This event has passed. Film Studies for Adults: Native American Cinema

by admin

November is National Native American Heritage Month, and TPH’s film studies classes for adults will be celebrating the cinema of Native filmmakers. Images of Native Americans have been prevalent in American cinema since the late 1800s, but more often than not, these images were produced without consultation or guidance from Native people. Distinct cultures of different tribes have been flattened into stereotypes, and non-Native actors have often been cast in roles as American Indians. First Nations activism starting in the 1970s has helped push forward dialogue about Native communities, and filmmakers from those communities have worked to take control over their media images. Contemporary First Nations filmmakers are working to redefine Indigenous identities on screen, capturing the complexities of their experiences and presenting new ways of telling their own stories. TPH’s Native American Cinema course will explore the rich and resonant films being made by Indigenous filmmakers. We’re thrilled to have accomplished, deeply knowledgeable filmmakers Bird Runningwater and Adam Pirone, both of whom work with the Sundance Institute’s Native American and Indigenous Film Program, as instructors.



$75/$67.50 for members



November 4th, 11th, and 18th (No class Thanksgiving week)









Adam Piron is a member of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma and a Kanienʼkehá꞉ka (Mohawk) descendant. He currently acts as the Associate Director of Sundance Institute’s Indigenous Program where he helps oversee the organization’s investment in Indigenous filmmakers globally. He is also a co-founder of COUSIN: a film collective dedicated to supporting Indigenous artists experimenting with and pushing the boundaries of the moving image. As a filmmaker, his films have played in The New Yorker’s Documentary Series, True/False Film Festival, AFI DOCS, San Francisco International Film Festival, MoMA Doc Fortnight, Camden International Film Festival, Indie Grits and various other festivals. He was previously the Film Curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). He received his BA in Film Production from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. He has also been on advisory and review panels for the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts, The Jerome Foundation, The Princess Grace Awards and the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative. Piron is also on the Editorial Advisory Board of Seen, a journal produced by BlackStar examining the visual culture of communities of color, featuring interviews, reviews, and essays about Black, Brown, and Indigenous visual culture. He concurrently serves on the Board of Trustees and Programming Committee of the Robert Flaherty Film Seminar, an organization devoted to building community around the moving image and the longest continuously running annual film event in North America devoted to creative non-fiction.

Bird Runningwater belongs to the Cheyenne and Mescalero Apache Tribal Nations, and grew up on the Mescalero Apache Reservation in New Mexico. Since 2001 he has guided the Sundance Institute’s investment in Native American and Indigenous filmmakers while building a global Indigenous film community. He has nurtured a new generation of filmmakers whose films have put Indigenous Cinema into the global marketplace. Based in Los Angeles, California, Runningwater serves as the Director of Sundance Institute’s Indigenous Program and its Diversity, Equity Inclusion work across the organization. Under his tenure 140 different Indigenous filmmakers have been mentored and supported through Labs, Grants and Fellowships. More than 110 films written, directed and produced by Indigenous filmmakers have been curated by Runningwater to premiere at Sundance Film Festival, and over the past 10 years alone Sundance Institute has welcomed artists representing more than 90 different Indigenous nations from around the world. Runningwater currently serves on the Comcast/NBCUniversal Joint Diversity Council, the Boards of Directors of First Peoples Fund, Illuminative, and the Arctic Indigenous Film Fund. He is a past member of the Board of Jurors for the George Foster Peabody Awards.

A graduate of the University of Oklahoma with degrees in Journalism and Native American Studies, Runningwater received his Master of Public Affairs degree from the University of Texas at Austin’s Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. He was named to Time Magazine’s 2019 Optimist Issue as one of “12 Leaders Who Are Shaping the Next Generation of Artists”. Most recently he was invited to become a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, the organization behind the Oscars. He is currently serving as the Co-Executive Producer of the TV show “Sovereign” which is in development with NBC, Warner Brothers Television and Ava DuVernay’s Array Filmworks and has the potential to be the first Native American family drama on Network Television.



This class functions much like a book club — students watch the films at home through available streaming services, and arrive in class on Zoom for additional content and robust discussion led by the instructor. Meetings will be recorded by request for students unable to attend a class.