Photo by Taylor Hensel
PARK CITY, UT (December 10, 2021) – Today the Sundance Film Festival announced that ᎤᏕᏲᏅ (What They've Been Taught), a new documentary short film by Brit Hensel with Keli Gonzales, is an official selection in the 2022 festival. According to the Sundance Institute, Hensel is the first woman citizen of Cherokee Nation to direct an official selection at the festival. The film’s world premiere will be held in-person in January 2022 in Park City, Utah, as well as online from January 20th – 30th (details here). ᎤᏕᏲᏅ “Udeyonv” (pronounced oo-de-yo-NUH) is one of seven films from season one of Reciprocity Project, a co-production of Nia Tero, Upstander Project, and REI Co-op Studios.
ᎤᏕᏲᏅ (What They’ve Been Taught) explores expressions of reciprocity in the Cherokee world, brought to life through a story told by an elder and first language speaker. The film circles the intersection of tradition, language, land, and a commitment to maintaining balance.
“It is important to us that ᎤᏕᏲᏅ includes the perspectives of western and eastern Giduwa (Cherokee) people. Although our communities are separated by distance, our collaboration on this film offers a balanced perspective of what reciprocity means to our people and how it’s actualized in our lives,” said Hensel, who is a 4th World Media Lab Fellow, a 2022 Tulsa Artist Fellow, and works on the series Reservation Dogs on FX.
The film is already garnering high praise. “Brit Hensel weaves a tender and beautiful portrait of quiet yet necessary teachings that connect notions of land, home, and family, and shows us the ways in which the everyday is built upon layers of memories of the past, the joys of the present, and the hopes for the future,” said Sky Hopinka (Ho-Chunk Nation/Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians), an acclaimed filmmaker.
ᎤᏕᏲᏅ (What They’ve Been Taught) was created in collaboration with independent artists from both Cherokee Nation and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, filmed in North Carolina and Oklahoma, and produced by Taylor Hensel (Cherokee, who is also Brit’s sister), Adam Mazo, Kavita Pillay, and Tracy Rector as part of Reciprocity Project, which seeks to embrace the value of reciprocity through Indigenous perspectives through storytelling, film, podcasts, and other creative mediums. The ultimate goal of Reciprocity Project is to create a paradigm shift that reframes our relationships to the Earth, other living beings, and one another.
Learn more about ᎤᏕᏲᏅ (What They’ve Been Taught) and the other Reciprocity Project films at www.reciprocity.org.
About Reciprocity Project
Facing a climate crisis, the Reciprocity Project embraces Indigenous value systems that have bolstered communities since the beginning of time. To heal, we must recognize that we are in relationship with Earth, a place that was in balance for millennia. This short film series and multimedia platform, made in partnership with Indigenous storytellers and their communities worldwide, invites learning from time-honored and current Indigenous ways of being. Season 1 of the Reciprocity Project will premiere in 2022.
About Nia Tero
Nia Tero is a US-based non-profit working in solidarity with Indigenous peoples and movements worldwide with a mission of securing Indigenous guardianship of vital ecosystems. Nia Tero is committed to an antiracist and inclusive culture centering Indigenous rights, wisdom, practices, worldviews, and protocols.
About Upstander Project
Upstander Project encourages decolonization and upstander behavior through compelling documentary films and learning resources. Their goals are to overcome indifference to social injustice, develop the skills of upstanders, and contribute to action-oriented campaigns in response to vital social issues.
Recreational Equipment, Inc. also known as REI is an American retail and outdoor recreation services corporation. It is organized as a consumers' co-operative and dedicated to outdoors education.
About Filmmaker Brit Hensel (Director, Camera)
Brit Hensel is an Oklahoma based writer and award-winning filmmaker. A citizen of Cherokee Nation, her work largely explores traditional Cherokee values, language, and her peoples’ connection to land in Oklahoma (former Indian Territory) and in her ancestral homelands of North Carolina (Qualla Boundary). Previously, Brit directed the documentary films, Zibi Yajdan (2019) and Native and American (2017). She was a producer for Osiyo, Voices of the Cherokee People. Recently she worked on the first season of the FX series, Reservation Dogs and was awarded the 2022 Tulsa Artist Fellowship and 4th World Indigenous Fellowship. Brit continues to use her love for storytelling to help amplify the voices and values of her community. Most importantly, she hopes her work honors and makes Cherokee people proud.
About Keli Gonzales (Associate Producer)
Keli ᎨᎳᏗ Gonzales is a Cherokee artist from Welling, OK. She merges pop culture and traditional Cherokee cultural images to make personal statements. Women are central figures in her work. She also incorporates the Cherokee syllabary into her work with the hope that it will inspire people to learn to read syllabary and possibly learn the Cherokee language.