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Suquamish stars in SuperFly

SUQUAMISH — Last Saturday, 50 youth got the chance to screen their short documentary films at the Seattle International Film Festival, something some professional filmmakers don't get the chance to do.

Seattle-based Longhouse Media provided the opportunity, mentorship and equipment for Native and non-Native youth from around the country to experience making a film — in 36 hours. SuperFly, now in its eighth year, kicks filmmaking into high gear by breaking its teenage participants into teams, to storyboard, shoot, direct and edit unique films set around a theme.

Longhouse Media Executive Director Tracy Rector said they had to narrow down about 120 ideas into six films. At the premiere at the Harvard Exit on June 1, she thanked the Suquamish Tribe for being a part of their documentary "experiment."

This year, the Suquamish Tribe was the host and the subject matter of the documentaries; in the past, SuperFly has created films based on screenplays written by Native writers. Several Suquamish students were participants.

Kaiden Finkbonner, a fourth grader at Suquamish Elementary, was the youngest participant this year and played the part of a young man dealing with racism at school. Chief Seattle, played by Suquamish Elder Ed Carriere, appears to him to help him realize he shouldn't be afraid of bullies or ashamed of his culture.

Finkbonner, who is Lummi, has modeled for Nordstrom, and wants to be a part of more films. He said he learned new things about Chief Seattle and the Suquamish culture, and said filming is fun.

Chief Kitsap Academy students Ty Purser and Ryan Sigo were apart of productions teams, and leads in their films as well.

Purser took his crew out on a fishing boat, to explain the changes to the sea as passed down to him by his family of fishermen.

"I've been on boats my whole life," Purser said during the film's Q&A. "When you're holding a really expensive camera in your hand, you realize how rocky that boat is."

He said he wants to continue filmmaking and return to SuperFly.

Sigo also told the story of his family tradition: hunting. He said he wants to expand on his documentary, and also continue in filmmaking.

Many of the students seemed dazed at their films' premiere, but mostly due to lack of sleep. Many joked about how important is was to focus when editing, when it was 5 a.m. and they had too much coffee.

Even so, "Every year the youth are getting more and more dedicated," said Charles Bloomfield, a SuperFly mentor. Bloomfield lives in Gig Harbor, and is a documentary filmmaker, sculptor and lecturer in American Indian Studies at the University of Washington. He is Pyramid Lake Paiute and Saanich/Lummi; he said his grandparents were boarding school sweethearts.

The mentors were also there to teach the students about cultural sensitivity.

"Teaching them why we say things the way we say them," and to be "very observant," Bloomfield said.

His group interviewed Suquamish Elder Peg Deam, who illustrated the canoe culture. A generation ago, Tribes were still recovering from assimilation policies, where their language, traditions and even property — like longhouses and canoes — were banned. The Suquamish had a canoe, hundreds of years old, in a museum. But when the Paddle to Seattle came about in 1989, Deam and her friends wanted to use the canoe to practice. So they borrowed the canoe, brought it to Jamestown S'Klallam for paddling practice, and returned it — but accidentally faced it the wrong way, and got caught.

The students filmed Deam in the Suquamish Museum, which again houses the canoe.

This year's SuperFly showed alongside a Native Shorts Showcase made by professional filmmakers. Rector submitted her own short, "Hummingbird," where Mexican tribal dancers paid respect to Pacific Northwest chiefs.

Rector said the weekend was "incredible."

"The experience at being at Suquamish and [with] the tribe and how generous they were … I think it was humbling and beautiful and really made a lasting impression on people," she said.

Some of the films will be available online in July; check www.longhousemedia.org or their Facebook page.

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