As part of our ongoing high school outreach activities, this past year the University of Arizona School of Theatre, Film & Television (TFTV) partnered with the Flagstaff-based Kinlani Film Project and Blackmagic Design to help Indigenous high school filmmakers create a film. The young filmmakers wrote and filmed a short entitled Tsiiyééł, about a Diné teen drawing strength from their culture. Since its completion, the film has been selected to screen at ten international film festivals, including ImagineNATIVE, the world’s largest Indigenous film festival.
Tsiiyééł was filmed using Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro and URSA Mini Pro 4.6K G2 digital film cameras, with editing and grading completed using DaVinci Resolve Studio. Post production was led by TFTV alum Kristian Jackson (’19) as part of a mentoring program between the university and the Kinlani Film Project students, who connected with Jackson via cloud-based collaboration.
Founded by filmmaker Oakley Anderson-Moore, the Kinlani Film Project is an after-school filmmaking program for Diné, Hopi, Tohono O’odham and Havasupai high school students. The project is offered to students living at the Flagstaff Bordertown Dormitory, which is dedicated to preparing and empowering all students for the choices and challenges they will face in the future by providing a positive, healthy, social and educational environment based on Diné/Navajo and Native American knowledge and language.
Kerryn Negus, TFTV’s director of advancement and external relations, headed up the coordination between the two schools and devised a festival strategy for the film. “TFTV is devoted to nurturing the next generation of filmmakers, so it was thrilling to see Kristian share his editing process with the Kinlani filmmakers,” she said. “On first watching Tsiiyééł, we knew that it was something special and were excited to put together a film festival campaign. We’re proud of the filmmakers for creating a story that is now resonating with audiences across the country and around the world.”
In addition to the Toronto based ImagineNATIVE, the film has drawn audiences at festivals across the United States and in Europe, including the All American High School Film Festival in New York, the American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco, the Flagstaff Mountain Film Festival, the Navajo Film Festival, CineFestival San Antonio, and the UK’s Native Spirit Film Festival among others.
The Kinlani film crew included writers and directors Austin Jimmy, Shanique Yazzie and Hailee Bekis, as well as writers, actors and technical crew Robyn Claw, Orion Lucero, LaDonna Jacket, Zoey Nez, Roshelle Hawee, Faith Begay and Devin Goodman, Shyla Clark and Leandre Frank.Watch the film