As one season ends, another begins. I was lucky enough to cut my teeth briefly serving on the board of the First Nations Film and Video Festival (FNFVF) based out of Chicago, which is the only film festival devoted solely to Native American filmmakers.
My friend and mentor, FNFVF festival director Ernest M. Whiteman III, who I met in film school, taught me pretty much everything I know about running a festival. You always do the event, even if no one shows up. It takes time to build a presence. I remember at least a couple of times we partnered with venues like universities where there were only members of the board sitting there the majority of the screening, and maybe one or two people would show up. Now, FNFVF has built a reputation strong enough to work with some of the premier theaters in Chicago like the Music Box and the Siskel Center.
And, in fact, the very same thing happened to me on Day Two of Mental Filmness. On a rainy day, I was sitting there on a folding chair in our free community venue Comfort Station, with only myself, the Comfort Station volunteer, one friend, and a visiting filmmaker from North Carolina. Eek! I just ran the first shorts block entirely as planned, with three people watching it, and carried on. And thankfully a few more people trickled in later in the day. In retrospect, Sunday may not have been an optimal day for the event.
FNFVF also has a strong mission that guides their festival: “The mission of First Nations Film and Video Festival is to advocate for and celebrate the works of Native Americans filmmakers and new works and films that break racial stereotypes and promotes awareness of Native American issues.”\
The Mental Filmness mission statement I wrote was: “The festival is dedicated to breaking the stigma surrounding mental illness by sharing stories and promoting empathy for those who live with these chronic psychiatric conditions. We are especially interested in challenging stereotypes, showing different perspectives on mental illness, and informing and enlightening the general public about mental health.”
I wasn’t even thinking of it at the time (I swear!), but I can see a little bit of influence there. I’m sure there’s a lot more I’m not even aware of.
I guess my main point is, I was just thinking of this because it’s Native American Heritage Month, and the First Nations Film and Video Festival is just beginning to open in Chicago. And guess what? Chicago Public Library is actually one of the venues, but it looks like most of it is happening online, and is absolutely free of charge! Maybe that also sounds like something else you know?
So if you’d like to support another wonderful free, online, Chicago-based festival to see completely unique movies that will enlighten you and heighten your awareness, check out the schedule here:https://fnfvf.org/…/first-nations-film-and-video…/Happy viewing!