Director of the Native American and Indigenous Program at Sundance Film Festival. Followed by a screening of the film Wakening.
5.50pm Wakening Dir: Danis Goulet (Cree/Metis) (2013) 9 mins
In the near future, the environment has been destroyed and society suffocates under a brutal military occupation. A lone Cree wanderer Wesakechak searches an urban war zone to find the ancient and dangerous Weetigo to help fight against the occupiers.
Bird Runningwater Bio
Bird Runningwater belongs to the Cheyenne and Mescalero Apache peoples, and was reared on the Mescalero Apache Reservation in New Mexico. Since 2001 he has guided the Sundance Institute’s investment in Native American Screenwriters, Directors and Producers while building a global Indigenous film community. He has nurtured a new generation of filmmakers whose films have put Native Cinema on the cultural map. Based in Los Angeles, California Runningwater serves as the Director of Sundance Institute’s Native American and Indigenous Program and oversees the Institute’s diversity initiatives. In this capacity he oversees the NativeLab Film Fellowship, the Indigenous Producers Initiative, the Sundance Film Festival’s Native Forum, and spearheads the Institute’s Diversity work across all programs.
Runningwater has established filmmaker Labs in New Zealand and Australia, which have spawned such projects as The Strength of Water (NZ); Samson and Delilah (AUS), Bran Nue Dae (AUS) and Here I Am (AUS). During his tenure, the filmmakers and projects he has identified for support include Sterlin Harjo, his Spirit Award-nominated Four Sheets to the Wind and his follow-up feature Barking Water; Academy Award nominee Taika Waititi, his feature debut _Eagle vs Shark _and his follow-up feature Boy; Billy Luther’s award-winning Miss Navajo and his 2nd feature documentary Grab; Andrew Okpeaha MacLean’s Sundance Film Festival Jury Prize winning Sikumi and his feature debut On The Ice which was awarded the Crystal Bear Award and the Best First Feature Prize at the 61st Berlinale; And, most recently Aurora Guerrero’s Mosquita Y Mari and Sydney Freeland’s Drunktown’s Finest; Forthcoming projects include: Yolanda Cruz’ La Raya, Ciara Lacy’s Out of State and Ty Sanga’s After Mele.
Highly sought after for his expertise and knowledge, Runningwater has hosted workshops and been featured on panels ranging from the Sundance Film Festival’s “From Oral Tradition to the Screen: Indigenous Screenwriting”; to “A Conversation with Merata Mita” at the Messagesticks Festival held at the Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia. He was a panelist at the Raising Voices Conference, hosted by the Hubert Bals Fund at the Rotterdam Film Festival, exploring training programs that will stimulate the next generation of culturally distinctive and authentic film making voices. Runningwater currently serves as a patron to the ImagineNative Indigenous Film Festival in Toronto and previously served as a creative consultant on WGBH’s landmark documentary series We Shall Remain which aired on PBS’ American Experience in 2009. Runningwater has been featured and profiled in The Color of Our Future, a book written by Political Commentator Farai Chideya, and in 2008 he was honored by the University of Oklahoma’s Gaylord School of Journalism and Mass Communication as a Distinguished Young Alumni. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for the George Foster Peabody Awards, the world’s oldest electronic media prize, and was recently appointed to the Comcast/NBCUniversal Joint Diversity Council.
Runningwater has served on competition film juries for film festivals such as the Berlin International Film Festival (Germany), São Paolo International Film Festival (Brazil), Sydney Film Festival (Australia), the Guanajuato International Film Festival (Mexico) and the Cinemalaya Film Festival (Philippines). In 2014 he served as co-host and curator of Native Shorts presented by Sundance Institute’s Native American & Indigenous Program a 12-part television series highlighting Indigenous shortfilms that broadcasted on First Nations Experience Television (FNX), the United States’ first Native television channel. In the summer of 2014 he co-curated and presented Carte Blanche: Sundance Institute’s Native American and Indigenous Program at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, a retrospective of films celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Sundance Institute’s Native Program.
Before joining Sundance Institute, Runningwater was based in New York City and served as executive director of the Fund of the Four Directions, the private philanthropy of a Rockefeller family member. Prior to joining the Fund, Runningwater served as program associate in the Ford Foundation’s Media, Arts, and Culture Program. A recipient of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation’s National Fellowship in Public Policy and International Affairs, Runningwater is also an alumnus of Americans for Indian Opportunity’s Ambassadors Program and the Kellogg Fellows Program. He is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma with degrees in Journalism and Native American Studies, and he received his Master of Public Affairs degree from the University of Texas at Austin’s Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs.