Colorlines: 'Smiling Indians' is a highly moving meditation

"Plenty of people are familiar with Edward S. Curtis’ celebrated photos of Native American tribes. The photos, taken in the early 1900’s and depicting people from 80 different tribes, and have become iconic, appearing on everything from postcards to wall hangings at Ikea. Yet Ryan Red Corn and filmmaker Sterlin Harjo set out on a mission to show that’s there’s plenty of love in Native communities, too.

The two teamed up to produce a moving film of modern-day Native folks smiling and, for all intents and purposes, enjoying every minute of it. Their message is simple: “It’s easy to say ‘Indian mascots are bad, but do you have anything positive to point to?,” Red Corn asked in an interview with Indian Country Today. “So rather than just complain about what’s negative, you could produce something yourself.”

That’s precisely what Red Corn and Harjo accomplished in this moving four and a half minute short film that’s posted above. Viewers see smiling Native folks of all shapes and sizes. Some are shy, tentative grins, while others are laced with a bit of adolescent braggadocio. It’s a playful yet moving meditation of one of our most important human gestures."

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A Loving Meditation on the Power of a Smile (Color Lines 4/26)

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