Defender of Life at the Garifuna Film Festival

DEFENDERS OF LIFE AT GARIFUNA INTERNATIONAL INDIGENOUS FILM FESTIVAL VENICE, CALIFORNIA ON SUNDAY, MAY 21 AT 7:45PM

The sixth annual Garifuna International Indegenous Film Festival is six days of films from May 12 – 27th. I learned of the festival because of the upcoming screening of ‘Defenders of Life’ from director/writer Dana Ziyasheva and Igor Darbo (Producer) that is set in the Indigenous community of Costa Rica and filmed on location.

I am very interested to learn of the Garifuna International Indigenous Film Festival and am excited to add this to my list of ‘Festivals to Attend’. I love seeing films representing diverse voices and stories that expose me to lives and people. The festival is during the weekend so am hoping to attend a film or two to see from another person’s eye how they see the world around them.

The film will be screened on Sunday, May 21 at 7:45pm at The Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Avenue, Venice, CA 90291with Dana Ziyasheva & Igor Darbo scheduled to attend. If you are unable to attend it is available exclusively on FlixPremiere at https://flixpremiere.com/film/defenders-of-life.

“I am very honored of this selection and excited about the opportunity to present
‘Defenders of Life’ at the Garifuna Film Festival,” said Ziyasheva, a journalist by training and former communications expert with the United Nations. “It is particularly important to me to show the film in the framework of an indigenous art event and next to other films by or about indigenous realities,” added Ziyasheva.
“Defenders of Life” 7:45pmSunday, May 21
$15.00 +$1.74  Students $20.00 + $1.99 General Admission
The festival’s mission to preserve and promote Garifuna culture is close to the filmmaker’s heart. “During my career with the United Nations, I worked on the promotion of Garifuna culture in Central America and had the honor of meeting with distinguished representatives of the Garifuna people in the government of Honduras and Nicaragua. I am very much looking forward to discovering the festival’s film selection and meeting with fellow filmmakers,” she added.

Every year, the Garifuna International Indigenous Film Festival connects the Garifuna diaspora from all over the world as well as indigenous communities from across the globe via one of the most powerful art forms: film. Celebrating its sixth annual edition in 2017, GIIFF will kick off May 12th and run through May 27th. “Defenders of Life” is among more than 27 films selected by the festival, including features and shorts from the U.S., Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Peru, Iran, and African and other countries.
Garifuna is a unique culture descended from the only black Africans who fought and succeeded against being enslaved in the American Continent, and who also intermarried with Carib and Arawak people of the Caribbean. They speak their own language, Garifuna, as well as Spanish, Belizean Kriol and English. Garifuna gave the world the gift of the beautiful music and dance called “punta” and have significant populations in Honduras, Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and the United States.
The film festival also welcomes works by, about and for indigenous people from all the continents. “The Garifuna people share so much with indigenous communities from all over the world, so much wisdom, so many stories,” says festival director Freda Sideroff. “We share common stories; we are more alike than we are different.”

Director Ziyasheva agrees. Her film is set among in an indigenous community of Costa Rica and was inspired by people she served as a U.N. worker. “‘Defenders of Life’ was born out of the real-life friendship between Carmen, a Ngäbe matriarch, and myself, a United Nations civil servant from Kazakhstan,” she said.

“When staying at her house, we spent a lot of time talking about her life and her hopes/fears for her daughters and granddaughters.  We both wanted to give voice to the voiceless, leaving a proud testimony of her ancient civilization under threat and show the place and challenges of women in this culture. We both wanted it to be aesthetic and allegorical,” said Ziyasheva.

While Carmen is also an actress in the drama, she did more than acting, according to the director. “(She) was more than an actress, she was my collaborator on the film,” said Ziyasheva. “She helped me to direct actors, scout and pick locations and prepare dialogues. I discussed every scene with her. We also involved the entire community and its leaders; on occasion, more than 100 extras took part in the filming.”
Limited with a four-man crew, Ziyasheva had to be resourceful in the making of “Defenders of Life.” “I was not only my own assistant but also production designer, wardrobe, makeup, and driver,” she stated. “This was because of the budget constraints, but mainly because it would not have been feasible otherwise. We were outsiders granted unique access to this closed society.”

The project relied totally on the trust her team built with the community. “We could not disrupt the balance of their lives with a large crew, gear trucks, etc.,” she said. “That was one condition of theirs for allowing us to make the film, along with having all their dialogue spoken in the Ngäbe native language, rather than Spanish. They knew and accepted each one of us into their private spaces and homes, and we lived on site the entire time of the shoot,” she added.

This year’s festival theme is “Remembering the Garifuna Holocaust” to pay tribute to the early Garifuna warriors that died for their people’s freedom 220 years ago, according to festival director Freda Sideroff. The Garifuna people are descendants of the only black Africans in the American continent who successfully fought against being enslaved, “paying the ultimate price, the death of many, and the relocation of resilient survivors,” said Sideroff.

“We are a resilient, proud people that have survived atrocities,” stated Sideroff, a Garifuna immigrant from Belize. “Like many indigenous communities all over the world, today we still face many challenges and find our culture and way of life under threat. But our ancestors inspire and guide us with their example and wisdom.”
She added, “We must remember their sacrifice and treasure our priceless Garifuna language, culture and history.”
For more information, visit www.garifunafilmfestival.com.
FESTIVAL DETAILS:

WHAT: Garifuna International Film Festival 2017

WHEN: Begins Friday, May 12th. Runs through Saturday, May 27th
WHERE: The Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Avenue, Venice, CA 90291
WHY: Established by Freda Sideroff, an indigene of the Garifuna, GIIFF started in 2012 with a mission to preserve the values and aspirations of Garifuna and all indigenous people and cultures through films about indigenous cultures, their values and struggles.