Date of Award


Document Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name


Organizational Unit

College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Tracy Ehlers, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Peter Van Arsdale

Third Advisor

Richard Clemmer-Smith

Fourth Advisor

Diane Waldman


Ethnographic film, Identity, Indigenous film, Festival, Indigenous media, Visual anthropology


Since colonial contact, indigenous peoples have been predominantly represented by community outsiders. As a result, native peoples have rarely had a primary, or even collaborative role, in the production of these representations. However, in the last two decades, there has been an unprecedented proliferation of indigenous created films and the festivals that feature them. The Denver Indigenous Arts and Film Festival is an annual festival that exclusively showcases films made by and with indigenous peoples. The festival’s 2009 theme of “Telling Our Stories” emphasized cultural control of representation and the transmission of traditional knowledge.

In this thesis, I show that unlike ethnographic filmmakers, indigenous filmmakers have been able to critically engage issues of identity due to their personal connection to home communities. Furthermore, many indigenous filmmakers, having had complex bicultural life experiences, are positioned to express hybrid identities relevant to the contemporary challenges of native communities. Based on research I conducted throughout 2009 with the Denver festival, this thesis explores ways in which indigenous filmmakers have expressed these issues through their films and audience interactions. The festival itself is discussed as a locus of identity discourse, comprising many commonalities as well as key differences in relation to other indigenous film festivals.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

William Lempert


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

252 p.


Cultural anthropology, Native American studies, Film studies