It began on a long cold lonely night. Cut! Wrong cue, jackass.
"We are the only people who need a card to prove who we are." A loss of identity. The passing of an ancient tongue. The respect of elders. These were the themes packed into 14 short minutes of award-winning, Sundance-visited, Oklahoma-lensed Goodnight Irene, kicking off the little-publicized Red Fork Native American Film Festival.
In its eighth season, Red Fork establishes Oklahoma as ground zero for powerful fodder to feed a new generation of Native filmmakers. In Goodnight Irene, three generations cross paths at a health clinic. Irene is a Ruth Gordon-esque elder, with a wicked sense of humor, usually dispensed at the expense of the younger generations who no longer speak their native language. Guy Number 1 is in his 40's, with a nail through his hand. He's able to make out bits and piece of the ancient tongue, but, it usually gets him in trouble. Guy Number 2 is younger, lady's man, knockout, brash good-looking type. Unwittingly, he becomes the butt of Irene's language prank.
As the second feature of the night, Headrights gives the uninitiated viewers a raw, brutal look at the downside of Natives who owned "headrights" to large land tracts full of oil during the Roaring Twenties in Oklahoma. FBI investigates murders on Osage territory. Greed. Betrayal. And, finally assimilation highlight Native filmmaking.
To end the evening, larger-than-life Native actor Will Simpson comes to life on the wide-screen to reprise of the role of Chief Bromden, in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. It was the mainstream movie Native regards as the defining work that for the first time in cinematic history when the Native man releases himself from his internal demons and break through the external oppression. Unforgettably spontaneous.
Red Fork continues Friday night at 7:15 p.m. and Saturday afternoon, 3 p.m., at the TCC West Student Union, 7505 W. 41st. Admission is what you think the experience is worth. Bus your own mess, please.
Submit for the '06 season:
Red Fork Film Festival
Creek Nation Communications
1008 East Eufala St.
Okmulgee, OK 74447
Director: Gerald Wofford