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About

The Smithsonian’s Mother Tongue Film Festival celebrates cultural and linguistic diversity by showcasing films and filmmakers from around the world, highlighting the crucial role languages play in our daily lives. This year, the festival will be hosted entirely online.

Since 2016, the annual festival has celebrated International Mother Language Day on February 21. The sixth annual festival will take place via a monthly online screening series from February 21 to May 31, 2021.

Films marked with have Q&A videos available to watch.

Check back regularly for program updates.

Our Mission

Through digital storytelling, the festival amplifies the work of diverse practitioners who explore the power of language to connect the past, present, and future.

Land Acknowledgment

We acknowledge with respect the Piscataway people on whose traditional territory the Smithsonian stands and whose relationship with the land west of the Chesapeake Bay continues today.

Feature Films

Short Films

Upcoming Events

Roundtable Discussion: The Healing Power of Storytelling

  Live on Friday, May 14, at 5 pm ET

Exploring our 2021 theme, the healing power of storytelling, this panel highlights the unique ability of film to project stories to places they might have never traveled before—bringing connection, understanding, and healing. Moderated by festival co-director Joshua Bell and Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center curator Kālewa Correa, directors Christopher Auchter (The Mountain of Sgaana), Adrian Baker (Source of the Wound), Christopher Kahunahana (Waikiki), and Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu (Kapaemahu) will discuss the role of storytelling in their films.

Watch the event

Conversation with the Director: Island to Island

Premieres Friday, May 21, at noon ET

After being initiated as kahu oli, caretakers of Hawaiian chant, filmmakers Kris Kato and Keoni DeFranco recognized their responsibility to uphold their traditions while far from home in New York City. In conversation with Kris, Keoni, and the film’s director, Jacueline Hazen, festival co-director Joshua Bell will discuss the importance of holding space for our own cultural practices across geographical boundaries.

Watch the event

Archived Events

Opening Ceremony: The Healing Power of Storytelling

Talkback with Waikiki Filmmakers

Premieres on Sunday, February 21, at 6 pm ET

Following opening remarks from Smithsonian organizers, the festival’s first event features a talkback with Waikiki director Christopher Kahunahana, moderated by Kālewa Correa, curator of Hawai‘i and the Pacific at the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center. Waikiki, the festival’s opening film, will be available to U.S. audiences from February 21 to 27.

Watch the event

Conversation with the Director: Teko Haxy/Being Imperfect

Premieres on Sunday, February 21, at 6 pm ET

In conversation with festival co-director Amalia Córdova, filmmaker Sophie Pinheiro discusses the process and inspiration behind her experimental documentary Teko Haxy/Being Imperfect, available February 21 to March 31.

Watch the event

Documentary Filmmaker Discussion: Tote/Grandfather

Thursday, February 25, at 6:30 pm ET
Co-presented with Columbia University School of the Arts

Accompanying the film Tote/Grandfather, writer and director Marίa Sojob joins Mother Tongue co-director Amalia Córdova and Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Sebastián Díaz in conversation. The discussion is introduced by Ron Gregg of Columbia University’s Film and Media Studies department.

Watch the event

Women Directors Panel

Friday, March 5, at 2 pm ET

Women are often entrusted with cultural and language transmission, and we highlight this responsibility by bringing together women directors on a roundtable each year. Join us for a conversation with Becs Arahanga (Hinekura), Valeriya Golovina (Our Love), and Sophia Pinheiro and Patrícia Ferreira (Being Imperfect), moderated by festival co-director Amalia Córdova and curator and filmmaker Cass Gardiner.

Watch the event

Archival Roundtable: Anthropologists as Storytellers

Friday, March 19, at 2 pm ET

Join us for a roundtable discussion exploring the thirty-year collaboration between anthropologists and filmmakers Lina Fruzzetti (Brown University) and Ákos Östör (Wesleyan University), spanning numerous publications and six films. Moderated by Alice Apley (director, Documentary Education Resources) and joined by Pam Wintle (senior film archivist, Human Studies Film Archive), this roundtable will focus on Fruzzetti and Östör’s important body of work, and the trajectory and craft of their filmmaking and storytelling as anthropologists.

Watch the event

Conversation with the Director: The Mountain

Friday, March 26, at 9 am ET
Co-sponsored by the Taiwan Academy, the Taiwan Ministry of Culture, and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art

In conversation with National Museum of Asian Art film curator Tom Vick, filmmaker Su Hung-En will discuss his documentary The Mountain, available March 22 to April 4. Learn about the history of Taiwan’s Indigenous peoples’ recertification movement in this Q&A, focusing on creativity and cultural perseverance under the challenges of forced assimilation.

Watch the event

A Discussion on Language Revitalization

Friday, April 2, at 1 pm ET

Language reclamation, pressures on language from current and historical dislocation and forced relocations, and filmmaking for educational purposes are some of the through lines that will be explored in our education roundtable. Smithsonian curator Mary Linn will moderate the live discussion with Ruben Reyes, director of Garifuna in Peril; Kari Chew (Chickasaw), the project lead for Growing the Fire Within; and Putu Desy Apriliani, manager of the “scholars’ room” bookshelf in BASAbali, the organization involved with the development of Luh Ayu Manik Mas.

Watch the event

Conversation with the Director: The Forbidden Strings

Monday, April 26, at noon ET

Soori, Hakim, Akbar, and Mohammed have a collective dream: to travel from Iran to their parents’ homeland of Afghanistan and play their first rock concert. Discussing their feature-length film The Forbidden Strings, director Hasan Noori and producer Afsaneh Salari explore the intricacies of production with the National Museum of Asian Art film curator, Tom Vick.

Watch the event

Conversation with the Director: Eating Up Easter

Friday, April 30, at 12 ET

In Haka Puai Te Kainga / Eating Up Easter, director Sergio Rapu speaks to the pressures the people of Rapa Nui (Easter Island) feel amid increased tourism and development. Rapu, alongside Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center curator Kālewa Correa, will discuss the power of environmental storytelling explored in the film.

Watch the event

Conversation with the Director: The Land of Eb

Friday, May 7, at 4 pm ET

A portrait of resilience, The Land of Eb encapsulates the barriers experienced by Marshallese communities displaced by nuclear weapon testing that has forever altered the islands they call home. Join us for an engaging conversation with the film’s director, Andrew Williamson, and lead actor Jonithen Jackson, moderated by festival co-director Joshua Bell.

Watch the event

For Kids

Animated frame of what appears to be two tribes walking toward each other in greeting. Sea, straw huts, and mountains behind them.

Animating the Mother Tongue:
An Indigenous Language Playlist

The 2021 Mother Tongue Film Festival’s animation playlist seeks to empower identification through language. Featuring twelve short animations created by Indigenous filmmakers, or created in collaboration with members of Indigenous communities and arts organizations, this playlist provides a variety of engaging stories sure to inspire those of all ages.

Watch the playlist on Folklife Magazine


Partners

The Mother Tongue Film Festival is a public program of Recovering Voices, a collaboration between Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, the National Museum of the American Indian, and the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.

National Museum of the American Indian logo
Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage logo
National Museum of the American Indian logo
National Museum of Asian Art logo
Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center logo

Additional Smithsonian partners include the Asian Pacific American Center and the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery—the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art. The program received federal support from the Smithsonian Asian Pacific Initiatives Pool, administered by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, and the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative.

This program received support from Bicentenario Perú 2021, Columbia University School of the Arts, Documentary Educational Resources, the Embassy of Canada to the United States, Ferring Pharmaceuticals, Mexican Cultural Institute of Washington, Taiwan Academy, Taiwan Ministry of Culture, the Embassy of New Zealand, the Hawai‘i International Film Festival, The Elizabeth and Whitney MacMillan Endowment, Wick and Bonnie Moorman, and more.

Smithsonian Because Of Her Story logo
Ministry of Culture of Taiwan logo
Taiwan Academy logo
Mexican Cultural Institute logo
Embassy of Canada to the United States logo
Documentary Educational Resources logo
Columbia University School of the Arts logo
Peru Bicentennial 2021 logo
Ferring Pharmaceuticals logo
University of Maryland logo
Center for Research & Collaboration in the Indigenous Americas logo
New Zealand Embassy logo
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Waikiki

Available May 12–16


Director

Christopher Kahunahana, Kanaka Maoli

Region

Hawai‘i

Languages

English, 'ōlelo Hawai‘i

Year

2019

Runtime

83 min.

Category

Narrative Feature

After an overwhelming response to the first screening, we are offering a second opportunity to see the film. Register for free to watch between May 12 and 16. A viewing link will be sent to your inbox. Registration is limited to 400 people on a first-come, first-served basis.

Escaping her abusive ex-boyfriend, Kea, a part-time Hawaiian teacher, hula dancer, and bar hostess, temporarily lives out of her van to piece her life back together. One night after a violent beating, she speeds off into the night only to slam into a mysterious homeless man crossing the street. Unwilling to leave him to die, she takes him into her van and her life. Waikiki, Hawai‘i’s first Native-written and -directed feature,  is a visceral allegory for the contemporary issues which plague Hawai‘i’s people, including mental illness, physical abuse, and identity loss.

Are you enjoying the sixth annual Mother Tongue Film Festival? We invite you to take a five-minute survey to help us improve next year’s event.

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Teko Haxy
Being Imperfect

No longer available


Being Imperfect film still.
Directors

Patrícia Ferreira (Mbaya-Guaraní)
Sophia Pinheiro

Region

Brazil

Languages

Guaraní, Portuguese

Year

2018

Runtime

40 min.

Category

Documentary Featurette

This film is no longer available.

In this experimental documentary, the personal relationship between two women—a Keretxu filmmaker and a Brazilian anthropologist—embodies the tensions of ethnographic and Indigenous filmmaking. The protagonists, each equipped with a camera, navigate the complexities of vulnerability, interpersonal relationships, and power dynamics as they film each other and their surroundings.

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Tote
Grandfather

No longer available


Director

María Sojob (Tsotsil)

Region

Mexico

Languages

Tzotzil, Spanish

Year

2019

Runtime

80 min.

Category

Documentary Feature

This film is no longer available.

What is the meaning of love in Tzotzil? Tote is the debut documentary feature from Maria Sojob that explores questions of love, family, tradition, and marginalization. María seeks out her grandfather while he sits and weaves a traditional hat. Throughout the process, a complex portrait develops: contrasting the point of view of the younger generation with the traditional world, and we are revealed the meaning of love in Tzotzil.

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Willakuyqunata Awaspa
Weaving Stories

No longer available


Director

Clara Calvet

Region

Bolivia

Language

Quechua

Year

2015

Runtime

57 min.

Category

Documentary Feature

This film is no longer available.

Women weavers play an important role in the highland communities of Bolivia. Through their mastery of ancient textile traditions, often practiced while child-rearing, managing farms, and herding, these artisans tell stories, document daily life, and sustain their families. This is a story of women’s creativity told through conversations with twenty-two weavers who share their experiences, artistry, and lives.

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In My Mother’s House

No longer available


Directors

Lina Fruzzetti
Ákos Östör

Regions

Italy, Eritrea, United States

Languages

Italian, Arabic, Tigrinya

Year

2017

Runtime

82 min.

Category

Documentary Feature

This film is no longer available.

When she receives an email from a long-lost sister, Lina begins her journey to learn more about her Italian father and Eritrean mother. In an attempt to understand the history of her family, Lina travels to both Italy and Eritrea to speak with friends and relatives about their personal experiences, sharing a familial history affected by colonial rule, war, migration, and diaspora.

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The Mountain

No longer available


Director

Su Hung-En

Region

Taiwan

Languages

Mandarin, Truku

Year

2015

Runtime

61 min.

Category

Documentary Feature

This film is no longer available.

The Truku people of Taiwan are an Indigenous population that have been forced to live under a variety of colonial rules for hundreds of years. With each regime, the Truku have fought to maintain their culture, even in the face of brutal processes of forced assimilation. Through footage and intimate interviews with a Truku elder, we can better understand the effect of colonization on Taiwan and the history of the aboriginal recertification movement.

Content warning: This film contains scenes of animal death that some viewers may find disturbing.

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Garifuna in Peril

No longer available


Directors

Alí Allié
Rubén Reyes

Regions

United States, Honduras

Languages

Garifuna, English, Spanish

Year

2012

Runtime

99 min.

Category

Feature Docudrama

This film is no longer available.

In his home village in Honduras, Ricardo teaches new speakers of the Garifuna language. While Ricardo fights for the Indigenous land to build his school, his family back in Los Angeles faces their own coming-of-age struggles, framed through the story of their ancestors’ fight for freedom on the island of St. Vincent.

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Wiñaypacha
Eternity

Available April 16–30


Director

Óscar Catacora (Aymara)

Region

Peru

Language

Aymara

Year

2017

Runtime

86 min.

Category

Dramatic Feature

This film is no longer available.

Willka and Phaxsi, an eldery couple living in a remote part of the Peruvian Andes, stand together and take on the challenges that each day presents, awaiting the return of their long-absent son. This beautifully shot and sometimes heart-wrenching story is the first Peruvian feature film to be made completely in the Aymara language.

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The Forbidden Strings

No longer available

U.S. Premiere

Director

Hasan Noori

Regions

Iran, Afghanistan, Qatar

Language

Persian

Year

2019

Runtime

71 min.

Category

Documentary Feature

This film is no longer available.

Soori, Hakim, Akbar, and Mohammed have a collective dream: to travel from Iran to their parents’ homeland of Afghanistan and perform at their first rock concert. Working as migrant laborers during the day, the group practices in a studio away from their families at night. Throughout their journey, the four young band members face the complicated nature of making politically minded music that reflects their lived reality as migrants from Afghanistan.

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Haka Puai te Kainga
Eating Up Easter

Available April 27–May 11


Director

Sergio M. Rapu (Rapa Nui)

Regions

United States, Chile (Rapa Nui)

Languages

English, Spanish, Rapa Nui

Year

2018

Runtime

77 min.

Category

Documentary Feature

This film is no longer available.

Rapa Nui filmmaker Sergio Rapu explores the negative effects of tourism on his home island. Crafted as a story to pass down to his newborn son, Rapu intertwines the history of the island with the stories of four islanders. In their own voices, they reveal the reality of modern life and the actions they are taking to preserve their culture and environment amid rapid development.

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The Land of Eb

Available May 1–31


Director

Andrew Williamson

Regions

Marshall Islands, Hawai‘i

Languages

Marshallese, English

Year

2012

Runtime

87 min.

Category

Dramatic Feature

This film will be available to watch on this page on May 1. No registration is required.

Jacob Jackson has dedicated his life to supporting his family in Hawai‘i, especially after being displaced from his home in the Marshall Islands due to nuclear weapons testing. Jacob is notably resilient and continues to support his family even after being diagnosed with cancer. Despite facing hardships such as healthcare access and illiteracy, Jacob shows that he is a natural leader and father whose utmost priority is his family’s future in Hawai‘i.

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Source of the Wound

No longer available


Source of the Wound animation still.
Director

Adrian Baker

Region

United States

Language

English

Year

2019

Runtime

6 min.

Category

Animated Short

This film is no longer available.

Through vivid animation, the nature of historical collective trauma in Indigenous communities is explained. While the impact of emotional trauma continues to move across generations, many communities are trying to actively combat these emotional wounds. By way of storytelling, dancing, and singing, communities are changing the narrative to define what it currently means to be Indigenous.

Are you enjoying the sixth annual Mother Tongue Film Festival? We invite you to take a five-minute survey to help us improve next year’s event.

Related Reading

Prof. Ramona Beltrán explores historical trauma and healing in award-winning animated short film (Interdisciplinary Research Institute for the Study of (in)Equality)

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Yaõkwá – Image and Memory

Available February 21–May 31


Director

Vincent Carelli

Region

Brazil

Languages

Portuguese, Enawenê-Nawê

Year

2020

Runtime

22 min.

Category

Documentary Short

This film will be available to watch on this page on February 21. No registration is required.

In 1995, a team of filmmakers and anthropologists recorded ceremonies and daily life with the Enawenê-Nawê of the state of Mato Grosso, in central Brazil. Twenty-five years later, more than 300 hours of images of the Yaõkwá ritual, a seven-month festivity recognized as Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, were cataloged and edited by the Vídeo nas Aldeias collective with the participation of the Enawenê-Nawê community. This film documents the arrival of these precious images back to the villages, reintroducing the history of the ceremony to a new generation.

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Related Viewing

Louder than Words with Vincent Carelli (Prince Claus Fund)

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Nixíí (Bastón de mando)

Available February 21–May 31


Director

José Luis Matías (Nahua)

Region

Mexico

Languages

Me’phaa, Spanish

Year

2020

Runtime

38 min.

Category

Documentary Short

This film will be available to watch on this page on February 21. No registration is required. Watch the trailer.

In the Me’phaa community of Apetzuca, in the municipality of Acatepec, Guerrero, in southwestern Mexico, newly elected leaders receive their staffs of authority in a public ceremony, followed by a series of closed rituals. They are purified by smudging, drinking chile soup, fasting, and ceremonies guided by the spiritual authorities, elders who make offerings to help them carry out their responsibilities and lead well.

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Kiraiñia (Long Flutes)

No longer available


Director

Juan Castrillón

Region

Colombia

Languages

Pamie (Cubeo), Spanish

Year

2019

Runtime

36 min.

Category

Documentary Short

This film is no longer available.

In the Northwest Amazon, a Cubeo Emi-Hehenewa community living along the Vaupés River in southern Colombia reassembles instruments and ritual practices that were prohibited by Catholic and Protestant missionaries during the mid-1950s. In an essayistic gesture, the film pieces together fragments of daily life shared by the director, an ethnomusicologist, and the community, in their common attempt to evoke the sound of kiraiñia, the long flutes.

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Mujeres Espíritu
Spirit Women

Available February 21–May 31


Director

Francisco Huichaqueo (Mapuche)

Region

Chile

Languages

Tstotsil, Mapuzungun, Quechua, Spanish

Year

2020

Runtime

43 min.

Category

Documentary Short

This film will be available to watch on this page on February 21. No registration is required. Watch the trailer.

Mapuche director Francisco Huichaqueo paints a collective portrait of five women united by spirituality and poetry. This filmic journey is told through the words of Indigenous women from different territories, joined by the sonority of their mother tongues, which forms a braid that bonds them forever.

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Ada Blackjack Rising

No longer available


Director

Brice Habeger

Region

Alaska

Languages

Iñupiaq, English

Year

2020

Runtime

7 min.

Category

Experimental Dramatic Short

This film is no longer available.

A young Iñupiaq and Yupik woman from Alaska retells the true story of Ada Blackjack, who, after facing hardships in her personal life, pushed herself to join a harrowing 1921 expedition to the Arctic. She was the lone survivor. Mixing live action, animation, illustration, and archival photography, this short film reflects on the loneliness Ada must have felt and the strength she found to survive such harsh conditions.

Produced by Holly Mititquq Nordlum (Iñupiaq) and Paddy Eason, the team worked closely with an Alaska Native cast. The majority of the film is spoken in Iñupiaq by Nome resident and teacher Madelyn Alvanna-Stimpfle. The original music was composed by Chris David (Tlingit) of Juneau.

Are you enjoying the sixth annual Mother Tongue Film Festival? We invite you to take a five-minute survey to help us improve next year’s event.

Related Reading

True story of survival in the Arctic (Indian Country Today)

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Kawsakunchik
Our Resistance

Available February 21–May 31

U.S. Premiere

Directors

Alberto Muenala
Frida Muenala

Region

Ecuador

Language

Kichwa

Year

2019

Runtime

10 min.

Category

Documentary Short

This film will be available to watch on this page on February 21. No registration is required.

No longer subjected to violence and exploitation, former workers of the San Pedro textile mill in highland Ecuador share their stories and path toward collective ownership of their factory—now transformed into a museum to celebrate their Kichwa language and culture.

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Singing Pictures

No longer available


Directors

Lina Fruzzetti
Ákos Östör
Aditi Nath Sarkar

Region

India

Language

Bengali

Year

2005

Runtime

40 min.

Category

Documentary Short

This film is no longer available.

In response to a cultural crisis and in an attempt to make money for their families, a group of women in the village of Naya (West Bengal, India) decide to form a cooperative to learn and practice the craft of scroll-painting. The stories, which were traditionally religious in nature, have shifted in content due to competition from other forms of media. The women navigate their daily lives while transforming the art of painting and performing scrolls to include new themes: societal concerns, women’s issues, and world news.

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Fishers of Dar

No longer available


Directors

Lina Fruzzetti
Ákos Östör
Steven Ross

Region

Tanzania

Language

Swahili

Year

2001

Runtime

38 min.

Category

Documentary Short

This film is no longer available.

Although Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, is a metropolis of three million people, the city’s demand for fish is met entirely by the local fishing community, equipped with traditional methods and tools that have been used for hundreds of years. Over the course of a day, and eschewing commentary and voiceover explanation, this film opens with the daily activities of a small fishing community and tracks the movement of the fishermen to the central fish market and pier in the harbor, where hundreds of people make a living in the process.

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Seed and Earth

No longer available


Directors

Lina Fruzzetti
Alfred Guzzetti
Ned Johnston
Ákos Östör

Region

India

Language

Bengali

Year

1995

Runtime

36 min.

Category

Documentary Short

This film is no longer available.

Following the everyday life of the families of two brothers who live side by side, Seed and Earth explores how gender and age determine work, ritual, and leisure activities in rural West Bengal.

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Khalfan and Zanzibar

No longer available


Directors

Lina Fruzzetti
Alfred Guzzetti
Ákos Östör

Region

Zanzibar

Language

English

Year

2000

Runtime

25 min.

Category

Documentary Short

This film is no longer available.

Khalfan Hamid Khalfan has dedicated much of his time to running the Association of the Disabled in Zanzibar, off the coast of Tanzania. Footage showing the lives of Zanzibar’s disabled population as well as the history and culture of Zanzibar, contextualizes Khalfan’s vital work within his community.

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Songs of a Sorrowful Man

No longer available


Directors

Lina Fruzzetti
Ákos Östör
Aditi Nath Sarkar

Region

India

Language

Bengali

Year

2009

Runtime

35 min.

Category

Documentary Short

This film is no longer available.

Dukhashyam, a progressive artist and thinker, explores his vision of the decline and rebirth of his art through multiple lenses: his tolerant Sufi Muslim spirituality, his engagement with contemporary society, his knowledge of changing artistic histories and techniques, and his teachings for future generations of artists in his community.

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Hinekura

No longer available


Director

Becs Arahanga (Kai Tahu, Ngati Raukawa)

Region

New Zealand

Language

Te Reo Māori

Year

2019

Runtime

18 min.

Category

Dramatic Short

This film is no longer available.

As a Māori girl transitions into womanhood, she leaves behind the mischief of childhood for the responsibilities associated with protecting her people. Hinekura follows her ceremonial journey in accepting her role as a warrior and a woman, marked by the internal and external struggles that exist in growing up.

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Mawhialeo Ote Alowha
Our Love

No longer available


Director

Valeriya Golovina

Region

New Zealand

Languages

Tokelauan, English

Year

2020

Runtime

16 min.

Category

Documentary Short

This film is no longer available.

Meli and Avito are both native to Tokelau and grew up expecting to spend their lives on the small island. After their son Joseph is born, Meli and Avito realize that they will have to move to New Zealand to seek a better life, despite the obstacles they will endure navigating life in an English-speaking country, away from home.

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The Mountain of SGaana

No longer available


Director

Christopher Auchter

Region

Canada

Language

Haida

Year

2017

Runtime

10 min.

Category

Animated Short

This film is no longer available.

Through weaving a blanket bearing traditional Haida imagery, a storytelling mouse shares the tale of a man whisked away to the spirit world and the trials faced by a young woman destined to save him. Based on a Haida fable, this magical story interweaves animation with Haida art and song.

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Haiti Tablo A
The Blackboard

No longer available


Haiti Tablo A / The Blackboard
Directors

VJ.A. Bayona
Emilio Martí López

Region

Haiti

Language

Haitian Creole

Year

2015

Runtime

6 min.

Category

Animated Short

This film is no longer available.

Adline enjoys playing soccer, but in place of a ball she uses a plastic bottle. In the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, soccer balls are just one of the resources no longer easily available. Despite her community’s displacement, Adline finds comfort at her school where the doors are always open.

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Growing the Fire Within: Creating new adult speakers of Indigenous languages

No longer available


Growing the Fire Within: Creating new adult speakers of Indigenous languages
Directors

Kari A.B. Chew
Jacob Manatowa-Bailey
Megan Lukaniec
Onowa McIvor
Mary Linn

Regions

Canada, United States

Language

English

Year

2020

Runtime

5 min.

Category

Animated Documentary Short

This film is no longer available.

Often in language revitalization efforts, language acquisition is catered toward the youngest generation—excluding those who did not have the same educational resources growing up. This short calls to action both allies and Indigenous communities to be active members in this process of revitalization.

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Luh Ayu Manik Mas

No longer available


Luh Ayu Manik Mas
Directors

Clara Listya Dewi
Ngurah Yudha
BASAbali

Region

Bali

Language

Balinese

Year

2020

Runtime

4 min.

Category

Animated Short

This film is no longer available.

At first glance, Luh Ayu Manik Mas is an average Balinese eighth grader. But when environmental disaster strikes, she channels a powerful energy deep within herself to become a superhero capable of bringing harmony back to nature. Superhero Luh Ayu is the creation of BASAbali, a collaboration of linguists, anthropologists, artists, and community members of Bali with a shared goal of spreading awareness to the protection and sustainability of the Balinese language, environment and culture.

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The Eighth Province

No longer available


Director

Kyle Baker

Region

United States

Languages

Basque, English

Year

2020

Runtime

20 min.

Category

Documentary Short

This film is no longer available.

In an effort to retain their language and culture, Basque immigrants in Bakersfield, California, have worked hard to sustain their language and pass down musical traditions through community efforts. However, approaches to cultural identity and tradition vary across generations.

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Basque Diaspora in the United States (Smithsonian Folklife Festival)

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Wási

No longer available


Directors

Amado Villafaña Chaparro (Arahuaco)
Sebastian Gomez Ruiz

Region

Colombia

Languages

Spanish, Iku (Arahuaco)

Year

2017

Runtime

16 min.

Category

Documentary Short

This film is no longer available.

As the sun rises on an Arahuac village in northern Colombia, the villagers begin their day. Arhuaco filmmaker Amado Vilafaña Chaparro, the film’s co-director, shares his thoughts on anthropologists like Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff and Robert Gardner, and the (mis)representations they produce. Ultimately, he, and this film, affirm the power Indigenous people can seize by taking up the camera themselves— becoming authors of their image and authors of knowledge.

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Sky Aelans

No longer available


Directors

Georgianna Lepping, Jeremy Gwao, Regina Lepping, Zahiyd Namo, Junior Patrick Makau, Manner Le?vo, Neil Nuia, Daniel Kakadi, Edward Manuga

Region

Solomon Islands

Language

Solomon Island Pijin

Year

2020

Runtime

6 min.

Category

Documentary Short

This film is no longer available.

Sacred lands around the world have faced severe destruction, seen the extinction of plants and animals, and felt the displacement of Indigenous peoples. All too aware of this dangerous fate, Indigenous communities of the Solomon Islands have worked to protect and prevent their sacred forests, Sky Aelans, from facing exploitation.

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Island to Island

Available May 1–31


Directors

Jacqueline Hazen

Region

Hawai‘i

Languages

Ōlelo Hawai‘i, English, Thakiwaki and Meskwaki Algonquian, Shinnecock

Year

2017

Runtime

24 min.

Category

Documentary Short

This film will be available to watch on this page on May 1. No registration is required.

In the fall of 2015, Kris Kato, an emerging filmmaker, and Keoni DeFranco, the founder of a communications technology start-up, were initiated as kahu oli, caretakers of Hawaiian chant. Both young men live and work in New York City—but now, with the dual responsibilities to safeguard and share this Indigenous, familial tradition. This film highlights the voices of Kris, Keoni, and other members of the Hawaiian diaspora community who are integrating oli into the sounds of the island of Manhattan.

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Kapaemahu

Available May 1–31


Director

Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu

Region

Hawai‘i

Language

Ōlelo Ni‘ihau Hawaiian

Year

2020

Runtime

8 min.

Category

Animated Short

This film will be available to watch on this page on May 1. No registration is required. Watch the trailer.

Four spiritual beings of dual masculine and feminine energy traveled from Tahiti to Waikiki many years ago, bringing with them healing arts that blessed the people of Hawai‘i. Eternally grateful for their healing abilities, the people of Waikiki erected a monument to honor these incredible beings. Told in the ʻŌlelo Ni‘ihau Hawaiian language, Kapaemahu breathes life into a beautiful story that has been hidden from history for far too long.

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The Greedy Emu

Available May 1–31


Director

Terrah Guymala

Region

Australia

Language

Kunuwinjku

Year

2017

Runtime

14 min.

Category

Narrative Short

This film will be available to watch on this page on May 1. No registration is required.

After accepting the responsibility of caring for several orphans, a selfish older woman denies them food and takes it for herself. Yet, as this ancestral story from Western Arnhemland reminds us, there are consequences to being greedy—the ramifications of which are playfully explored.

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My Name Is Mudju

Available May 17–19


Director

Chantelle Murray

Region

Australia

Languages

Yugarabul, English

Year

2018

Runtime

14 min.

Category

Narrative Short

Register now to watch the film between May 17 and 19. A viewing link will be sent to your inbox.

Mudju and her daughter Munna fall victim to the Australian government, whose mission is to separate Aboriginal children from their parents in order to assimilate them. After facing repeated violence in multiple forms, Mudju is forced to learn English in order to save her child from the Christian mission where she is being held captive.

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Yulubidyi
Until the End

Available May 1–31


Directors

Curtis Taylor
Nathan Mewett

Region

Australia

Language

Martu

Year

2017

Runtime

12 min.

Category

Narrative Short

This film will be available to watch on this page on May 1. No registration is required. Watch the trailer.

Jarman is an Aboriginal man living in the western deserts of Australia with other members of the Martu community. Despite facing harsh difficulties and an abusive father, Jarman has taken on the role of protecting his younger disabled brother who he believes is protected by the spirit Mamu.

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Opening Ceremony: The Healing Power of Storytelling

Plus Talkback with Waikiki Filmmakers

Premieres on Sunday, February 21, at 6 pm ET


Opening Ceremony

Welcome to the Smithsonian’s 2021 Mother Tongue Film Festival! The Opening Ceremony video includes remarks from the curators of the festival and the Secretary of the Smithsonian, Lonnie Bunch.

  • Amalia Córdova, Latinx Digital Curator, Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
  • Gwyneira Isaac, Curator of North American Indigenous Culture, National Museum of Natural History
  • Mary S. Linn, Curator of Language and Cultural Vitality, CFCH
  • Joshua A. Bell, Curator of Globalization, NMNH
  • Kālewa Correa, Curator of Curator of Hawaiʻi and the Pacific, Asian Pacific American Center

Talkback with Waikiki Filmmakers

In this “talkback,” Kālewa Correa interviews filmmakers of Waikiki: director Christopher Kahunahana, producer Nicole Naone, and actor Danielle Zalopany, who plays Kea. Correa is one of the coordinators of the Mother Tongue Film Festival and the curator of Hawai‘i and the Pacific at the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center.

Waikiki is available to stream from February 21 to 27 in the United States. Viewership is limited to 400 people on a first-come, first-served basis. Register for free tickets.

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Conversation with the Director: Teko Haxy/Being Imperfect

Premieres on Sunday, February 21, at 6 pm ET


In conversation with festival co-director Amalia Córdova, filmmaker Sophie Pinheiro discusses the process and inspiration behind her experimental documentary Teko Haxy/Being Imperfect, available February 21 to March 31.

Sophia is a filmmaker, teacher and anthropologist. She recently completed the postgraduate program in film and audiovisual media at the Universidade Federal Fluminense in Rio de Janeiro. She has won awards for her visual and film works, which have been exhibited across Brazil and abroad. Her first mid-length film TEKO HAXY/Being Imperfect was co-directed with filmmaker Patrícia Ferreira, one of the most engaged women among Brazil’s Indigenous filmmakers.

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Women Directors Panel

Friday, March 5, at 2 pm ET


Women are often entrusted with cultural and language transmission, and we highlight this responsibility by bringing together women directors on a roundtable each year. Join us for a conversation with Becs Arahanga (Hinekura), Valeriya Golovina (Our Love), and Sophia Pinheiro and Patrícia Ferreira (Being Imperfect), moderated by festival co-director Amalia Córdova and curator and filmmaker Cass Gardiner.

Live real-time captioning (CART) and American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation will be provided for this program while it is live. To access, please follow the links below.

Simulcast with ASL and Captions: s.si.edu/folklifeASL
Live Captions only via Streamtext: s.si.edu/folklifeCART

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Documentary Filmmaker Discussion: Tote/Grandfather

Thursday, February 25, at 6:30 pm ET


This event is co-presented with Columbia University School of the Arts.

Accompanying the film Tote/Grandfather, writer and director Marίa Sojob join Mother Tongue co-director Amalia Córdova and Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Sebastián Díaz in conversation. The discussion is introduced by Ron Gregg of Columbia University’s Film and Media Studies department.

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Archival Roundtable: Anthropologists as Storytellers

Friday, March 19, at 2 pm ET


Join us for a roundtable discussion exploring the thirty-year collaboration between anthropologists and filmmakers Lina Fruzzetti (Brown University) and Ákos Östör (Wesleyan University), spanning numerous publications and six films. Moderated by Alice Apley (director, Documentary Education Resources) and joined by Pam Wintle (senior film archivist, Human Studies Film Archive), this roundtable will focus on Fruzzetti and Östör’s important body of work, and the trajectory and craft of their filmmaking and storytelling as anthropologists.

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Conversation with the Director: The Mountain

Friday, March 26, at 9 am ET


This event is co-sponsored by the Taiwan Academy, the Taiwan Ministry of Culture, and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art

In conversation with National Museum of Asian Art film curator Tom Vick, filmmaker Su Hung-En will discuss his documentary The Mountain, available March 22 to April 4. Learn about the history of Taiwan’s Indigenous peoples’ recertification movement in this Q&A, focusing on creativity and cultural perseverance under the challenges of forced assimilation.

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A Discussion on Language Revitalization

Friday, April 2, at 1 pm ET


Language reclamation, pressures on language from current and historical dislocation and forced relocations, and filmmaking for educational purposes are some of the through lines that will be explored in our education roundtable. Smithsonian curator Mary Linn will moderate the live discussion with Ruben Reyes, director of Garifuna in Peril; Kari Chew (Chickasaw), the project lead for Growing the Fire Within; and Putu Desy Apriliani, manager of the “scholars’ room” bookshelf in BASAbali, the organization involved with the development of Luh Ayu Manik Mas.

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Conversation with the Director: The Forbidden Strings

Monday, April 26, at noon ET


Soori, Hakim, Akbar, and Mohammed have a collective dream: to travel from Iran to their parents’ homeland of Afghanistan and play their first rock concert. Discussing their feature-length film The Forbidden Strings, director Hasan Noori and producer Afsaneh Salari explore the intricacies of production with the National Museum of Asian Art film curator, Tom Vick.

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Conversation with the Director: Eating Up Easter

Friday, April 30, at noon ET


In Haka Puai Te Kainga / Eating Up Easter, director Sergio Rapu speaks to the pressures the people of Rapa Nui (Easter Island) feel amid increased tourism and development. Rapu, alongside Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center curator Kālewa Correa, discusses the power of environmental storytelling explored in the film.

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Conversation with the Director: The Land of Eb

Friday, May 7, at 4 pm ET


A portrait of resilience, The Land of Eb encapsulates the barriers experienced by Marshallese communities displaced by nuclear weapon testing that has forever altered the islands they call home. Join us for an engaging conversation with the film’s director, Andrew Williamson, and lead actor Jonithen Jackson, moderated by festival co-director Joshua Bell.

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Conversation with the Director: Island to Island

Friday, May 21, at noon ET


After being initiated as kahu oli, caretakers of Hawaiian chant, filmmakers Kris Kato and Keoni DeFranco recognized their responsibility to uphold their traditions while far from home in New York City. In conversation with Kris, Keoni, and the film’s director, Jacueline Hazen, festival co-director Joshua Bell will discuss the importance of holding space for our own cultural practices across geographical boundaries.

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Roundtable Discussion: The Healing Power of Storytelling

Friday, May 14, at 5 pm ET


Exploring our 2021 theme, the healing power of storytelling, this panel highlights the unique ability of film to project stories to places they might have never traveled before—bringing connection, understanding, and healing. Moderated by festival co-director Joshua Bell and Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center curator Kālewa Correa, directors Christopher Auchter (The Mountain of Sgaana), Adrian Baker (Source of the Wound), Christopher Kahunahana (Waikiki), and Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu (Kapaemahu) will discuss the role of storytelling in their films.

Live real-time captioning (CART) and American Sign Language interpretation will be provided for this program while it is live. To access, follow the links below.
Simulcast with ASL and captions via Zoom: s.si.edu/folklifeASL
Live captions only via Streamtext: s.si.edu/folklifeCART

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