Dorothy Christian essay on the films of Victor Masayesva, Jr.

Dorothy Christian essay on the films of Victor Masayesva, Jr.

In honour of the 20th anniversary of the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival (October 22-27, 2019), Vtape is publishing an essay by Dr. Dorothy Christian on the work of Hopi storyteller and filmmaker Victor Masayesva, Jr. based on the curated program she has produced for the festival. Dorothy Christian is a scholar and visual storyteller from the Secwepemc and Syilx Nations of British Columbia. She is currently the Associate Director of Indigenous Initiatives at Simon Fraser University. Her curated program, Victor Masayesva, Jr. Retrospective: Dawsoma – Making Meaning, screens on Thursday, October 24, 2019, at 1:00pm in Cinema 2 at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. Both Christian and Masayesva will speak on a panel titled Worn Trails/New Trails: Footsteps on Friday, October 25, 2019, at 1:00pm at the Artscape Sandbox.

Dawsoma – Making Meaning is a reflective 88-minute program of three films by Victor Masayesva, Jr. curated by Dorothy Christian. It includes Masayesva’s first work, Hopiit (1982), as well as Ritual Clowns (1988 and 2013) and Waaki – Sanctuary (2019), his most recent filmall of which present complex interrelationships between humans, the plants, the food systems, the animals, the birds, the ceremonies and the cycles of the Earth, Sun and Moon within the universe. Victor Masayesva, Jr.’s visual stories have carved a path for generations of Indigenous filmmakers to truly tell their/our stories from a visually sovereign stance. Following the screening, the audience will have an opportunity to ask questions of one of the most influential story keepers/makers in the global Indigenous screen world.

Hopi visual storyteller/filmmaker Victor Masayesva, Jr. may be the most scrutinized Indigenous image-maker because he offers his culturally specific visuals in his film and photographic works, without explanation and without apology. He has made bold statements about Indigenous aesthetics and accountability that have led Indigenous and non-Indigenous film theorists to many iterations and interpretations of Masayesva, Jr.’s words. These have invigorated many discussions and have contributed to what that means to visual/narrative sovereignty and its many nuances. The aesthetic choices of visuals, sounds, storytelling style, language use, and manipulation of technology are steeped in his Hopi knowledge, which reflects his way of knowing, doing, and seeing in the world. Indigenous cultural knowledge perspectives are not fully understood by many film theorists and this leads to misinterpretations or mere speculations.

image: 4 Directions, Victor Masayesva, Jr.