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Alum’s film aims to open dialogue about Columbus Day

Columbus Day may top the list of contentious federal holidays. For some, the day stirs up pride; for others, anger.

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Columbus Day may top the list of contentious federal holidays. For some, the day stirs up pride; for others, anger.

To open dialogue about the commemoration, the Indigenous Studies Initiative is bringing Navajo filmmaker and University of Texas at Austin alumnus Bennie Klain, B.S. ’03, to campus Monday (Oct. 11). The director will give screenings of two films, “Yada Yada” and the forthcoming “Columbus Day Legacy.”

Klain is a graduate of the university’s Department of Radio-Television-Film and has directed several films, including the award-winning “Weaving Worlds,” which was first screened at SxSW in 2007 and later on Public Television. Recognizing a gap between the kind of films made with Native American content and the contemporary situations Native American communities find themselves in, Klain founded the production company TricksterFilms to tell stories that challenge cultural norms, though with an “irreverent twist.”

Klain’s latest documentary, “Columbus Day Legacy,” will be the feature of the on-campus event Monday. The film delves into a clash between two of Denver’s ethnic groups that repeats itself each year when the Italian American community hosts a Columbus Day parade, to the disappointment of the local chapter of the American Indian Movement.

Bennie Klain


“I heard about street protests and violence in Denver every year, and a week before the 2006 parade in Denver, we decided to make a movie about it,” said Klain. The film examines free speech, the ownership of history and American identity, giving weight to both communities’ convictions to show that one side’s anger does not render the other side’s sentiment obsolete.

“I don’t think there can be any real or lasting growth without this recognition and reconciliation,” he said.

Still in the final stages of production, “Columbus Day Legacy” is slated for release on Public Television. In the meantime, Klain feels privileged to bring the film to his alma mater.

“I am excited to offer up this preview to a place where I learned how to tell good stories and make good films,” he said. “I hope that ‘Columbus Day Legacy’ spurs people to find out more about the origins of the holiday and also to find out more about contemporary Native peoples and how history continues to resonate in the present day.”

The event will also include a showing of Klain’s 2002 short film “Yada Yada,” which explores an encounter between the brash host of an Austin, Texas, radio call-in show and a Native American caller. An open discussion with Klain will follow.

The screening will take place Oct. 11 from 5:30-7 p.m. in the Texas Union Theatre, room 2.228. It is free and open to the public.

For more information about the event, visit the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement. To learn more about Bennie Klain’s films, visit the TricksterFilms Web site.