UA Grad's Film Finds International Audience
Christopher Nataanii Cegielski, who graduated from the UA last May, has earned a Sundance Fellowship and his film, "Bloodlines," has been screened at two international festivals.
Since graduating from the University of Arizona last May, Christopher Nataanii Cegielski has gained international attention for a film he produced during his last months at the University.
Earlier this month, Cegielski (Navajo) traveled to Berlin, where his film, "Bloodlines," was screened during Berlinale, the Berlin International Film Festival, one of the world's leading film festivals. It was the first time that a film affiliated with the UA Film and Television Program had been accepted into the festival, and his film was featured in the Generations Section, which drew more than 60,000 people.
"This could not have been possible without the cast and crew, along with the funders who so generously donated their money to make this short film possible," Cegielski said. His trip to Berlin was made possible by support from the Sundance Institute, which recently named him a Sundance Film Festival Fellow. The institute was founded by actor and director Robert Redford more than 30 years ago.
Through Sundance, Cegielski received one of three Time Warner Fellowships, which provides Fellows with mentoring, strategic grants, screenplay readings and in-progress screenings, along with invitations to related programs and events.
"These are great honors — huge honors and accomplishments," said Cegielski, who earned his bachelor of fine arts from the UA School of Theatre, Film & Television and is now living and working in Los Angeles. "I am thankful beyond belief for these opportunities, and am happy and excited to have been recognized. I just want to embrace every moment and enjoy every moment."
Cegielski, who grew up in Flagstaff, Arizona, wrote, directed and produced "Bloodlines," a short film about two adolescent American Indian brothers who set out to kill a wolf to earn their stern father's respect. The UA's film and television program trains emerging filmmakers and storytellers and emphasizes diverse voices.
"Not until the program at the UA did I get serious and begin experimenting with and using the craft," said Cegielski, whose film also received the Film and Television Program's Entertainment Partners Award for Excellence in Producing.
"My two and a half years in the UA film and television program was filled with strong friendships with my peers and faculty members," Cegielski said. "We created a small community of artists and filmmakers that collaborated, competed and pushed each other to produce the strongest work possible."
After the UA, Cegielski received advice from the UA Hanson Film Institute in the development of a film festival entry plan for "Bloodlines." The institute also provided financial support to supplement the budget for film festival submission fees and made introductions for Cegielski to film festival programmers and noted American Indian filmmakers for career advice.
"Because the institute provides professional development opportunities for students, and with one of the institute's areas of focus being Native American filmmaking, I took note of Chris early on in his studies in the film and television program, and the institute provided him with a number of career development opportunities," said Vicky Westover, director of the Hanson Film Institute.
"It has been exciting to see him develop his talent and confidence as a filmmaker."
"Bloodlines" received its world premiere at imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival, the premier international film festival for work by indigenous filmmakers, which was held in Toronto, Canada, last October.
"Through this experience, I was able to show my film, work on new projects and make new friends," Cegielski said. "It was the perfect film festival experience."
By being named to the Sundance Film Festival Fellowship, Cegielski was supported in his attendance at year's Sundance Film Festival. There, he was able to participate in screenings, networking events and individually tailored meetings with industry leaders.
"Being at the Sundance Film Festival with the Native Program was an experience of a lifetime," Cegielski said, adding that it was especially encouraging to hear insight from predecessors about ways that he and others could contribute to the fourth generation of native filmmakers.
"The program did an amazing job at giving us every opportunity to become inspired and share our projects with filmmakers from around the world," he said. "In all, the program wanted to push us forward as filmmakers, and that's exactly what they did. Being selected by the program and given this opportunity was an absolute honor."
Cegielski said he would continue producing films that reflect the experience and influence of American Indian populations.
"Filmmaking is arguably one of the best ways to tell stories," he said. "I am trying to find stories I believe should be told."
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