In 1963 Zachery Longboy entered this world.
His parents were Chipewyan, specifically Sayisi Dene. Only a week into his life Zachery was taken away from his native community. Under circumstances which still remain a mystery Zachery was adopted by a white family. Since the event Zachery has been engulfed in a cloud of confusion: a confusion of identity. Zachery, with film, worked to express what being indigenous really means and how factors of family and history can shape it.Order now
Through two of his films, Confirmation of my Sins and The Stone Show, Zachery uses cinematic techniques to show his struggle with identity as well as how an indigenous visuality/identity is shaped by environment, history, and blood. Zachery Longboy is an artist. He uses film as a means of expressing himself, often these films are avant-garde. In 1999 The Stone Show released in art galleries. This nine minute film explores Zachery’s reunion with his biological family and tribe. Images consist of nature such as water, trees, birds, and the moon.
Audio heard comes from his biological grandmother and a phone call from his foster mother. Zachery released Confirmation of my Sins in 1995. In it he explores his childhood and memories with his foster family. He uses visuals of bright carpets and an old woman walking.
Also, he uses saturated colors of nature and black and white shots of his foster mother. An indigenous visuality is a hard concept to define. There are many films created by many people that all explore different aspect of native culture and life. However, indigenous visuality is a film that is created by a native and attempts to describe, tell a story, or bring awareness to native life and issues. Often indigenous films focus on land and family: they are quite important to native history. Some films are meant only to be understood by native audiences while others have a wide range of audiences.
Zachery maintains an indigenous visuality in his art by exploring native identity and how it can be shaped and transformed by your surroundings. Confirmation of my Sins presents an indigenous visuality that explores growing up a native in a white culture and, in fact, if you still are native under the circumstances. The Stone Show shows an indigenous visuality in how time and history impacts modern natives. If a native has been removed from his/her culture for so long there will be something fundamentally missing in his/her native identity. Confirmation of my Sins, as said above, expresses indigenous visuality of confusion in identity from growing up in a culture where you are completely different. The film explores these ideas through its contrasting audio and visuals, manipulated frame rate, sporadic camera movement, camera angles and framing, and lighting.
First, Zachery expresses his confusion in his identity through contrasting audio and visuals. The opening shot of the film is a close up of an old lady’s feet walking around a bright red carpet. The audio heard is of a woman talking. It is unclear if the woman who is walking is talking. It’s almost as if Zachery saw where he should be walking yet is hearing different. The fact that the viewer cannot determine where the voice comes from builds distance and adds mystery.
Another shot shows the sun setting in a field with tall grass. We hear audio from an old movie. It’s hard to know exactly which film is heard but it seems to be from an American western, words such as “apache” are heard. It’s hard not to think about the vanishing indian here.
The sun is setting on nature and, presumably, a cowboy is talking about indians. Old westerns are notorious for spreading the vanishing indian theory. Zachery here seems to say that perhaps his native identity has set with the American culture, the culture he grew up in. Finally, the most interesting contrast is visuals of “how-to” be a native drawings and slowed audio.
The audio seems to be of a person saying “sorry” over and over: it is slowed down immensely. The drawings are diagrams of stereotypically dressed natives crafting “native” things: building a fire, shelter, etc. . This seems that Zachery had to learn about native culture, his culture, through textbooks written by white Americans. A large part of native identity is passed through stories from parents and grandparents, however, Zachery did not have these stories he only had movies and books. Second, Zachery uses a manipulated frame rate and sporadic camera movements to express his sense of something missing and adding to his confusion in identity.
The shot of the sun setting is manipulated so that many frames have been removed. This removal makes the clip seem to skip and trip over itself. Images don’t move smoothly across the screen. Along with a low frame rate the camera is moving quickly.
With a handheld camera and low frame rate the clip literally shows the viewer that something is missing, there are images in between we can’t see. A quick moving camera leaves less image focused and makes it harder for the viewer to identify the setting. Perhaps this shows that Zachery has chunks of his childhood missing because he wasn’t raised by his biological parents. Third, through angle, framing, and light Zachery expresses that he wasn’t getting the whole picture of his lineage, blood, and history and that growing up where he did forced a non-native perspective on him. The shot where the sun sets isn’t normally colored: it is heavily saturated. Saturated is like if a picture was left in the sun for years.
The colors would fade become less prominent while everything became a dull white. This forces the viewers perspective to a set of colors that aren’t really what the actual field or sun is. There are clips of trees toward the end and the color of these shots are also saturated. Zachery most likely did this to show how his childhood was forced into seeing a certain way that he didn’t have control over. Zachery also frames pictures of his childhood over the saturated tree background.
This is an obvious example of framing and is used quite interestingly. Zachery seems to want the viewer to see the pictures in frames and the frame is a saturated image of nature. This seems to point to the fact that his childhood with his foster family was constantly engulfed by a manipulated and incorrect vision of native visuality and what a native identity consists of. Zachery knew that he was native and knew that there was a native culture somewhere he should be apart of but he never had the education, stories, and experiences to completely understand it. While Zachery explores his confusing indigenous visuality in Confirmation of my Sins he also explores his struggle with indigenous identity and visuality in The Stone Show. Zachery uses close ups, movement, sound, and color to express his sense of something missing in his life, his confusion of if he is an native, and how indigenous culture has been shaped in history.
First, Zachery uses close ups that limit the audiences understanding of a setting. A close up frames an event in such a way that there is a larger picture unseen. The opening and closing shots are close ups of a plaid shirt. We don’t know if the shirt is being worn, hanging, in the laundry, or floating down a river. All the audiences knows is it exists, and they can safely conclude that there is more to the picture: they know that life is simply not just a plaid shirt, there is much more to Earth and life.
Zachery knew in his childhood that there was a whole native world in his blood and in the world but he couldn’t see it or find it in himself. The second shot shows a close up of a woman moving stones into a bucket. Here it seems as if the woman is doing something productive and that she is probably native: the film describes his reunion with the Sayisi Dene. Perhaps Zachery saw this woman doing this and knew she was producing something but he had no idea what she was doing or what the end result would be.
There is a close up of a map and usually close up of maps are great: they show detail of an area. Zachery seems to use this oppositely, though. He is able to pinpoint where the Sayisi Dene live on a map but nothing else. He can’t say if they used to live somewhere else a long time ago and migrated there.
Or if the government forced them there. These close ups offer detail but detail is useless unless you understand the larger picture and Zachery doesn’t let the audience understand the larger picture to force them to feel with him. Second, sound and color are used to express a feeling of, what seems to be, overwhelming. When the woman transfers stones into the bucket the audio is amplified so the rocks hitting the bottom of the bucket make quite a loud-abrupt sound. As a viewer the sound overwhelms thought and clouds the process of understanding the image. Color produces this overwhelming feeling via bright and dark contrasts.
The first two shots are contrasting in color. The first is bright red and blue and then cuts to a dark-black and white shot. This contrast forces a viewer to adjust focus. In one shot the plaid shirt is clearly red and blue and it is cloth, while in the second shot the hands aren’t exactly clear: black flows into other shades of grey and white. What is happening isn’t clear visually and the contrasting cut of color emphasizes this.
After this the screen is overwhelmed with bright-harsh snow. The landscape ground fades into the sky and it is unclear where one snowy object ends and where the ground or sky begin. The harsh cut from dark hands to bright white landscape is overwhelming at first. Zachery seems to perfectly recreate the sensation of walking out of a dark house into a sunny and snowy day and your eyes being shocked and unused to how bright it is.
These harsh color contrasts make the viewer feel overwhelmed: it’s hard to understand what is happening when the color keeps changing harshly. Finally, Zachery uses movement in the shot and framing to express the history of indians and how the world is constantly changing so he will never be able to fully understand himself as a native. First, Zachery shows a close up of a stream, in the shot water is quickly moving down. This rapid movement down seems to express that nature is constantly being recycled and changing. The old falls off screen while the new enters at the top. Even though Zachery was able to reunite with his indigenous community and family there is still so much that has changed and happened that he may never understand or see.
The snowscape scene where the camera is quickly tracking in reverse expands on this feeling of distance and the unknowing. As the camera moves backwards the environment gets smaller and farther away. Points on the horizon vanish into nothing. Zachery expresses the vanishing indian here: the native land is rapidly moving away and vanishing into the horizon.
The most interesting use of movement is with a moon. In a series of shots the frame is split into four different images. The smallest frame being of a moon. Throughout these shots the moon is slowly moving to the right. As it moves the other frames become smaller and vanish while the moon’s frame becomes larger.
Eventually the whole frame is taken up by the moon. The moon moves off screen right, setting. As the moon sets images of birds and grass vanish. It seems that the moon represents white society and as it spreads, aspects of indigenous life vanish. Perhaps Zachery is showing this to express his feelings of how white society has affected him specifically and how white’s believe natives are vanishing.
He will never be able to fully identify with native or with whites. He is stuck in confusion. Jake winter Went ot hes rore and he Found himself buying some goodies and all thehyddh dfkadosdkdfkj buy JkakeiutyiueriuoiqueryoiqweuyrqpweiyrpqoweiurldkfjKUmemmaiuuauauauauj s jqb; jaw U j A ja Among these two works of art by Zachery Longboy there are similar and different themes explored and techniques used. Both of the films express indigenous visuality of what being a native means and how Zachery’s life has forced him to be forever confused about his own identity. They both express this through contrast, one contrasting color and the other contrasting audio and visuals.
These contrasts build suspense and force the mind to attempt to understand two things that are completely different. Through movement and framing both films limit the the understanding of the viewer and show that Zachery isn’t able to fully understand himself: he doesn’t have the complete picture. The films also both use hollywood tropes of indians such as the vanishing indian and cowboys vs. indians. The films differ in only plot. Confirmation of my Sins deals with Zachery and his foster family while The Stone Show deal with him and his reunions with native lands and family.
Zachery Longboy’s films, Confirmation of my Sins and The Stone Show, express and indigenous visuality, through cinematic techniques, of what being an indian really means, how environment manipulates the way you see yourself as an indian, and how history of white society has forever changed how natives see themselves.
Longboy, Zachery, dir. Confirmation of my Sins. 1995.
Film. Longboy, Zachery, dir. The Stone Show. 1999. Film.