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Moccasins and Microphones: Modern Native Storytelling Through Performance Poetry cover photo

Moccasins and Microphones: Modern Native Storytelling Through Performance Poetry 2012

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Distributed by epf media, 324 S. Beverly Drive, PMB 437, Beverly Hills, CA 90212; 310-839-1500
Produced by Produced by Timothy P. McLaughlin
Directed by Directed by Jason Jaacks
DVD, color, 88 min.

Middle School - General Adult
Japan, Popular Culture, Music Trade, Singers

Date Entered: 12/11/2018

ALA Notable:
Reviewed by: Reviewed by Kimberly Poppiti, Stony Brook University, State University of New York, Stony Brook, NY

This 44 minute documentary film offers viewers an overview of the creative work done by members of the Santa Fe Indian School (SFIS) Spoken Word Team in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Founded around the year 2000 by faculty member Timothy P. McLaughlin, the Spoken Word program provides student members with a creative outlet and encourages them to create ensemble performance pieces that are based on the students’ ancestry and heritage, and combine original poetry, dance, and music.

The development, and ultimately the performance, of their 2011 theatrical performance piece, in which the students connected selected original poems with a combination of traditional and contemporary forms of both music and dance, is the main focus of the film. Moccasins and Microphones provides an in-depth look at how the students created, shaped, and performed this show in various locations throughout the United States and beyond. The filmmaker follows the students and coach through brainstorming sessions, rehearsals, and performances, to their high school graduation, and on to their series of performances at the Smithsonian National Museum for the American Indian in Washington, DC. Also included in the film are informal interviews and related footage of the team members discussing and explaining the significant import of their work with the Spoken Word Team to their educational journeys, larger life experiences, and personal identities.

This film is enjoyable, informative, and inspirational. It provides a good example of how a motivated group of young people can work with an inspired faculty member to create art that incorporates the traditional forms and expressions of their past, with contemporary performance styles and forms. The film also illustrates the positive impact that participation in this collaboration had on those involved. While this is not an overtly instructive film, the general method by which the performance develops is evident enough to prove instructive to interested viewers. Beyond this, viewers of the film can gain insight into aspects of native American Indian culture, including traditional forms of storytelling, dance, music, and poetry; the significance of these traditions to the members of the team is also evident. Moccasins and Microphones will be a worthwhile addition to classroom or library collections in various fields and is suitable for middle school-aged students and up.