Garifuna International Film Festival set to kick off May 12 in Venice, California


LOS ANGELES – The sixth annual Garifuna International Indigenous Film Festival will kick-off Friday, May 12th in Venice, California with “Wayunagu” (Our ancestors), a dramatic action thriller filmed in Honduras about discovering one’s strength and roots in order to survive.

The festival will run through May 27th at the The Electric Lodge, located at 1416 Electric Ave.

The opening film is a good fit for this year’s festival theme, “Remembering the Garifuna Holocaust,” which pays 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. The Garifuna diaspora has large populations in Honduras, Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and the United States.

“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 adds, “We must remember their sacrifice and treasure our priceless Garifuna language, culture and history.”

Written by Angel Valerio and directed by Christopher R. Miles, “Wayunagu” is one of more than 27 films at GIIFF 2017, including features and shorts from the U.S., Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Peru, Iran, India,, and African and other countries.

Another film about the Garifuna people is “Lubaraun” (Encountering), a documentary featuring four individuals who express their customs and knowledge of who they are in various settings in Nicaragua and Honduras.


Directed by Central American filmmakers Maria Jose Alvarez and Martha Clarissa Hernandez, winners of the Garifuna Heritage Award in 2016, the film is back by popular demand.

Two short films also deal with the Garifuna culture and challenges it faces. “Seremein” by Los Angeles-based Rajan Hoyle consists of brief moments of a visit to several Garifuna communities in Honduras.

“Abdul Marin and the Belize Gang Crisis” follows an activist and social worker who created intervention programs for children and youth. Another short documentary features culinary heritage, “Traditional Garifuna Cooking.”

GIIFF 2017 also features works about indigenous people from different parts of the world.

The festival is rich in documentaries that deal with current issues like the destruction of historical places, war, cultural survival and genocide. “This Was Hasankeyf” is an Italian/British co-production about an ancient Turkish town threatened by the construction of a damn. The film is directed by Tommaso Vitali, a Peruvian-born filmmaker who now resides in Italy.

“Children of Beqaa” by Elias Matar captures the tragic reality endured by Syrian families in their war-torn country, while “Shamanic Trekker” by Emmanuel Itier reveals the world of the Peruvian shamans of the Q’ero tribe. Filmmaker Divya Hansda explores the challenges facing the aboriginal community of the Santal Parganas in India in “The Indigenous.” And in “Chaos in the Kalahari,” director Kate Thompson-Gorry tackles the potential extermination of the San Bushmen tribe in Africa.

American Indians stand out in two documentaries. Director Alexandra Dietz’s “Your Way Back to Me” features a former Navy officer of Cheyenne/Kiowa descent who returns to her community in Oklahoma to honor her deceased relatives. On the other hand, “Seeds of Freedom” by Connie Baxter Marlow explores the role of the American Indian in the evolution of American democracy, mind and spirit.

Just like “Wayunagu,” another fictional film uses the setting and context of cultural communities to tell a story. Filmed in Costa Rica, “Defenders of Life” by Dana Ziyasheva is about a clash of cultures between indigenous communities and westernized society as lived by different generations.

The Garifuna International Indigenous Film Festival also features a long lineup of shorts.

“Being Emberá” and “Owners of the Forests” are documentaries highlighting the environmental roles of Panama’s Emberá youth and local communities in the Mexican state of Michacán. “Freedom Brazil” features the Quilombola, Brazil’s African slave descendants and their struggle for recognition and rights to the lands where they have lived for generations. And “Semunying” delves into the palm oil conflict in Indonesia, where the Semunying people defend their ancestral lands.

Closing the festival on May 27th will be the documentary “Walking While Black: L.O.V.E. Is the Answer.” Directed by A.J. Ali and Errol Webber, the film addresses racial profiling and police/community relations and offers a faith-based solution.

Filmmakers will be in attendance for Q&A sessions after the screening of their films.
The Garifuna Film Festival regularly includes plastic arts, music and dance.

An exhibit at The Electric Lodge in Venice will feature paintings by local artists Nazim Artist, Ayane Gidada, Eulogia Goree, and Wawai Amashe, sculptures by Rosanne Mangio, and African masks from a private collection.

Furthermore, in response to the current political climate affecting the Garifuna and other immigrant populations in the U.S., the festival will also present the symposium “Immigration and Its Emotional and Social Impact,” sponsored by the Los Angeles County’s Department of Mental Health #5. Two short films will be screened at the symposium. The animated “Sight Light” by Iranian filmmaker Seyed M. Tabatabaei is about an imprisoned character looking for freedom. “J-12” by Haitian-American director Perri Pierre deals with the emotional impact that an earthquake in Haiti has on a man living in New York.

The festival’s closing reception will take place May 27th at a different venue, the Egyptian Temple #5, located at 5324 Crenshaw Blvd, in Los Angeles. It will include an award ceremony and performances by prominent artists from the Garifuna diaspora like Aziatic from Los Angeles, LiL JunE from New York, Ideal Castillo from Guatemala, and Awahaya Band and Guwie Band, both from Belize.

For more information and tickets, visit


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.



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