About Us

A little about the institute.

About

Approaching its fourth decade of work, AIFI recognizes the continuing opportunity and responsibility to empower American Indian voices by weaving the possibilities of film as a transformational storytelling tool into the fabric of Native communities, and by bringing our stories and voices in the mainstream. The American Indian Film Institute (AIFI) is a media arts 501-c-3 nonprofit organization established in 1979 to foster understanding of the culture, traditions and issues of contemporary Native Americans through film. AIFI – founded on a deep belief in the power of film as a transformational tool, the organization strives to present contemporary Indian voices that dispel popular, often damaging, myths, and to advance appreciation of Native American artistic and societal contributions.

Our Mission

The mission of the American Indian Film Institute is to foster understanding of the culture, traditions and issues of contemporary Native Americans. The organization’s goals are:

  • To encourage Native filmmakers to bring to the broader media culture the Native voices, viewpoints and stories that have been historically excluded from mainstream media.
  • To develop Indian and non-Indian audiences for this work.
  • To advocate tirelessly for authentic visual and work-force representations of Indians in the media.
  • To open up opportunities for Native Americans to enter the workforce of the creative economy.

The Festival

Approaching its fourth decade of work, AIFI recognizes the continuing opportunity and responsibility to empower American Indian voices by weaving the possibilities of film as a transformational storytelling tool into the fabric of Native communities, and by bringing our stories and voices into the mainstream. AIFI predicates its relationship with both Indian and non-Indian communities on the central and restorative role that the arts have always played in Indian life: storytelling, songs, dances, painting, and crafts are viewed in the Indian tradition as medicine. To these time-honored art forms, AIFI has added the media arts. In a new millennium, both the “legacy” film and HDV technologies offer tools to preserve and record our heritage, and a vehicle for Indians and non-Indians alike to “unlearn” damaging stereotypes and replace them with multi-dimensional images that reflect the complexity of Indian peoples. Established in 1975, the American Indian Film Festival® is the oldest and most prominent media showcase of its kind in the world.  We have screened over 2000 films from USA American Indian and Canada First Nation communities.  Founded and produced by Indian People, we take pride in presenting films that enlighten perception and foster dialogue to improve relations among the Red, White, Black and Yellow. We curate our film festival to be inclusive, rather than exclusive.  We promote new and established media-makers and artists to support their professional growth, their visual/artistic integrity and livelihood.  Indian Peoples core power is our innate ability to re-imagine and produce stories in our own words and images.  This nine-day gathering plays an indispensable role in that truth.

AIFI Tribal Touring Program

AIFI TRIBAL TOURING PROGRAM, established in 2001, represents a strategic intervention into the lives of at-risk, often hard-to-reach Native youth. The program uses technology to attract youth (ages 13-20) to a sequential program that introduces them to media-making tools, gives them the experience of making media related to their own lives, and prepares them for work options in the media industry. Each summer the program takes professional artists, digital equipment, and a traveling film festival to rural areas, with an emphasis on reservations and rancherias that offer Native youth limited employment opportunities. Youth participants produce short, broadcast-quality HD-DV films that are screened for their tribal community; and then included in a special program at the American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco. The program, created with start-up funding from the California Community Technology Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation, John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and Tribal Host-Partners, is offered three to five times, in the summer months. Across eleven years, it has traveled to 37 reservations and rancherias, employed 222 Indian filmmakers and production assistants, provided training workshops to 821 participants, and screened films for a combined audience of over 13,000 people. The program is offered three to five times each summer, in partnership with Tribal Host-Partners. Teen-age peer-pressure, linguistic and cultural isolation, a reluctance to access services and resources, and environmental stressors place Indian youth at high risk for truancy, delinquency and gang activity. Especially for high school drop-outs and tribal youth who have developed substance abuse problems – the idea of entering the state’s workforce seems remote. American Indians making the transition to adulthood need exposure to positive role models, creative work options, vocational and educational training that will place them on an upward career trajectory, to first imagine-then pursue-meaningful work that will effect positive change in their lives and the life of their community. AIFI’s Media Initiative, the Tribal Touring Program, is designed to appeal to aloof but technologically curious youth who are unlikely candidates for traditional employment development programs, and is a response to these needs.

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