Filmmaker Anne Makepeace says that because of her name and the fact that she has made a film about Native Americans people assume she is Native American herself. She isn’t, but Makepeace has been drawn to stories about Native Americans for as long as she can remember. “When I watched cowboy movies as a kid, I always rooted for the Indians,” she says.
For her 2010 documentary, “We Still Live Here,” Makepeace explored the efforts by the Wampanoag of Southeastern Massachusetts, led by Jessie Little Doe Baird, a 30-something Wampanoag social worker, to reclaim their native language which had not been spoken for more than a century. “It is a story about the resurrection of a language and of a culture that’s quite unprecedented,’’ says Makepeace of her film, which won awards at numerous film festivals in 2011. “It’s the first time a language with no living speakers has been revived as a living, spoken language in a Native American community.’’
“We Still Live Here,” named best documentary at the Arlington International Film Festival’s inaugural event last year, will have several screenings at the Museum of Fine Arts, starting Thursday (7:30 p.m.) and running through June 13. Makepeace will attend the Thursday screening and participate in a panel discussion moderated by Jared Bowen, of the WGBH-TV show “Greater Boston.” The panel will include a representative from the Wampanoag Reclamation Project.
“The discussions are always lively,” says Makepeace, who lives in Lakeville, Conn. “Some are interested in how the film was constructed; others are interested in the story itself. I shot it in 2009, so there have been a lot of developments since.” Most notably, Baird, who went on to earn a master’s degree in linguistics at MIT, recently won a MacArthur “genius” grant for her work in bringing back her people’s language.
Makepeace, whose many documentaries includes “I.M. Pei: Building China Modern,” broadcast on PBS’s “American Masters,” in 2010 and “Robert Capa: In Love and War,” which earned her an Emmy Award, says she is proud that “We Still Live Here” has been able to show New Englanders that Native Americans have not “vanished” from the region but are still part of vibrant communities. “We celebrate them at Thanksgiving but so many people have no idea that the Wampanoag still live here, hence the film’s title.” Go to www.mfa.org.
Salem award winners
Another local event, the Salem Film Festival, is screening four award-winning documentaries from its festival, held in February. The films will variously screen Sunday through Thursday at CinemaSalem in Salem. Vivian Ducat’s “All Me: The Life and Times of Winfred Rembert,” winner of the festival’s Audience Award, documents the artist known for his autobiographical paintings depicting the day-to-day existence of African-Americans in the segregated South. Now in his 60s, Rembert has developed a growing following among collectors and connoisseurs. Michael Collins’s “Give Up Tomorrow,” winner of the best editing award, chronicles the case of a young man wrongly convicted of rape and murder in the Philippines. Best cinematography winner “Stories From Lakka Beach” is director Daan Veldhuizen’s study of five residents of a small coastal town in Sierra Leone who reflect on the aftermath of atrocities committed in that country. Jury Award winner “Unfinished Spaces” is a documentary about the architecture of the Cuban Revolution, directed by Alysa Nahmias and Benjamin Murray. Go to www.cinemasalem.com/encore.
The fourth annual Womanimation! festival, a celebration of animated films by women from all over the world, screens at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, in Brookline, next Sunday. This year’s program is a bit of a departure from past festivals, says Toni Pennacchia, creative director of MergingArts Productions, which produces the festival. “In the past, we have screened features and long-form shorts, but this year our films are between five and 10 minutes in length, capturing the message more concisely and keeping the audience engaged. Those messages might include musings on romance, sexuality, aging, identity, and our place in the universe.”
Some of the festival films include “Bertie Crisp,” from animator Francesca Adams, a comic tale of a henpecked bear and his domineering rabbit wife. Russian filmmaker Natalia Mirzoyan uses animated tea leaves to tell the story of “Chinti,” an Indian ant trying to re-create the Taj Mahal. “Pumpkins and Old Lace” is a stop-motion short from France’s Juliette Loubières about a photographer’s encounters with the unusual residents of a magical retirement home. “The Queen of Hearts,” from Czech director Dita Krcová, examines three men drinking, playing cards, and recounting their unexpected adventures with women. “Tram,” from Prague’s Michaela Pavlatova, takes an erotic journey driven by the rhythms of a train. Festival organizers will be in attendance to introduce the program, which is recommended for ages 16 and up. Go to www.mergingartsproductions
Full speed ahead
The Balagan Presents series returns to the Brattle Theatre Tuesday with a program of shorts called “Acceleration.” Billed as a “cinematic roller coaster . . . with pulsing lights and flowing hallucinogenic landscapes rushing by on all sides,” the program features short films by Takeshi Murata (“Monster Movie”), Peter Tscherkassky (“Outer Space”), Thorsten Fleisch (“Dromosphare”), Adam Beckett (“Heavy-Light”), and others.
Go to www.balaganfilms.com or www.brattlefilm.org
The belle of Amherst
“My Business Is to Sing,” the third documentary in the series “Angles of a Landscape” about poet Emily Dickinson, will have its premiere on Tuesday at the Amherst Cinema Arts Center. Poet Susan Snively wrote and narrates the 40-minute film. Produced under the auspices of the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst, “My Business Is to Sing” explores how the music of Dickinson’s time gave life to her poetic voice. It presents music the poet heard or sang, including hymns, popular songs, brass bands, ballet, concert pieces, and opera, performed by area musicians and others.
The screening will be followed by a reception at the Amherst History Museum, across the street from the cinema.
Go to www.amherstcinema.org or call the theater box office at 413-253-2547.