Andrew Windy Boy recalling the trauma of Indian boarding school in Our Spirits Don’t Speak English
I’ve been attending the Dallas Video Festival since the mid-1990s when I started writing about television for The Dallas Morning News. Unlike conventional film festivals, DVF was designed so restless viewers could sample pieces of different work by moving from room to room. It approximates channel surfing, only instead of a remote you use your body.
The festival has migrated around different locations, including the Dallas Museum of Art and the Dallas Theater Center. The Angelika at Mockingbird Station, which previously hosted early nights of the festival, is this year’s main venue.
One of the striking things about the 21st annual festival, running Thursday to Sunday, is the amount of locally produced work and the number of shorts, most of them docs or experimental. But that’s really nothing new. Artistic director Bart Weiss loves compilation screenings — back to the channel surfing idea — and he’s always tapped into the North Texas filmmaking scene, which he helps nurture as a film production professor at UT-Arlington.
I’ll be highlighting festival films made by area filmmakers all week, from the local-local-local Deep Ellum to the internationally minded At War. Let’s start with Our Spirits Don’t Speak English: Indian Boarding Schools, an 80-minute look at a rarely discussed chapter of American history.
In 1869, the U.S. government decided to indoctrinate Native American children with Western culture at forced boarding schools. By the late 1960s, 100,000 kids had been pushed through the system. North Dallas-based Rich-Heape Films, which is building an impressive library of Native American-themed documentaries, produced the emotionally wrenching film using vintages images and interviews with survivors.
Steven R. Heape and Chip Richie founded the company in 1994 and have been making films together since. Their other titles include Black Indians: An American Story and Trail of Tears: Cherokee Legacy. Spirits screens at 7 p.m. Thursday, with the filmmakers in attendance.
The Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania, circa 1885
Images courtesy Rich-Heape Films