Catherine Bainbridge and Alfonso Maiorana celebrate the unheralded Native roots of popular music.

Festival Section:
World Cinema Documentary Competition


Sundance Program Description:

When recalling Link Wray’s shivering guitar classic, “Rumble,” Martin Scorsese marvels, “It is the sound of that guitar… the aggression.” Wray was the first to deploy thumping power chords and hone distortion, carving out a new guitar sound that influenced rock and roll forever. But as a Native American, Wray’s music was a threat – and it was treated as such.

Blues pioneer Charlie Patton, cherished jazz singer Mildred Bailey, and metaphysical wizard Jimi Hendrix are among the many music greats who have Native American heritage and have created their distinctive music amid the attempted cleansing of indigenous culture from the country. Their music was not even meant to exist.

Using playful re-creations and little-known stories, alongside concert footage, audio archives, and interviews with living legends, this deeply insightful film cements how some of our most treasured artists and songs found their inspiration in ancient, native melodies and harmonies that were infused with a desire to resist. You’ll never listen to your favorite rock and roll classics the same way again.

Some Background:
Director/Producer/Executive Producer:

  • Catherine Bainbridge
    Bainbridge’s sophomore documentary feature is her first at Sundance, and continues the focus on Native visibility evidenced in her debut, REEL INJUN. She is also the executive producer of the Canadian comedy television series MOHAWK GIRLS, another production of Montreal-based, Native-owned Rezolution Pictures, which Bainbridge co-founded in 2001.


  • Alfonso Maiorana
    This also marks Maiorana’s Sundance debut. He has also served as a DP on MOHAWK GIRLS.

Producers/Executive Producers:

  • Christina Fon and Linda Ludwick
    Rezolution’s Fon and Ludwick both have producing credits on REEL INJUN and MOHAWK GIRLS. This is their first Sundance project.


  • Lisa M Roth
    Another member of the Rezolution team, Roth is a co-producer of MOHAWK GIRLS, and makes her Sundance debut here.

Executive Producers:

  • Stevie Salas
    Native American guitarist Salas has played with a range of musicians, from Rod Stewart and Mick Jagger to Justin Timberlake and Terence Trent D’Arby. This is the second documentary he has executive produced, and was inspired by an exhibition Salas co-created for the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian.

  • Tim Johnson
    Johnson is associate director for museum programs at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian. He co-created the 2010-2011/2012-2013 exhibition, Up Where We Belong: Native Musicians in Popular Culture with Salas, the inspiration for this documentary, his first Sundance credit.

  • Ernest Webb
    Webb is a co-founder of Rezolution Pictures, and is an executive producer of REEL INJUN, MOHAWK GIRLS, and the company’s other productions.

  • Jan Rofekamp
    Past Sundance docs:

    ON A TIGHTROPE (2007)
    HITCHCOCK, SELZNICK AND THE END OF HOLLYWOOD (1999, associate producer)
    SOME NUDITY REQUIRED (1998, associate producer)

    Rofekamp is the President and CEO of veteran documentary international sales agency Films Transit International.


  • Jeremiah Hayes
    Hayes was the co/director and editor of REEL INJUN. This is his first Sundance credit.

  • Ben Duffield
    This marks Duffield’s Sundance debut.

Consulting Editor:

  • Jon Kalina
    This is also Kalina’s first Sundance project.

Why You Should Watch:
This loving appreciation finally gives due to the long unacknowledged influences of Native American music in rock and other genres, and, more broadly, explores the resilience of Native culture against concentrated attempts to extinguish it in the name of assimilation or, worse, genocide.

More Info:
Meet the Artists

For Sundance screening dates and times, click the film title in the first paragraph.

To experience the festival through the eyes of this year’s filmmakers, follow my Sundance 2017 Twitter list.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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