Writer/Director Sterlin Harjo belongs to the Seminole and Creek Nations, and is a native of Holdenville, Oklahoma. In this episode of Broken Boxes we hear about Sterlin's journey to becoming a filmmaker and he shares memories of growing up in rural Oklahoma as 'that weird artist kid'. Sterlin also talks about being a founding member of renown Native comedy group the 1491s and reflects on the beginning project that catapulted the group to what it is today. Sterlin also talks about Standing Rock as an Indigenous led global movement and we get his perspective regarding the film works that have come since. Sterlin also offers his insight for existing in a world consumed by social media and offers advice on how to approach creating film work through today's accessible media platforms.
Here is the conversation with Sterlin Harjo:
More about the artist:
Sterlin Harjo belongs to the Seminole and Creek Nations, and is a native of Holdenville, Oklahoma. Interested from an early age in visual art and film, Harjo studied painting at the University of Oklahoma before writing his first feature-length script. Since then Harjo was a participant in the Sundance Institute’s Feature Film Program. In 2004, Sundance Institute selected Harjo to receive an Annenberg Fellowship, which provided extended support over a two-year period to facilitate the creation of his feature project. In 2006 Harjo was in the inaugural class of United States Artists award recipients. He was also the youngest recipient.
Sterlin Harjo completed a year of development on his feature film script FOUR SHEETS TO THE WIND through the Sundance Institute’s Filmmaker Labs where he worked under the guidance of industry veterans such as Robert Redford, Stanley Tucci, Joan Tewkesbury, Susan Shilliday, Frank Pierson, Walter Mosley, and Antonia Bird. Sterlin’s project was one of 12 projects chosen from a pool of almost 2,500 based on the uniqueness of his voice, the originality of his story and the promise of this feature film offering something poignant to American cinema.
Harjo’s short film GOOD NIGHT IRENE premiered at the Sundance Film Festival 05 and has went on to play festivals around the world. The short film has garnered Harjo awards including Special Jury Recognition at the Aspen Shorts Festival and Best Oklahoma Film at the Dead Center film festival in Oklahoma City.
In 2007 Harjo’s first feature film, FOUR SHEETS TO THE WIND, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. The film garnered warm responses from both audience’s and critics. Tamara Podemski won a Special Jury Prize for outstanding performance for her role in the film as Miri Smallhill. Podemski was also nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for her performance.
Harjo’s film BARKING WATER had a successful premiere at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, and it screened as a part of the highly acclaimed New Directors/New Film series in New York City. Barking Water was the only American film that played in the Venice Days section of the 2009 Venice Film Festival.
Harjo’s first documentary THIS MAY BE THE LAST TIME premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.
Harjo’s film Mekko premiered at The Los Angeles Film Festival in 2015. Mekko also screened at the Toronto International Film Festival and the Stockholm International Film Festival. It won best film at the ImagineNative Film Festival in Toronto.
Harjo is a founding member of the all Native comedy group the 1491s.