deadCenter Documentary Films
by Lance McDaniel
House Made of Dawn, a novel written by Kiowa author N. Scott Momaday from Lawton, Oklahoma, won the 1969 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Momaday was the first Native American to earn that distinction. He became a leading writer in the Native American Renaissance, a prominent lecturer, a sought-after professor at Stanford and Berkeley, and a National Medal of the Arts winner from President George W. Bush.
The impact of the book and its recognition was immense. Poet Joy Harjo explained that before House Made of Dawn, everything written by Native people was lumped together in the folk category at the book store. When Momaday won the Pulitzer Prize, people started looking at the writing on its own merit, with its own distinctions, like poetry, memoir, and literature. House Made of Dawn freed Native American writing from its literary ghetto.
- Scott Momaday is the subject of a new documentary called Words From a Bear. The film is directed by Jeffrey Palmer, a former UCO professor and fellow Kiowa artist that grew up down the road from Momaday in Carnegie. Like Momaday’s writing, the film tells its story in a non- traditional manner, weaving in fragments of poetry and prose amidst vivid reenactments and vast landscapes. It’s beautiful.
Words From a Bear will have its Oklahoma premiere on Saturday, June 8, at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, as part of the 2019 deadCenter film festival. The film, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, will have its broadcast premiere later this summer on PBS as part of their American Masters program.
The film’s release coincides with the 50th anniversary of House Made of Dawn winning the Pulitzer Prize. To celebrate this achievement, deadCenter is partnering with the Metropolitan Library System and the Red Earth Festival to host a statewide book club. There will be hosted discussions about the novel June 6 and 7 at different locations downtown, including Stella Nova and 21C Museum Hotel. For exact times and locations, visit deadcenterfilm.org.
Words From a Bear is one of ten documentary feature films that will screen at the 2019 deadCenter Film Festival, June 6-9, in downtown Oklahoma City. The festival line up also includes ten narrative features, ten virtual reality films, and 110 short films, totaling 140 films.
A quick look at the documentary category offers a taste of the types of films that will be screened at the festival.
For music lovers, the biggest film will be Bluebird. Featuring unforgettable performances by Garth Brooks, Vince Gill, Taylor Swift, Faith Hill, Jason Isbell, and many more, Bluebird explores the historic past and present of the Nashville songwriters café and cultural landmark. Bluebird will screen outside on the Myriad Gardens Great Lawn at 9:00pm on Saturday, June 8.
Other music related documentaries are Who Let The Dogs Out? and Red Dog. Who Let the Dogs Out? is a surprisingly interesting and hilarious documentary about the international hit song that has transcended generations, exposing a story steeped in legal battles, female empowerment, artistic integrity, and one very catchy hook. Red Dog follows Grammy Award winning songwriter Luke Dick as he revisits his childhood growing up as the son of a stripper at the rowdiest and most popular strip club in Oklahoma City, the Red Dog Saloon.
Sports fans will gravitate towards Jump Shot and The Push. Jump Shot tells the long overdue story of 1943 NBA player Kenny Sailors. Sixty years later, modern NBA giants led by Stephen Curry and Dirk Nowitzki discuss his game changing jump shot. The Push follows the journey of extreme sports junkie Grant Korgan, who lost it all in a tragic accident. After an intense rehab, he rose up to become the first spinal cord injured athlete to ski across the South Pole.
Films about artists include Jay Myself and Faces of the 47th: The Art of Activism. Jay Myself documents the monumental move of renowned photographer and artist, Jay Maisel, who begrudgingly sells his home, a 35,000 square-foot, 100-year-old landmark building in Manhattan, for $55 million. Faces of the 47th: The Art of Activism tells the story of artist Sarah Agee, a mother who became an activist through art because of her frustration with Oklahoma’s 47th ranking in overall education funding.
And, those who like their films a little more political should check out American Heretics: The Politics of the Gospel and For Sama. American Heretics: The Politics of the Gospel offers an exploration of defiant ministers that challenge fundamentalist Christian doctrine in favor of a Gospel of Inclusion, including local ministers Robin Meyers and Lori Walke of Mayflower Church. For Sama, which won the Best Documentary and Audience Award at SXSW in Austin, tells the story of a 26-year old female Syrian filmmaker who filmed her life in rebel-held Aleppo through five years of the Syrian uprising.
For full descriptions, trailers, and screening times for all 140 films screening June 6-9 at the deadCenter Film Festival, please visit www.deadcenterfilm.org.