The Crow Sun Dance

Event Details

Join us at the library on Monday, November 20th at 4:00pm as local filmmaker Sean Kernan screens his film, “The Crow Sun Dance” and takes your questions.

Sean Kernan began filming on the Crow Reservation more than 10 years ago, and that has resulted in an ever-growing movie called Crow Stories about the life in the unique cultural setting of the Crow Tribe of southern Montana.

When he first arrived someone in the tribe asked, “What do you want to say with this film?” “I don’t want to say anything,” he answered, “I want to listen.”

He been watching and listening ever since, and has witnessed and filmed an initiation into the Tobacco Society and a naming ceremony, prayed in a sweat lodge, followed a buffalo hunt, talked with a Crow rapper named Supaman, learned about horses, and gotten advice for living from elder Joe Medicine Crow.

The latest installment which he filmed last summer is a deep look into the Crow Sun Dance, three days of fasting, dancing, and prayer that is usually only visited by participants and friends.

The film that came out of this work simply evokes the reverential air that surrounds the event during the three days and nights of the ritual. It doesn’t try to explain meaning so much as it carries the viewer to the site and lets them simply experience things as they unfold.

For this screening we’ll pair visions of the Sun Dance with a look at the rowdy and exuberant Hand Game that indigenous people have been playing since before the Europeans arrived. It involves hiding, bluffing, deception, and taunting, all accompanied by thunderous drumming and music. It is a great contrast to the Sun Dance and a part of the cultural continuum of the Crows.

The Crow Sun Dance has a runtime of 23 minutes and the Hand Game, 9 minutes.  Sean Kernan will take questions and comments after the screening.


Sean Kernan Bio:

Sean Kernan is a local photographer, writer, and teacher who came to photography from theater. He is the author of two monographs, The Secret Books (with Jorge Luis Borges) and Among Trees, with Anthony Doerr, a book on creativity called Looking Into the Light , and In Stone, on the sculptor Darrell Petit.

He has exhibited at galleries and museums in France, Egypt, Mexico, South Korea, and Italy, as well as in the US, and has created media for performance pieces with Alison Chase at MASS MoCA, Guggenheim Projects in New York, and Portland Performing Arts Festival, most recently a theater/dance/multimedia piece, Drowned.

He has produced and directed several award-winning documentaries: The Kampala Boxing Club, about boxing in Africa; Crow Stories, about the Crow Tribe of Montana; A Mind of Winter, about the feeling of cold; and The Visitor, filmed in his grear-grandfather’s house in upstate New York.


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