Mother Tongue Logo Final_300The Smithsonian Institution presents a viewing from the Mother Tongue Film Festival at the Embassy Theatre in Fort Wayne, Indiana from 7:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Friday November 1st, 2019. After the short, and the feature-length film, a panel (including Daryl Baldwin and George Ironstrack of the Myaamia Center, and Mary Linn of the Smithsonian Institution) will discuss the films and answer questions.

“The Smithsonian’s Mother Tongue Film Festival celebrates cultural and linguistic diversity by showcasing films and filmmakers from around the world over four days of free screenings in Washington, D.C.

Since 2016, the annual festival has opened on February 21, International Mother Language Day. In 2019, the Mother Tongue Film Festival will be featured as a major event of the United Nations’ Year of Indigenous Languages.”


In the first feature-length Haida film, Edge of the Knife tells a story of pride, tragedy, and penance.

Edge of the Knife draws its name from a Haida saying: “the world is as sharp as a knife,” reminding us that as we walk along, we have to be careful not to fall off one side or the other. Set in the nineteenth century against the backdrop of the rain forest and storm-ravaged Pacific coast of Haida Gwaii, the film is an adaptation of one of Haida’s most popular stories, sustained over the years through song and performance.

After tragedy strikes, young Adiits’ii becomes Gaagiixiid/Gaagiid, the Haida Wildman. Stranded, he fights to survive while his humanity gives way to a more bestial state. Meanwhile, the community struggles with conflicting emotions upon returning to the site where Adiits’ii was last seen. Both a timeless story and a contemporary allegory for the Haida Nation, the film was envisioned as a way to support Haida language, a critically endangered language spoken fluently by fewer than twenty people, and promote Haida culture by bringing an ancient story into a new space through film.

Directors: Gwaai Edenshaw (Haida) and Helen Haig-Brown (Tsilhqot’in)


(Tyler York as Adiits’ii in Gwaai Edenshaw and Helen Haig-Brown’s film SGAAWAAY K’UUNA – EDGE OF THE KNIFE. Photo credit Niijang Xyaalas Productions. Copyright Isuma Distribution International.)


In the midst of famine, an Athabaskan community must trust a small child to provide the medicine they need to survive. Originally recorded on wax cylinder by linguist Edward Sapir as told by John Fredson, this traditional story has been faithfully retold as part of the Language Keepers series, a project that strives to harness the power of language to highlight culturally unique stories with revitalization.

As a Gwich’in boy helps his tribe overcome the Winter famine, he discovers his own powers to harness the power of the moon. Boy in the Moon is the animated re-telling of a Gwich’in folktale, using live-action backgrounds, archival photography, and multimedia animation. It is part of a larger educational language suite entitled Language Keepers.
Language Keepers is a series of animated documentaries that harness the power of
endangered languages to tell stories unique to cultures on the fringes of humanity. Each
episode is comprised of two main elements: an animated short film and the interactive
multimedia suite that follows it. Contained in the suite is a short documentary profiling a language immersion camp on the Yukon River, an animated walk through of the linguistic features of the Gwich’in language, a documentary portrait of two Gwich’in natives living in a small village inside the Arctic Circle, and an interactive Q&A with the language keepers working to preserve the Gwich’in culture.

Director/Producer: Sam Osborn
Sam Osborn has directed films for Topic, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Vice News, Vox, Bustle, GQ, Vocativ, Teen Vogue, Verse Media and more. He is also the Series Producer for Mosa Mack Science, which is an Impact HUB winner and recipient of the SIAA Teacher’s Choice Award. He is currently at work on his debut feature-length documentary, Universe, and a 10-episode series for Topic Studios entitled “Eating.” Most recently, he completed the four-part documentary series “Night Shift” for the September 2018 issue of Topic.

Storyteller: Allan Hayton
Allan grew up in Arctic Village, and is the son of Lena Pauline Hayton from Fort Yukon, Alaska, and James T. Hayton from Natick, Massachusetts. Allan is a Doyon Foundation alumnus, and studied theatre and film at Haskell Indian Nations University and the University of Kansas. Allan hopes to see all of the Doyon region languages being learned and spoken by present and future shareholders. “It is imperative that these languages continue to be spoken on the land of our ancestors,” he says.


(Copyright Boy in the Moon/Smithsonian Institute)