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Diné Culture Featured in Smithsonian’s Navajo Film Showcase

Two-day Event Highlights Feature-length and Short Works by Navajo Directors, Including the New York Premiere of “Chasing the Light”

March 4, 2015

The National Museum of the American Indian’s George Gustav Heye Center in New York, in collaboration with New York University’s Center for Media, Culture and History, presents “Diné Spotlight: A Showcase of Navajo Film,” a free two-day event highlighting outstanding recent films that explore the creative vision of Diné filmmakers. The showcase is in conjunction with the current exhibition, “Glittering World: Navajo Jewelry of the Yazzie Family.”

“Diné Spotlight” opens Thursday, April 9, at 6 p.m., with a screening of the acclaimed Drunktown’s Finest by Sydney Freeland and continues Saturday, April 11, with a series of short works at 1 and 3 p.m., as well as the New York premiere of Blackhorse Lowe’s feature film, Chasing the Light, at 6:30 p.m in the museum’s lower-level auditorium. Reservations are recommended for evening screenings and can be made through the online calendar.

“The amount of great work that has come from the Navajo film community is truly prolific,” said Cynthia Benitez, the museum’s Film and Video Center programmer. “All of the featured films explore themes that resonate within the Navajo Nation—preserving language, emphasis on family and community, cultural preservation, humor, environmental trauma—and this focus on relevant issues has paved the way for both the current and next generations of Diné filmmakers.”

This resonance has also moved beyond the Navajo Nation, engaging audiences in the United States and abroad. The word “Diné” itself translates to “the people.” The connection to universal human emotion is a key element in both feature-length films chosen for the showcase. The moving and heartfelt character portrayals in Drunktown’s Finest, especially those of a transgender woman, Felixia (Carmen Moore), positioned the film within mainstream consciousness and debate. Chasing the Light, Lowe’s first feature-length film in nearly a decade since his acclaimed 5th World, presents themes of suicide and drug addiction through a gripping and unique story that speaks to a wide-ranging audience.

The showcase also features 17 award-winning short films shown in two sessions. The wide-ranging selections include works from both Freeland and Lowe, as well as 12 other filmmakers (Nanobah Becker, Klee Benally, Princess Benally, Christi Bertelsen, Christopher Cegielski, Shonie De La Rosa, Sarah del Seronde, Melissa Henry, Daniel Edward Hyde, Bennie Klain, Velma Kee Craig and Donavan Seschillie). New York University scholars Teresa Montoya (Navajo) and Angelo Baca (Navajo, Hopi) will moderate discussions at the conclusion of each session, Montoya after the first with directors Becker and Freeland, and Baca after the second with directors Lowe and Craig.

“Celebrating the cinematic achievements of Native filmmakers is what NMAI Film and Video embraces,” Benitez said. “To have the opportunity to showcase such a realm of contributions from these Navajo artists is a remarkable honor.”

“Diné Spotlight” is made possible with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts.

The National Museum of the American Indian is located at One Bowling Green in New York City, across from Battery Park. The museum is free and open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Thursdays until 8 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Call (212) 514-3700 for general information and (212) 514-3888 for a recording about the museum’s public programs. By subway, the museum may be reached by the 1 to South Ferry, the 4 or 5 to Bowling Green or the R or W to Whitehall Street. The museum’s website is

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Joshua Stevens     
(212) 514-3823

Related photos: 

Chasing the Light

From "Chasing the Light"

Still image from "Chasing the Light" from Diné Spotlight: A Showcase of Navajo Film at the National Museum of the American Indian, George Gustav Heye Center

Related photos: 

Drunktown's Finest

Still image from "Drunktown's Finest"

Still image from "Drunktown's Finest" from Diné Spotlight: A Showcase of Navajo Film at the National Museum of the American Indian, George Gustav Heye Center