the world of independent documentaries, the fight against stereotyped
views of indigenous people continues, says a native American filmmaker
still in a struggle, a battle, really," said Sandy Sunrising
Osawa, who shot a documentary on ballerina Maria Tallchief set to
screen in Victoria on Monday.
an indy filmmaker, she says it is easier to get funding for documentaries
about the social issues native Americans grapple with -- such as
poverty -- than films about those who excel in a given field.
well, U.S. public television and film festivals appear to favour
and again, the same victim story seems to be selected for prime
time ... There's still some work to be done," Osawa said.
veteran filmmaker -- a Makah tribal member -- travels to the University
of Victoria for a free showing of Maria Tallchief: America's Prima
Ballerina (2007). Osawa will give a talk about her documentary,
which chronicles the journey of a native American who, in the 1940s
and '50s, became a globally celebrated ballerina.
was an amazing accomplishment. As well as combating the once prevalent
notion that only Europeans could excel in ballet, Tallchief transcended
racial prejudice against native Americans at the time.
the film, which has already aired on PBS, Osawa did extensive interviews
with 85-year-old Tallchief. She describes her as a "very strong"
and "a regal presence."
father was a chief of the Osage Nation in Fairfax, Okla. A shy girl,
she studied in California with Bronislava Nijinska, sister of dance
legend Vaslav Nijinsky.
joined the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and married famed choreographer
George Balanchine. Mesmerized by her artistry, he created for her
such seminal works as Orpheus (1948) and Firebird (1949).
and Balanchine formed the New York City Ballet, where Tallchief
was prima ballerina from 1947 to 1960.
fame landed her on the cover of Newsweek; President Dwight Eisenhower
once declared her "Woman of the Year."
technical prowess was said to be jaw-dropping. Legend has it dance
critic Edward Denby was so affected by her performance in Orpheus,
he slumped over in his seat.
segments of Orpheus and Firebird are included in Maria Tallchief:
America's Prima Ballerina. In addition to commentary by Tallchief
herself, the documentary has interviews with colleagues and dance
once being a superstar, Tallchief's name isn't particularly known
outside the dance world today, Osawa says.
a generational gap," she said.
people, several generations now, haven't heard of her. Possibly
don't know her. The [documentary] fills an important void there,
who collaborates with husband Yasu Osawa, has a special interest
in the lives of native artists.
previous documentaries include On and Off the Res w/Charlie Hill
(2000) -- about a First Nations man's quest to become a standup
comic -- and Pepper's Pow Wow (1996), about pioneering musician
Jim Pepper, who melded jazz with Native American music.
is the last year PBS has the rights to air Maria Tallchief: America's
that, the focus will be on educational screenings in schools and
universities such as UVic.
enjoys these events, because she gets the opportunity to see audiences
react first-hand. She is especially touched at how some First Nations
people respond to the Tallchief documentary.
women particularly say how emotional it is for them. They have cried
because it is so inspiring."