By Lani Hansen, Senior Reporter
HOLDENVILLE, Oklahoma– Native filmmaker Sterlin Harjo recently was appointed into the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
The Academy invited more than 800 artists to join as members of the organization. The Academy is a professional honorary organization with the stated goal of advancing the arts and sciences of motion pictures.
Harjo, who is Creek and Seminole began filmmaking in his early 20’s. His first two feature films were ‘Four Sheets to the Wind’ and ‘Barking Water.’ He then made his first feature documentary called, ‘This May Be the Last Time’ which premiered in 2014. He recently completed another documentary ‘Love and Fury’ which came out this year, but it was his feature film ‘Mekko’ which got him the invite to join the Academy.
“Mekko can be watched on Amazon Prime,” Harjo said. “Then Love and Fury is currently being shown on a couple of virtual film festivals.”
Mekko is about a man who gets out of prison after 19 years and links up with some friends who are in a Native homeless community in Tulsa . He has to learn to survive living on the streets, and hardships he has to deal with and overcoming the hardships he has faced, explained Harjo.
When Sterlin is needing ideas for new films he thinks back on stories he grew up hearing. Harjo was surrounded by storytellers on his Native and non-native family sides. Both of his grandma’s knew how to tell stories, and just from listening to those inspired him to write some of his films.
“I think it’s very important to show native people in different light, and I think we’ve been represented badly in film or tv but I hope to change that,” Harjo said.
The appointment to the Academy means Harjo will get a vote for future Oscar awards, according to the Oscars website. He follows after a few other Native Americans who have also been appointed to the Academy.
“It was a really good honor because there is not a lot of us there representing Native people,” Harjo stated of his appointment. “It shows them an amount of respect for my work and me. It also shows them the industry is changing and they have to be more inclusive because stories are becoming more diverse.”
Now that Harjo and other Native producers or filmmakers are apart of the Academy it shows that the industry is interested in their work. He feels that others should be encouraged because there is a lot of work out in the world now in film.
“It’s been an exciting time and I’m excited to bring stories from Creek and Seminole country to the world,” Harjo said. “That’s what my main goal has been is to tell these stories.”
Harjo is currently working on a television show pilot called ‘Reservation Dogs’ created by Harjo and Oscar winner Taika Waititi.