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Films Explore Native Peoples, Culture Conflict



The city of Los Angeles, California is famous as the home of America's movie industry. A recent film festival there presented a number of movies about native peoples and cultures. The Garifuna International Film Festival takes place every year in May. This marked the event's fourth year.

The films focus on peoples like the Garifuna -- Central Americans of combined African, Carib and Arawak ancestry.

Filmmaker and actor Ruben Reyes is Garifuna. He co-produced the movie "Garifuna in Peril."

"We come to the United States and other countries, then our children want to be American. But when we teach them the importance of being Garifuna, then they start to show interest in the language."

A film called "The Holy Man: The USA vs Douglas White" looks at a spiritual leader accused of a crime and imprisoned. The story comes from the Pine Ridge reservation of Lakota people. The filmmakers found problems in the case against Douglas White and had it reopened. The story examines neglect and poverty, and a rich culture.

Husband and wife team Simon Joseph and Jennifer Jessum made the film. Actor Martin Sheen narrates the story. Here is Martin Sheen with Jennifer Jessum from a video clip seen on YouTube:

"Pine Ridge Indian reservation is home to the Lakota people, also known as the great Sioux nation."

"It is kind of a small story that takes on some bigger issues."

Dancer Olu Yemisi documents her dance troupe in the film "Rhythm and Body Language." The group performs to music with roots in Latin, Caribbean and American jazz.

"This film actually follows some years of us performing in different venues."

A Cantonese-language film, "Red Passage," looks at a different kind of culture clash in Hong Kong. Forty years ago, a few liberal schools in the British colony supported ideas then current in mainland China during the Cultural Revolution.

The story is based on the childhood of filmmaker Ho Yi.

"When this boy got into this kind of school, he suffers and feels lonely and feels confused."

Freda Sideroff is the founder and organizer of the Garifuna International Film Festival. She is Garifuna. She says some films this year examined cultural conflict and others loss of language.

"The aborigines, the Hawaiians with their language, and we have the Welsh."

She says they are languages and cultures worth protecting.

I'm Jill Robbins.

VOA's Mike Sullivan reported on this story from Los Angeles, California. Caty Weaver adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

focus v. to direct attention or effort at something

reservation n. territory in the U.S. that is kept separate as a place for Native Americans to live

neglect n. the condition of not being taken care of

narrate v. to say the words that are heard as part of (a movie, television show, etc.) and that describe what is being seen; to do the narration for (something)

confused adj. unable to understand or think clearly

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