Rodrick Pocowatchit is known for his movie reviews in The Wichita Eagle and for making his own films locally, such as “The Dead Can’t Dance” and “The Incredible Brown NDN.”
He wouldn’t mind, though, being known as the man who helps Wichitans learn more about Native American culture while also being entertained through his AlterNative Film Festival, the first of which happened in 2021 and the second of which is happening Nov. 10-12 at the Mid-America All-Indian Museum.
“It opens up a whole new world,” Pocowatchit said of the festival. “Especially if people are interested in learning about Native culture.”
Born and raised in Wichita, Pocowatchit is half Comanche – his father was full-blood Comanche – and Pawnee and Shawnee on his mother’s side.
“I grew up dancing, literally since I could walk, at powwows,” Pocowatchit said.
As he grew up, movies became important, too.
“My mom would take me to the theater and drop me off by myself. I just remember being enthralled by it.
Active in theatre in high school and at K-State, Pocowatchit thought about going to film school but “it just didn’t seem plausible.” He put his graphic design degree to work at the Eagle.
At the age of 30, he decided to study film on his own and then wrote some short screenplays. For his first film, “Dancing on the Moon,” a buddy/road trip movie featuring Native American characters, he used friends as actors — a practice he’s continued through other films. He was accepted into the Sundance Film Festival’s screenwriting workshop for Native Americans, flown to Los Angeles and mentored by professionals in the business.
In 2020, Pocowatchit quit his job at The Eagle to work more on films. He’s travelled to numerous Native American film festivals, which got him thinking.
“Well, why don’t we have one here?”
After taking 2022 off from the festival, Pocowatchit is again partnering with the Mid-America All-Indian Museum. Pocowatchit said the festival is free “because I just kind of wanted to give a gift to the city and let people experience this.”
The opening and closing night films are by Native female directors.
Saturday night, there’s a screening of two episodes of the “Reservation Dogs” TV show – a show that has particularly resonated with Pocowatchit.
There’s an opening reception at 6 p.m. on Nov. 10 with food and drinks, and there’s a reception before the “Reservation Dogs” show on Nov. 11 that the All-Indian Museum is sponsoring, which will include fried bread and wine.
Pocowatchit pared down this year’s festival in an effort to improve it.
“Already we’re making leaps ahead from the first one just in our programming and in our special guests, so I hope it keeps growing.”
For more information and showtimes, check out www.alternativefilmfestival.org.