Award-Winning High School Film “Tsiiyééł” Showcases Native American Culture and Blackmagic Design Technology

(June, 5, 2023 – by Cirina Catania with Blackmagic Design) Flagstaff Bordertown Dormitory‘s high school filmmakers, in collaboration with the University of Arizona’s School of Theatre, Film and Television, have crafted an exceptional film titled “Tsiiyééł” that highlights the strength drawn from Native American culture.

This remarkable production, created using Blackmagic Design digital film cameras and the powerful DaVinci Resolve Studio editing software, has garnered critical acclaim, earning it a place at prestigious international film festivals, including imagineNATIVE, the world’s largest indigenous film festival.

I was fortunate to have visited Kinlani on behalf of Blackmagic Design and to meet Oakley Anderson Moore. This brief two days, in Flagstaff showed me firsthand how important this work is. Oakley and her students are are bright lights. It was the highlight of my year and I am so happy that Oakley’s dedication to these young creatives is taking them on important journeys into the understanding of their culture. Sharing their stories is important and rewarding.

Drawing Strength from Native American Culture:

“Tsiiyééł” tells the story of a Diné teenager, portrayed by Hailee Bekis, who embarks on a transformative journey. Feeling down, she dons her Tsiiyééł, a traditional Diné hair bun, and goes for a run. During her excursion, she encounters a mysterious creature that challenges her sense of self, prompting her to tap into the resilience and heritage of her culture. Through embracing her identity conflict, she finds the strength to overcome obstacles and discover her true self.

Success on the Film Festival Circuit:

The festival and awards office at the University of Arizona’s School of Theatre, Film and Television developed a strategic plan for “Tsiiyééł,” leading to its impressive reception at ten international film festivals. The film’s screening locations spanned across the United States and Europe, including notable events like the All American High School Film Festival in New York, the American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco, CineFestival San Antonio, and the UK’s Native Spirit Film Festival. Each festival provided an opportunity for audiences to connect with the film’s compelling narrative and celebrate the talent of the young filmmakers.

Empowering High School Students through the Kinlani Film Project:

The Kinlani Film Project is an after-school filmmaking program catering to Diné, Hopi, Tohono O’odham, and Havasupai high school students. It operates at the Flagstaff Bordertown Dormitory, a facility committed to nurturing students’ growth by offering a positive, healthy, social, and educational environment rooted in Diné/Navajo and Native American knowledge and language. The students behind “Tsiiyééł” utilized Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro and URSA Mini Pro 4.6K G2 digital film cameras for filming, while the post-production phase, including editing and grading, was accomplished using DaVinci Resolve Studio. Kristian Jackson, an alumnus of the University of Arizona School of Theatre, Film and Television, mentored the students remotely through cloud-based collaboration.

Overcoming Challenges with Blackmagic Design Technology:

Filming “Tsiiyééł” presented the crew with the difficulty of capturing scenes in unpredictable lighting and cold weather conditions. However, the Blackmagic Design cameras, renowned for their low light capabilities, along with the Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro’s internal ND filters, offered the freedom to capture the desired shots that aligned with the filmmakers’ vision. Additionally, the crew ingeniously utilized a Blackmagic Video Assist 7” 3G monitor and recorder, attaching it to the cameras with a 12-foot HDMI cord. This setup allowed every member of the team to actively participate in each shot, enhancing the collaboration and the overall filmmaking experience.

Support and Recognition:

Oakley Anderson Moore is an esteemed filmmaker and the founder of the Kinlani Film Project. With a passion for storytelling, Moore has dedicated her career to empowering young filmmakers and fostering creativity within underprivileged communities.

Moore has been working closely with students from the Flagstaff Bordertown Dormitory for several years, providing them with opportunities to explore their artistic talents and develop their filmmaking skills. Through the Kinlani Film Project, Moore aims to bridge the gap between limited resources and aspiring filmmakers, ensuring that students have access to the necessary tools and mentorship to bring their visions to life.

Her involvement with the Kinlani Film Project has allowed Moore to witness firsthand the immense creativity and talent of the students. She recognizes their potential and understands the transformative impact that technology and resources can have on their artistic development. By partnering with organizations like Blackmagic Design, Moore has been able to provide the students with cutting-edge equipment, such as digital film cameras and editing software, enabling them to create professional-quality films.

Moore’s passion for storytelling extends beyond her work with the Kinlani Film Project. As an accomplished filmmaker herself, she has garnered recognition for her own projects and has a deep understanding of the industry. Her experience and expertise make her a valuable mentor to the students, guiding them through the filmmaking process and instilling in them a sense of confidence and creativity.

Through her tireless efforts, Oakley Anderson Moore has become a champion for aspiring filmmakers, particularly those from marginalized communities. Her commitment to empowering young voices and providing them with the resources they need to succeed has had a profound impact on the lives of the students involved in the Kinlani Film Project. By nurturing their talents and encouraging them to share their unique stories, Moore has played a pivotal role in helping these young filmmakers find their voices and make their mark in the world of cinema.

Kerryn Negus the director of advancement and external relations for the University of Arizona’s School of Theatre, Film and Television, played a crucial role in facilitating collaboration between the two schools. She commended the emerging TFTV alum, Kristian Jackson, for sharing his expertise in editing with the Kinlani filmmakers. Negus expressed her pride in the filmmakers for crafting a captivating story that resonates with audiences across the globe.

The film:

The recognition for “Tsiiyééł” extended beyond the realm of film festivals. The film was also featured in a session titled “The Future of Visual Storytelling” at the Hollywood Professional Association (HPA) annual Tech Retreat. David Hoffman, the Business Development Manager at Blackmagic Design, worked closely with the Kinlani crew for this presentation. The project aimed to explore the experiences and perspectives of the next generation of visual storytellers and showcased the adaptability of the students to new technologies and workflows.

As the success of “Tsiiyééł” continues to unfold, the Kinlani film crew, consisting of talented writers, directors, actors, and technical crew members, including Austin Jimmy, Shanique Yazzie, Hailee Bekis, Robyn Claw, Orion Lucero, LaDonna Jacket, Zoey Nez, Roshelle Hawee, Faith Begay, Devin Goodman, Shyla Clark, and Leandre Frank, remains at the forefront of the film’s accomplishments.

“Tsiiyééł” stands as a testament to the power of storytelling and the potential that lies within young filmmakers. Through their collaboration with Blackmagic Design and the University of Arizona’s School of Theatre, Film and Television, these high school students have proven that talent knows no boundaries. With their authentic and moving portrayal of Native American culture, they have captured the hearts of audiences worldwide.

As the film continues to be screened at festivals in 2023, it serves as an inspiration to aspiring filmmakers, encouraging them to embrace their heritage, tell their stories, and embrace the power of technology to bring their visions to life.

The sponsor:

Blackmagic Design’s commitment to providing cutting-edge technology to aspiring filmmakers, combined with the passion and creativity of these young artists, has resulted in an award-winning film that showcases the richness of Native American storytelling. “Tsiiyééł” is a testament to the transformative impact of empowering young voices and the boundless possibilities that emerge when talent and technology converge.

Blackmagic Design is a leading provider of video editing products, digital film cameras, color correctors, video converters, and other innovative tools for the feature film, post-production, and television broadcast industries. With a track record of groundbreaking innovations and a dedication to delivering high-quality products, Blackmagic Design has established itself as a driving force in the industry. With offices around the world, including the USA, UK, Japan, Singapore, and Australia, the company continues to shape the future of visual storytelling.

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