DOCUMENTARY | USA | 94 MINUTES | Cherokee, English
ᏓᏗᏬᏂᏏ (We Will Speak)
With fewer than 1,500 fluent speakers left, a small group of Cherokee activists race to save their language from extinction.
Synopsis: The Cherokee language is deeply tied to Cherokee identity; yet generations of assimilation efforts by the U.S. government and anti-Indigenous stigmas have forced the Tri-Council of Cherokee tribes to declare a State of Emergency for the language in 2019. While there are 430,000 Cherokee citizens in the three federally recognized tribes, fewer than an estimated 2,000 fluent speakers remain—the majority of whom are elderly. The covid pandemic has unfortunately hastened the course. Language activists, artists, and the youth must now lead the charge of urgent radical revitalization efforts to help save the language from the brink of extinction.
This feature-length documentary was shot on-location in Oklahoma and North Carolina throughout 2019-2022; through intimate interviews, vérité footage of community gatherings, and extensive archival materials, the film explores the nuanced ways the Cherokee language is vital to maintaining a unique cultural identity and relationship with the world. The collaborative project is also meant to act as an empowering agent of hope for Indigenous voices despite enduring inequity and oppression.
CAST & CREDITS
Directed by Schon Duncan, Michael McDermit
Born and raised in Stilwell, Oklahoma, ᎤᎶᎩᎳ/Schon Duncan is a product of language work provided by elders/teachers in his early years and beyond. In 2014, he graduated from Northeastern State University and completed the Cherokee Language Master Apprentice Program in 2019. Recently, Duncan began his teaching career as a Cherokee Language Teacher at Dahlonegah Public School. He is a proud member of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians. He is currently at work on his first film, ᏓᏗᏬᏂᏏ (We Will Speak), a feature length documentary about the fight to save the Cherokee language from extinction.
Michael McDermit makes and produces documentary films, books and other printed projects under a small independent creative imprint, Blurry Pictures. BP documentaries have enjoyed fruitful film festival runs at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, the Atlanta Film Festival, and the Cleveland International Film Festival, among many others. His film Strawberry Forever, about his father’s struggle with aphasia, took home the Audience Choice Award at the 2021 disABILITY Film Festival. ᏓᏗᏬᏂᏏ (We Will Speak) is his first feature-length documentary. McDermit earned an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Oregon. In addition to filmmaking, he teaches English and Creative Writing to underserved college students in South Los Angeles.
Schon Duncan, Michael McDermit
Keli Gonzales, Laura Heberton
Wes Studi, Gill Holland
Thursday, November 9
Q&A with Filmmakers
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