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Poster for Imagining the Indian (2023)
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Imagining the Indian (2023)

Opens on April 21

Director: Aviva Kempner, Ben West Run Time: 95 min. Release Year: 2021

Country: United States
Language: English

About the film:

Audience Choice Award for Documentary Film at the 2022 SOO Film Festival
Best Documentary at the 2022 Boston International Film Festival

Exploring the movement that is ending the use of Native American names, logos, and mascots in the world of sports and beyond. The film details the current uprising against the misappropriation of Native culture in a national reckoning about racial injustice that has succeeded in the removal of Confederate imagery, toppling statues of Christopher Columbus and forcing corporate sponsors of Washington’s NFL team to demand it change its most-offensive name.

“shines a much-needed spotlight on the tireless, heroic work”

–Robert Abele, Los Angeles Times

Imagining the Indian (2023) examines the origin and proliferation of the words, images, and gestures that many Native people and their allies find offensive. It explores the impact that stereotyping and marginalization of Native history have had on Native people, and chronicles the long social movement to eliminate mascoting.

About the filmmakers:

Aviva Kempner is an American documentary filmmaker with a focus on lesser-known Jewish heroes and social justice. While attending the Antioch School of Law in Washington, D.C., she interned at the Office of the Solicitor at the Department of Interior’s Indian Affairs. Upon graduation, she worked at the National Tribal Chairman’s Association and the National Conference of American Indians.

Kempner made her directorial debut with the Emmy-nominated and Peabody-awarded The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg (1998) about the Hall of Famer who faced anti-Semitism during the ’30s. Her other projects include Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg (2009) about the creator of the first television sitcom, Rosenwald (2015) about the Chicago businessman who partnered with Booker T. Washington in establishing thousands of schools for African Americans, and The Spy Behind Home Plate (2019) about baseball player Moe Berg spying on the Nazis’ atomic bomb program.

Ben West is a freelance writer, producer, director, and consultant with the Ciesla Foundation. He spent many years in television production at Carsey-Werner Mandabach LLC and has worked on feature films for companies like Telenova Productions, and outlets such as the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian. In addition to his endeavors in entertainment, he is Southern Cheyenne and an advocate for Native American rights.

West met Kempner at the Smithsonian, and they initially collaborated on a screenplay about Navajo activist Larry Casuse that ultimately led to their award-winning feature documentary Imagining the Indian (2023).

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Ohio Arts Council
Greater Columbus Arts Council
The Columbus Foundation
Campus Partners
National Endowment for the Arts
CD 92.9 FM
G&J Pepsi
WOSU Public Media


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