New movie “Bounty” shifts documentary filmmaking by centering Indigenous voices

Documentary filmmakers on the Upstander Venture have grow to be deeply dedicated to a unique manner of filmmaking, in keeping with the Boston-based nonprofit’s co-founder and director Adam Mazo. Central to that mission is overcoming indifference to social injustice by creating compelling documentary movies that middle the voices of these most impacted to succeed in the center of social points. The accompanying studying assets distributed alongside the movie are a part of a broad affect technique that contextualizes the movies for educators and normal audiences whereas pointing them towards action-oriented campaigns for social change. 

By collaborating with the Indigenous American communities that their work paperwork, the Upstander Venture hopes to create movie and educating instruments that serve these communities, not simply outsiders. 

“We really feel like if we’re not serving the neighborhood, then we’re doing a disservice. We might be doing hurt. We might be perpetuating injustice,” stated Mazo.

Mazo and his staff are additionally pushed to vary the panorama of the documentary style, which was born out of extractive colonial practices, by forging a brand new path with Indigenous companions to inform their tales with sensitivity and nuance. 

The mission was fashioned in 2009 with their first documentary, “Coexist,” a critically acclaimed movie that conveyed the story of the government-mandated reconciliation efforts of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda via the eyes of survivors. The movie was positively obtained — nominated greatest documentary on the Africa Film Academy Awards — and the accompanying instructor’s information was adopted by greater than 3,500 educators nationwide. Within the wake of this success, Mishy Lesser, co-founder and studying director for the Upstander Venture, labored with Mazo to develop the group’s scope and shift the main focus towards the genocidal acts which have harmed Indigenous peoples regionally.

Dawnland,” the mission’s second feature-length documentary, was launched in 2018. The Emmy-award-winning movie adopted the Maine-Wabanaki State Little one Welfare Fact and Reconciliation Fee. The fee was fashioned to answer the forcible removing of Indigenous youngsters and alternative in white houses as a part of a scientific try to assimilate them and eradicate their connections to their cultural heritage. Even after the success of Dawnland, the filmmakers nonetheless felt parts of the themes of generational trauma and the continued results of colonialism remained unexplored, which led to their most up-to-date mission. 

“Bounty” was filmed within the Previous State Home, which is a well-liked vacation spot on the Freedom Path and likewise the place the scalp bounty was signed. (Photograph: Courtesy of the Upstander Venture)

Bounty” premiered on Nov. 10. In line with Mazo, over 2,500 individuals registered for the web occasion. They needed to create a second screening to accommodate nearly 1,600 attendees. This quick movie epitomizes the mission’s mission to include Indigenous views. Mazo joined forces with Penobscot households for each stage of the manufacturing. The movie’s co-directors included Daybreak Neptune Adams, an Indigenous activist, and Maulian Dana, the Penobscot tribal ambassador.

“Bounty” options three Penobscot households as they learn from the Phips Proclamation, a scalp bounty issued in 1775 that rewarded settlers with cash and land for the brutal homicide of their ancestors. The doc was signed within the Council Chamber, a room within the Previous State Home in Boston, on the unceded territory of the Massachusett individuals and their neighbors, the Wampanoag and Nipmuc Nations.

This proclamation is only one instance of rewarding settlers for the homicide of Indigenous individuals. In line with the Upstander Venture’s analysis, not less than 69 government-issued scalp edicts throughout the realm now often known as New England from 1675 to 1760. Throughout the land that might grow to be america, not less than 30 extra have been issued between 1675 and 1862.

Via “Bounty,” Penobscot households use the Phips Proclamation to course of the bigger trauma of this continued genocide of their individuals and tradition. Making the movie introduced them collectively to reclaim area and share their tales, which had been unknown to most People for too lengthy, suppressed and rewritten to exclude Indigenous voices. 

The Scope spoke with Mazo, together with Neptune Adams, Dana and her daughter, Carmella Bear, to listen to extra about what made the movie distinctive, each in content material and manufacturing. The dialog has been edited for size and readability.

On collaborating with the Upstander Venture: 

The solid of “Bounty” included three Penobscot households who gathered to learn their ancestors’ demise warrant on the place it was signed. (Photograph: Courtesy of the Upstander Venture.)

Adams: Top-of-the-line issues concerning the Upstander Venture is not only the documentaries, it’s every thing round it. It’s the entire media ecosystem that surrounds the story the place individuals can discover any variety of info assets. It’s their deal with decolonizing and giving individuals, settlers particularly, a path to standing in solidarity with different oppressed peoples and us.

Dana: The expertise was actually great. We actually belief the Upstander staff and the mission, and I keep in mind after I noticed “Dawnland,” I assumed that they have been actually onto one thing particular. They have been telling these very traumatic and painful tales about our individuals in a really unflinching manner, however in a manner that provides a lot area for therapeutic and a lot help to the individuals telling the tales. 

We’re going to speak about this actually unhappy story, however we’re going to do it collectively. I feel that that made an enormous distinction, having three Penobscot households processing it along with an entire lot of help and care for everyone concerned.

We had youngsters concerned. So I feel there was additional care taken to be sure that despite the fact that we have been coping with actually heavy subjects, we have been doing it in a great way … that benefited the adults as nicely. I feel that helped us course of lots of that darkish historical past. The collaboration between the Penobscot households and the filmmakers was very seamless and really continuous. So I feel it made for a very constructive and empowering expertise.

Mazo: Sadly, the litany of genocide and human rights abuses towards Indigenous individuals and so lengthy that we couldn’t match all of it into “Dawnland.” We additionally weren’t certain that we may do the story justice. It’s good that we took time with it as a result of it allowed us to method the filmmaking in another way and make the movie with Penobscot households, with Mualina and Daybreak Neptune Adams as co-directors of the movie and their households as contributors versus topics.

On filming within the Previous State Home and reclaiming area:

Neptune Adams: I by no means stepped foot contained in the statehouse, and it was at first, it was a very oppressive feeling like you would really feel the burden of historical past bearing down. In any case these years, I really feel uncomfortable in rooms the place there are outdated white guys on the partitions staring down at us … We actually leaned on one another, not solely the opposite Penobscot individuals there however the crew. And it was a superb staff expertise, at the same time as oppressive as these partitions have been.

Reclaiming area is a recurring theme not solely in my life however within the lives of many individuals. It did really feel like we have been counting coup for our ancestors.

Bear: To learn that writing and be on the place the place it was signed, it undoubtedly despatched somewhat little bit of a shock — really being there, holding a replica of it and being within the room the place it was positioned was very emotional and heavy. Not the kind of emotional the place you’re crying and sobbing, however the kind of emotional the place the air feels extraordinarily heavy. However working with adults who understood that very a lot supplied a protected place and a protected expertise, and it felt actually good to have type of a help group that understood.

To have the ability to have that have of closure and simply gratification of absolutely understanding what had occurred, to have the ability to be the place it occurred. There may be lots of disappointment and heaviness that comes with that, however I’m so grateful that I used to be in a position to really feel that firsthand at such a younger age. Not lots of people get to try this. So to be part of a bunch that had been oppressed for thus lengthy, it felt actually good at 12 years outdated to be on the place the place every thing went down. So the closure simply feels so nice.

Mazo: Actually necessary for us in Boston is that we might like to see this movie completely put in within the Council Chamber within the Previous State Home. How may you’ve gotten a room like that in a narrative like that and never have that historical past be a part of that area? Hundreds of thousands of individuals stroll the Freedom Path and know nothing concerning the genocide that was perpetrated proper there?

On the affect of the movie:

Daybreak Neptune Adams embraced her son Kaden after they mentioned how they nonetheless carry the generational trauma from the scalp bounties. “The reminiscence of being hunted like that is in our blood,” she defined to him. (Photograph: Courtesy of the Upstander Venture)

Neptune Adams: I feel that settler descendants may need a worry of trying again at their ancestors and feeling guilt or, you recognize, emotions of disgrace. And that a part of the worry is having to personal it and course of it. 

The extra we share our histories, the better it’s to grasp each other and the better it’s to dwell alongside each other on this land that we now share.

There’s going to be an preliminary interval of shock, however once they undergo the “Bounty” media ecosystem and the instructor’s information, I feel it’s going to put together them to be in solidarity with us and to assist amplify us when wanted.

Dana: I hope individuals stroll away with a brand new consciousness about these genocidal acts that occurred proper in our homelands right here. It doesn’t imply now we have to hate one another or that there’s blaming or shaming concerned. It’s simply that we’re going to work quite a bit higher collectively if we’re all conscious of our true histories.

Bear: When individuals see this film, I hope they take away that we’re nonetheless right here. I actually hope that the individuals who have been residing underneath a rock and haven’t been listening to this type of stuff notice … a type of groundbreaking realization that like, ‘Wow, this did occur. We weren’t mendacity.’

Mazo: One thing that’s actually necessary that we hope individuals will perceive from participating with the movie and the entire media ecosystem round it and the instructor’s information is that this proclamation was one in all 69 completely different scalp bounties concentrating on native peoples throughout the Dawnland. This went on for many years and a long time, and it’s a part of a scientific software utilized by the English colonial authorities to exterminate Indigenous individuals and seize the land that turned america. This was not only one incident, however that this was a part of a broad-based technique. We deal with one proclamation as an entry level to exploring the bigger concern. Additionally, to say that Penobscot individuals are nonetheless right here. To say that it was English settlers who have been doing the scalping of Indigenous individuals. And people two issues should not broadly identified.

Whereas the movie does speak about their actually horrible, horrible issues — homicide and scalping incidents — it’s additionally a testomony to the resistance of Indigenous individuals in survival and in remembrance and dealing for justice. These are two intentional decisions by our staff to face this actually painful, bloody historical past however do it in a manner that we hope builds solidarity and Indigenous protagonism and encourages and creates different pathways for Indigenous individuals to be authors of their tales.

On the significance of Indigenous visibility:

Dana: America and Canada have all the time had an actual downside telling the reality when educating historical past. We study in public college, Columbus, Thanksgiving and all these very watered-down, candy-coated portrayals of instances and historical past that contain Indigenous individuals who both ignore us or make it look like we have been the enemy, and we have been defeated after which America progressed.

That’s simply as dangerous, and that makes us simply as invisible. Figuring out that individuals will study concerning the Holocaust of World Warfare II and that genocidal acts occurred proper on this soil … that’s not simply therapeutic and uplifting for Indigenous individuals. I feel it helps everyone to know the actual fact about historical past.

Bear: I’m extraordinarily grateful to be the technology the place our historical past is talked about and the place we’re represented as a result of my mother’s technology [and] my grandmother’s technology … they didn’t have any illustration within the media. They didn’t have any illustration in surrounding communities, so I’m very fortunate in the truth that I get to share this with so many individuals. Hundreds of thousands of individuals will know what we went via, our experiences they usually’re going to find out about us.

Mazo: The erasure of Indigenous individuals right here on this area is so intense. The names are there; they’re within the rivers, streets and racist portrayals on the Massachusetts state flag and seal. They’re deeply embedded, nearly subliminally, in our public consciousness. However they’re not there in our school rooms and in our colleges. If they’re there, it’s largely locked in time as individuals who have been round for this mythologized first Thanksgiving in 1621 — that we’re going to be celebrating the four-hundredth anniversary of — however individuals are nonetheless right here in Massachusetts. Settlers have to hearken to them and study from them.

Indigenous historical past, Native American historical past, notably, is U.S. historical past. The historical past of those lands goes again 1000’s and 1000’s of years lengthy earlier than it was america. Significantly within the daybreak land, which has been rebranded as New England, the place the place the solar first appears our manner … we have to perceive how we settlers like me got here to be right here and perceive that individuals perceive the contributions of Wampanake and Wampanoag different individuals of the primary gentle, individuals of the daybreak had made via many, many millennia lengthy earlier than English settlers arrived.

We’d like to see this movie within the instructor’s information utilized in each college within the nation. I imply, particularly so-called New England, the Dawnland, we don’t need one other technology to develop up not studying this historical past.

On the continued thread of genocide and colonization:

Carmella Bear (L) and Layla Bear (R) confronted the brutal historical past of a scalp bounty that gave settlers license to homicide their ancestors with their mom, Maulian Dana (middle), within the room the place the proclamation was signed within the Previous State Home. (Photograph: Courtesy of the Upstander Venture)

Adams: These items ricochet via time. Colonization didn’t finish. It simply modified kind. 

Again when the Scout proclamation was signed, lots of the bounty hunters have been awarded land and water together with the exorbitant charge they have been paid.

The cultural genocide, it’s not as bloody as taking off the highest of my head, however the colonization — the taking of the land and water that occurred as the results of the scalp bounties — continues in several types in the present day.

Proper now, the Penobscot Nation is coping with cultural genocide and environmental racism.

Dana: You’ll be able to see that thread from colonization and a few of these early acts of violence towards us and a few of the issues we’re nonetheless coping with, you recognize, that echoes.

My children, it appears like they’re a lot older now … And they also’re connecting these genocidal acts with a few of the situations we’re residing underneath in the present day and a few of these cycles of poverty and oppression, detrimental well being outcomes, and crime in our communities and dependancy.

Mazo: We don’t wish to deal with the brutality of scalping itself, despite the fact that it was, after all, brutal. We wish to deal with how settlers terrorize native individuals … declaring genocide on any group of Indigenous individuals had the impact of giving a license to kill all Indigenous individuals.

On working alongside settlers:

Neptune Adams: A whole lot of my work is with settlers. I’m two-spirit, and I stroll in two worlds. I used to be raised in an upper-middle-class white residence, however I even have my native roots and connection to my tradition. So I can stroll in both world. I can stroll within the Indigenous world. I can stroll with settlers and invite them to be in solidarity with us.

One of many ancestors on my grandmother’s aspect of the household, I’m sort of following in her custom. Her title was Lucy Nicola, and he or she was also called her stage title Princess Watahwaso. She was typically criticized for enjoying to white or settler audiences. However you recognize what? When you have a knack for that, go forward and do it — any manner you can also make change.

Crucial factor is studying if settlers can study concerning the individuals from the land the place they at the moment dwell. That may be the primary large step. Amplification is big. It wasn’t till we rallied our neighbors that we began to be heard as a result of they amplified us. That’s a manner that settlers can leverage their energy to assist us.

The turnout has been one of the hopeful issues as a result of it reveals that individuals care. It reveals that they’re keen to study.

Dana: We’ve executed a very good job at holding our identities and our cultures collectively within the face of a lot, so to suppose that different individuals are intrigued by these tales, and feeling some sort of connection or draw to them … I feel that speaks quite a bit for humanity, you could take your self out of your self and stroll in another person’s footwear and wish to find out about them and wish to assist them.

Mazo: Being an upstander is a mission that we will all work in direction of all through our journeys. By naming ourselves the Upstander Venture, it’s not a declaration that we’re Upstanders … it’s a declaration that being an upstander is sort of a lifelong mission, identical to being a hero, or an ally or a champion.

On colonial makes an attempt at oppression and native resilience:

Neptune Adams: I lived on Indian Island till I used to be 4 once I was stolen and positioned in non-native foster care in a white, upper-middle-class neighborhood. That’s the place I now dwell, not within the foster residence, however the identical city, actually on the land that was stolen from my grandfather’s aspect of the household. It was very racist and really abusive within the foster residence. It’s not essentially the colour of your pores and skin. If somebody is aware of you’re Penobscot, that may get you focused. I by no means gave up my id. Individuals will say that we misplaced [our identity] in foster care, however you don’t lose issues like that. It’s stolen.

The extra individuals have tried to oppress us, the more durable we struggle again. And once more, we’re nonetheless right here. We Penobscot individuals are numbered at about 2,800, and we’re all throughout this nation. We’re nonetheless training our tradition. We’re nonetheless defending our kin, each human and non-human alike — the land, the water and all our relationships.

I’ve typically heard Indigenous individuals described as being weak, and that’s not the case. We’re focused and marginalized. However we’re very resilient.

Dana: It wasn’t that way back we have been having youngsters stolen from our households. This has been, you recognize, one other genocidal act as a result of it was actually concentrating on our tradition and our id by forcing assimilation on our kids. Seeing these three very distinct and really completely different Penobscot households, all of us have the consideration and the enjoyment of elevating our personal youngsters and having them in reference to our households and our communities … all having the ability to do one thing that lots of people a technology earlier than us weren’t. That actually made me really feel hopeful.


There will likely be a digital dwell screening of “Bounty” and Q & A that includes Neptune Adams, Dana, Mazo and Lesser on Jan. 20, 2022, at 7:00 p.m. “Bounty” can be accessible to buy and stream on-line now. “Dawnland” will air on Saturday, November 20 at 9 p.m. on PBS.



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