Sedona International Film Festival highlights Navajo youth in “Scenes From the Glittering World”

Ilii (right) and her brother, Reaksmei, discuss living in Navajo Mountain in the film “Scenes From the Glittering World.” (Still/Jared Jakins)

Ilii (right) and her brother, Reaksmei, discuss living in Navajo Mountain in the film “Scenes From the Glittering World.” (Still/Jared Jakins)

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — “Scenes From the Glittering World,” a coming of age film about family, follows three Indigenous youth on the Navajo reservation.

The movie was filmed at the most remote high school in the continental United States — Navajo Mountain High School and will show Feb. 20 and Feb. 24 at the Sedona International Film Festival in Sedona, Arizona.

“It’s a portrait of three beautiful young people and their hopes and dreams, their resilience,” said screenwriter and director Jared Jakins.

Jakins, who shares screenwriting credit with Christian Jensen, said there are unique things about the film, but he wants to be clear that as filmmakers they were outsiders in the community. For them, it was important to find a way to engage with the community to tell the story.

“The three featured youth in the film are really collaborators with us,” Jakins said. “We could talk about specific scenes and you’ll see that they are really the results of discussing what they want their story to be, how they want it to be told. The big moments, we came up together with them, (about) what those things could be.”

Jakins explained one of the challenges of filming a documentary is a filmmaker can only set the stage for something to happen, but no one ever really knows what will happens.

“I just had to be ready to film it,” he said.

“Scenes From the Glittering World”

Three Navajo youth featured:

The film features Granite, Ilii and Noah.

Showtimes:

“Scenes From the Glittering World” is showing Feb. 20 at the Mary D. Fisher Theatre at 1 p.m. and Feb. 20 at Harkins Sedona 6 - Theater 1 at 4 p.m.

Fim information:

“Scenes From the Glittering World” runtime is 79 minutes in English and Navajo. The film is directed by Jared Jakins. Produced by Roni Jo Draper, Hunter Phillips and Scott Christopherson.

Sedona International Film Festival:

More information about films and showtimes for the Sedona International Film Festival is available at sedonafilmfestival.com.

Jakins said early on they knew they had to have a cultural advisory board and someone who could advise on educational aspects of the film. Scott Christopherson, a producer on the film, said both of those positions could be filled by Roni Jo Draper, who is also a producer on the film.

Draper is Yurok and her people’s lands are in northern California.

“I came to the film with an Indigenous perspective, but not a Diné perspective,” she said. “I always wanted to make sure that I understood my place in that and that I didn’t overstep that boundary. That I didn’t come in and assume that I had more knowledge than I did have.”

Draper said what she did bring to the film, was her ability to ask questions about things that are present in most Indigenous communities, like ceremony and humor.

“I would ask things like, ‘Where’s the humor?’ Because that’s gotta be there, you know? Cause we’re funny,” she said. “I was like, ‘Crank up the joy.’”

Draper said there’s always a challenge showing some of the realities of reservation life and the trauma young people endure.

“I’m certainly sensitive to the idea of creating film that’s just about ‘white gaze,’” she said. “I wanted this to be a film that young people would want to show their grandchildren. That their grandchildren, when they would (ask), “Grandma, auntie, uncle, what was it like for you on the Rez when you were a kid, what was school like,’ that they would have something to show them.”

Answering these question and having the story not just be sad stories was Draper’s goal, even while acknowledging that sad stories are part of life, especially for Indigenous people.

“I don’t feel like we ever try to tell our stories without telling the sad parts,” she said. “I just think we’re good at telling the bad parts in a joyful way. I was hoping that what we were making was a way for them to talk about the now, to talk about the present, in a way that they would be proud about sharing in the future.”

Some of those realities of life are shared by everyone, whether you’re a Rez kid or not, Draper said. She hopes that when people watch the film they can see that the youth have hard things they are dealing with, but they also are triumphant, goofing and falling down, trying to figure out life like every other adolescent on Earth.

“They also seem like they’re getting it done,” Draper said. “Being able to take care of the sheep, and take care of grandmas, and take care of their siblings and be compassionate and full of joy. They are so complex and they’ve got really big lives. I just want people to see them in their wholeness.”

Jakins agreed and said the ideal every filmmaker reaches for in their minds is showing some concept, person or idea as richly and complexly as possible. He feels like they achieved that in “Scenes From the Glittering World,” partly because he feels the best portraits come from the give and take between artists and their muse. Jakins is proud of what they accomplished with the film.

“I do hope audiences see the youth as full people and that their families and everyone around them, that they’re all real individuals and those relationships are the reality for them,” he said. “When you watch the film you’ll see that much of the film is built around conversations between siblings and parents. I think there’s just really beautiful moments that come from those encounters.”

In addition to the two showings at the Sedona International Film Festival, “Scenes From the Glittering World” will get a national broadcast in May through PBS on its Independent Lens program, which only chooses 30 films a year from thousands.

“We’re thrilled about that,” Jakins said. “So if people can’t make it to Sedona, especially with COVID, they’ll have an opportunity to see it in their homes.”

The film will be broadcast on local PBS affiliates, and also stream for free online for a short period of time.

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