Filmmaker Sterlin Harjo introduced an inspiring documentary to the Sundance 2014 film festival in an effort to preserve the tribal songs of the Muscogee Creek Nation, based in Oklahoma.
After the mysterious disappearance of Harjo’s grandfather in 1962, the Muscogee community searched for him by singing songs of encouragement that have been passed down for generations. Through his documentary, titled, “This may be the last time,” Harjo explores the origins of these songs as well as the history of his people.
“This film is the first time that I’ve had a documentary at this film festival, and it’s very personal to me,” Harjo said. “It’s a story that is really close to me; you will hear my voice through the film.”
The main purpose of this film, according to Harjo, is to be able to preserve a portion of history and maybe help the next generation understand the importance.
“It is always really important to use my art as a way to preserve things that might not otherwise be preserved,” Harjo continued. “It was always important to take my musical heritage as a Muscogee Creek Native and preserve that.”
Harjo hopes this film will be able to help children that have native roots.
“Some kid might watch the film and see his heritage and think, ‘Oh that’s really cool, someone actually thought this was important enough to make a movie,'” Harjo said. “That might make a difference. Sometimes it takes something that small for someone to look into their heritage and say, ‘I want to learn my language, or hear these songs.”
Throughout the film Harjo shows how the Muscogee Creek songs are an important part of American history.
“I didn’t realize how important these songs were to American history until I left my home and then returned again,” Harjo explained.
A large crowd of Native Americans from across the country showed up to see the documentary and experience a bit of their heritage together at Sundance this year.
“I really enjoyed the history and culture of the movie,” said Amanda Garrow, a Mohawk Indian, a tribe based in northern New York. “We all have our own music in our tribes that is passed down through the generations. It’s religious, spiritual music that is the foundation.”
To learn and see more about the film, go to thismaybethelasttimefilm.com.