South Dakota State University hosted a screening of the Indigenous thriller "Blood Quantum,” starting with a special presentation with honored guests, on Nov. 1.
The screening at the Orpheum Theatre in Sioux Falls, which included a meet-and-greet with actors Michael Greyeyes and Gary Farmer, was part of the World Languages and Cultures Film Festival. It was co-hosted by SDSU’s School of American and Global Studies, the Wokini Initiative and SDSU Connect.
“Blood Quantum” is a 2019 Canadian horror film written, directed and edited by Jeff Barnaby. It stars Greyeyes, Farmer, Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, Forrest Goodluck, Kiowa Gordon, Brandon Oakes, Olivia Scriven and Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs.
The film depicts the effects of a zombie uprising on a First Nations reserve whose residents are immune to contracting the plague because of their Indigenous heritage, according to Wikipedia. The residents must still cope with the consequences of the plague’s effects on the world around them, including non-Indigenous refugees seeking shelter on the reserve.
Three-dozen SDSU students and staff attended the screening, along with students and staff from the University of South Dakota, Northern State University and Augustana University. Also in attendance were guests from the Yankton Sioux Tribe and Sisseton Wahpeton schools.
Kim TallBear was the keynote speaker before the screening, talking about identity, genetic ancestry and blood quantum. TallBear is a professor in the Faculty of Native Studies, University of Alberta, and Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Peoples, Technoscience and Society. She is enrolled in the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Tribe and descended from the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes of Oklahoma.
A dinner reception before the screening included Greyeyes, Farmer, TallBear and the students, and SDSU Ph.D. Wokini scholar Dillon Nelson moderated a panel discussion with the actors.
SDSU student Danielle Reynolds reflected on Greyeyes’ message that he does not accept acting roles that portray Native people as a weak entity or victim. The statement shows an understanding of the importance of putting Native people in higher, more powerful, more respectful and more tasteful roles, Reynolds explained.
“This brings up the issues of Native representation in the film industry and how a lot of these works have depicted Indigenous people as the ‘losing’ side or the ‘victim.’ This occurred for many years. While we can blame the directors and producers of these films, I believe that some Native actors had a responsibility in creating this stereotype by accepting these roles,” Reynolds said.
Shows and movies such as “Reservation Dogs,” “Prey” and “Blood Quantum” are prime examples of Native people being portrayed the way they want to be, when they are film creators, Reynolds added.
“We have held people accountable for their false narratives and portrayals of our people. We do not tolerate tasteless and disrespectful stereotypes anymore. And we are creating a new era of filmmaking where the younger generation can look to our Indigenous actors and feel proud, seen and heard,” she said.
Additional support for the event came from the South Dakota Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.