Imagic Moments
Indigenous North American Film

Lee Schweninger

How Native Americans tell their own stories in film


"Schweninger honors the resistance and survivance of Natives in films. His perceptions are cogent and original and demonstrate a profound knowledge of the 'cinema of sovereignty.'"
—Gerald Vizenor, author of Native Liberty: Natural Reason and Cultural Survivance

"Schweninger’s book makes a bold contribution to the growing field of Indigenous media studies by theorizing a distinct genre of Indigenous North American film. In addition to offering a new perspective on several well-known films, the author introduces his reader to films that have received scant scholarly attention, such as The Exiles, Tkaronto, and Naturally Native. Students, scholars, and interested lay people will find the book engaging, as it is written in a highly accessible style with a keen attention to detail. I look forward to using it in my Indigenous media classes."
—Jennifer Gauthier, associate professor of communication studies, Randolph College

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In Indigenous North American film Native Americans tell their own stories and thereby challenge a range of political and historical contradictions, including egregious misrepresentations by Hollywood. Although Indians in film have long been studied, especially as characters in Hollywood westerns, Indian film itself has received relatively little scholarly attention. In Imagic Moments Lee Schweninger offers a much-needed corrective, examining films in which the major inspiration, the source material, and the acting are essentially Native.

Schweninger looks at a selection of mostly narrative fiction films from the United States and Canada and places them in historical and generic contexts. Exploring films such as Powwow Highway, Smoke Signals, and Skins, he argues that in and of themselves these films constitute and in fact emphatically demonstrate forms of resistance and stories of survival as they talk back to Hollywood. Self-representation itself can be seen as a valid form of resistance and as an aspect of a cinema of sovereignty in which the Indigenous peoples represented are the same people who engage in the filming and who control the camera. Despite their low budgets and often nonprofessional acting, Indigenous films succeed in being all the more engaging in their own right and are indicative of the complexity, vibrancy, and survival of myriad contemporary Native cultures.

Page count: 264 pp.
15 b&w photos
Trim size: 6 x 9


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Lee Schweninger is a professor of English at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. He is the author or editor of numerous books including The First We Can Remember: Colorado Pioneer Women Tell Their Stories and Listening to the Land: Native American Literary Responses to the Landscape (Georgia).