Exclusive Interview By: Iride Aparicio

Photos Courtesy: Ryan Bruce Levey Film Distribution

SILICON VALLEY, CA -- Recognized as one, among the Top Film festivals in the nation, CINEQUEST FILM & CREATIVITY FESTIVAL attracts the most talented filmmakers from around the world. And this year, running Online from March 20 through March 30, was no exception.

But, because of the pandemic, this year's films send to the Festival featured by CINEJOY, instead of being projected in theatres will be be streamed to our computers at home, the amount of Links to films, e-mailed to Cultural World Bilingual for our perusal was enormous. And because the quality of the films was excellent and their subjects so broad, to select the filmmakers we wanted to interview, and the works we wanted to review in our online website, was challenging.

As we publish our first interview, we would like to thank each one of the Public Relations people who e-mailed Links of their films to us. and let them know that being unable to review them all in our Online Website, we chose to review only those films that their subject matter was relevant to the problems we are facing today, that excelled in their technical effects, and which depicted a subject matter that pulled the strings of our heart.

Our first choice was NON WESTERN, a Feature Documentary, described as "A Story about displacement."  It caught our attention immediately, because is a documentary based on the true inter-racial Native/Non Native couple in Montana between a man and a woman, which is visually presented in a perfectly edited film, which gives the audience the impression that the plot is being "acted" but it is not. What we see is what it is actually happening to this couple, when it is happening, being recorded on camera.  Unique about this documentary, is that as spectators, its direction allows us (the audience) not only to get to know these two characters intimately, but to get to learn some aspects of their culture, the challenges their interracial union is already facing and through their struggles witness the on-going chain of oppression, their exploring their gender roles, according to their tribes' traditions and their identity issues already affecting the different generations in Montana. Watching the couple, we the audience, have also the chance to observe their different cultural clashes as they are evolving. To listen to their dialogue as they expose their different points of view to each other, and learn how racial and gender differences may be resolved with proper communication.  

Directed by Mexican Directora (As women directors are called in Spanish)  LAURA PLANCARTE, the documentary will premier in the USA during  CINEQUEST 2021 so anybody who holds a ticket to the festival will be able to watch NON WESTERN Online. On our part, and because after watching it we also wanted to discuss it, Cultural World Bilingual interviewed Directora PLANCARTE from Mexico City, by phone. When asked to describe NON WESTERN in her own words, this is what she told us:

L. P.: "NON WESTERN is a film, set in Montana, about an interracial couple who are going to get married. In the film, we (She and her crew) accompanied them to explore their cultures' clashes and got to know them so well, that they allowed us to observe how they were discussing their differences among themselves and try to resolve them, to determine if they were going to be able to get married and become a family. " Now LAURA gets personal.

"But for me, this film is much deeper that the portrayal of these characters. I think that what this film really is, is an exploration of human behavior. How we choose the things we decided to choose and how what we choose had a lot to do with our past, our own baggage, our childhood traumas and the oppression of our generations.

C.W.B.  How did you become familiar with their story?
L.P. "I am Mexican, but (as a filmmaker) I am based in London, which is the reason why I am making a film in Montana.  In my previous film, called HERMANOS (Brothers) I worked with an American woman who was an ex-beauty queen from the state of Montana, and because she needed to film there, I travelled with her to Montana. When we got there, I fell in love with the state, not only because of its landscape, which is beautiful, but because of its people. Montana may seem very far away from México, (in distance) but in a way it is very similar to México because both Montana and México have a situation with the indigenous people who were colonized by European settlers. So the situation, created different groups, convene in the same area that was familiar to me because I grew up in México seeing the same thing happening."
"I met Nanci Red Bird (the leading female character in her documentary) in Montana, and I was attracted to her because I could see myself in her in many ways and I wanted to explore, deeper, the situation of:  why do we choose the things we choose in life."

C.W.B.  As a Directora, of the documentary how did you decided how to display their Conflict?
L.P: "By letting the audience know that Thaddeus is a Cheyenne (An American Indian tribe divided since l832 into a Northern and Southern Cheyenne living in East Montana and Southern Colorado) Indian man who, as a young boy, left his reservation after he realized that there, he was either going to be killed or ended up killing somebody and that after the left, Thaddeus was taken in by a white Christian family and raised by them. "

"On her part, Nanci is Mexican, so she is a white woman, but when she was 13 years old she saw her mom, being used not only by her father but by other men and needed to flee away with her mother. When, after fleeing, they got homeless, they were "adopted" by the Lakota tribe. (A Native American Tribe also known as the Teton Sioux one of the three prominent subcultures of the Sioux American Indians, whose reservations is in North and South Dakota) so, for the first time, Nanci had a father in the Lakota tribe. was raised as a Lakota, and taught to practice Lakota traditions since she was a teenager."  

"And because both Thaddeus and Nanci had been "adopted" by another culture, when they met, they got attracted to each other and believe that they belonged together. They are now in love and both want to get married, even knowing that they will have to face many challenges in their lives because of their difference in cultures. By discussing their problems with each other, they are trying to solve them. That is the story I presented in the documentary.

NONWESTERN_Still 7.jpg

C.W.B. How did they first meet? Because that part was not clear to me in the documentary.
L.P. :"It is there, but maybe not clear because how we show it was with Thaddeus,  cutting wood because he is now on his way to become a Medicine Man, and he was organizing a  "Sweat" outside the reservation for those people who may not be American Indians, but believe that  "Sweatings" are good for the purification of their souls and bodies. Nanci is among them on that day, because as a Lakota she practices native traditions and that is how they met, while she was attending Thaddeus "Native American "Sweat lodge"

CWB. What is a "Sweat Lodge?
L.P.  It is the ritual, which all American Indian tribes practice. The Sweat Lodge is actually a ritual for them, and everything in it has a meaning. It consists in a dome-shaped or oblong lodge, tepee or cocoon, which is constructed of natural materials like cedar branches, to build the structure, and inside there, at its center, they make a hole in the ground, where they place hot rocks to make a fire which is called "the "Sacred Fire." During the ceremony, everybody sits around this fire in the darkness and chant, pray, or tell stories. There are different types of "Sweats" and each has a different focus. But the purpose of all of them is to help people to find healing by sweating, because they believe that sweating will purify their bodies and their souls."

C.W.B. Why did you not include the ritual in your documentary?
L.P. "I wanted to, because I experienced the ceremony with Nanci and it was wonderful, but because it is considered a Sacred Ceremony for the American Indian tribes, they did not allow us  to film it, so the only thing you see in the documentary is Thaddeus, outside, cutting the wood and collecting rocks to  building the fire."

C.W.B. And to end our interview, Laura, how did a Mexicana become a Film directora? (The reason for our question is because as a rule, the film industry in México is run by men).

L.P. "I worked as an Artist in México, doing installations related to visual and Performance Arts, and wanted to evolved in my practice, so I began looking for a grant, and I was given the opportunity to go to London, to do the equivalent of an intense diploma in filmmaking and the idée was that I was going to use my knowledge in my Video Art. But, when I arrived in London, I felt in love with filmmaking, and because some times in life unexpected things happen, I ended up finding jobs in London, so I stayed. I have been living there for twelve years and I am working almost full time as a filmmaker."

The Crew of NON WESTERN with THADDEUS sitting at the at the center and NANCI, wearing a white dress, Standing behind him.

Founded by the Montana Film Office & TV  UNAM
Starring: Thaddeus and Nanci Red Bird

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