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Documentary produced by Arizona State University and Gila River Indian teens chosen for CinemaTexas international film festival

April 14, 2003

TEMPE, Ariz. – The River People, a documentary video created by Arizona Gila River Indian teens in conjunction with the Herberger College of Fine Arts at Arizona State University, will show in September at the CinemaTexas International Short Film Festival in Austin, Texas. CinemaTexas is considered one of the best short film festivals in the world.

“ The video was chosen for its poetic and creative visual portrayal of Native American teens rarely represented in mainstream media,” said project organizer Stephani Etheridge Woodson, theatre professor at the Herberger College of Fine Arts. The River People, one of 18 pieces selected from nearly 60 submitted, will enjoy its first public screening Sept. 13-14 during the Cinemakids portion of the festival devoted to honoring young media producers. 

To create the video, Woodson helped a group of 14- to 18-year-old Akimel O’otham teens use improvisation, creative writing and interviewing techniques to explore their relationships to their heritage. The teens videotaped interviews with local elders and added their own poetic responses to questions such as “I am,” “I want,” “I see,” “I say.” The result is a 40-minute video collage that shows the teens’ pride in their culture and also their concerns about a dying culture, caring for elders and cities building closer to the reservation. 

The River People
 is the product of a multimedia performing arts project called Place: Vision and Voice, a partnership between the Herberger College of Fine Arts, Huhugam Heritage Center and the Ira H. Hayes Memorial Applied Learning High School, located on the Gila River Indian reservation. The project’s goal was to focus on identity issues and the outcome was the realization that Akimel O’otham teens learn about Indian traditions almost entirely by oral customs passed through their families. Some of the teens had never been taught the Pima culture and really hungered for information about what it means to be Akimel O’otham. 

The Herberger College of Fine Arts at Arizona State University is dedicated to enriching its students and its community through innovative, collaborative and transforming experiences. Founded in 1964, Herberger College comprises four nationally ranked academic units: school of music, school of art, department of dance and department of theatre, plus the Institute for Studies in the Arts and the ASU Art Museum. To learn more about the college, visit 

Media Contact:
Denise Tanguay