Chapter Two

Irene Borger, Monday, April 12
Dear Roya and Sky,
Am sitting here in Santa Monica taking in your words – and a whiff of the worlds they summon, taking in the flow of questioning, listening into, responding, listening, sensing both a quietude and an urgency in your dialogue. May your conversation become part of the questions and challenges of this time. My friend Gideon Lester just sent me Mark Swed’s interview with Peter Sellars  -  and, if you wouldn’t mind, I’d like to toss Peter’s thoughts into the mix:
“…“If we can figure out what we truly need and what we don’t need…maybe, just maybe, we will emerge differently…”
“I’ve been trying to focus very intensely on small scale…and [on] purpose, on a sense of utility…”
I ask this to both of you, Sky and Roya:
(1) It may be much too early to tell…yet from this moment, can you sense how you – and your work – might “emerge differently?”
(2) What place have ‘purpose’ and ‘utility’ played – if at all – in your work? Again, it may be much to early to know – and this ‘knowing’ may be far deeper than words – does this moment ask you to consider, re-consider ‘purpose’ and ‘utility’ or has that, in some way, been part of your making?
Also, Sky, am wondering how this time interrupts and/or changes your next projects? [Maybe you could talk about what you have been making and how that is - or isn't leading to where you are going next?] Could you say more about what this stay-in-place might be allowing? Warm thoughts to you both, Irene
RR:  Tuesday, April 14
Dear Irene, Thank you so much for sending that assembly! Peter's interview is really brilliant and helpful. In terms of your questions, I instinctively had a response to both questions at the same time because how I am going to emerge is very much about a revised sense of purpose and utility.
As a producer - I'm working with writers right now to re-conceptualize the films we were working on to be more lean - in terms of actors and production logistics. When we emerge from this shelter in place order, there will be no "return to normal." We are forever changed, not just emotionally, but also logistically speaking, we'll all see each other as humans in a different way. We are connected as varying communities - but we are also connected in a way that is freaking people out - because our health, our wellbeing, our economies and lives are interdependent on each other. Of course people might have understood this before conceptually, but now it is really manifesting concretely, in real time. We are also being trained to see each other in ways that are problematic, but deemed necessary for us to get through this shelter in place order. We are being trained to see ourselves as sick, contagious, and see others that way as well. We are all contagious. ‘Viral’ is not a metaphor.
SH: Saturday, April 18th

(1) I think it's too early to tell, I still don't know when I'm going to shoot again or what that looks like.

(2) Utility has played a role in my work, I'm not sure what that looks like further in the future, again, it's too early to tell. But I am interested in the role of language and what it represents and has the possibility to represent.

Irene Borger:
Also, Sky, am wondering how this time interrupts and/or changes your next projects? Could you say more about what this stay-in-place might be allowing?

It has interrupted all of my projects, but I'm moving ahead as best I can.  It has given me more time to collect my thoughts and plan for the future best I can, but again it's hard to say what that looks like when things change everyday.  I haven't been making much in the past month and a half, just editing, writing emails, and finishing up teaching this semester as best I can.  So there's time for introspection, but not much given everything else going on.

Roya and Sky continued their conversation. The following exchanges took place between Wednesday, April 22nd and Monday, April 27th

Dear Sky,
Irene reminded me of passages from your application, and they triggered a whole series of more grounded thoughts and questions. I would really love to hear your thoughts on these, even if in short bursts. Especially now that the shock of the pandemic wears off, and the pain of the losses wears more deeply, and the isolation starts to really kick in - I'm thinking about some of your thoughts on language revitalization (and community building) and the cinematic experience, in a totally refreshed way.
You mentioned your surprise when your language teacher said that 90% of language revitalization is community building. You had also shared that teaching language has become an integral part of your creative process and practice - how do you think your films are part of this revitalization? Especially now that we're all thinking about community in such a different way after 6 weeks of sheltering-in-place.

I imagine my films being part of this revitalization by the usage of the language within them and by proposing ways that the language could be potentially be used.  Trying to find new ways to say things, wondering how the language could exist in different contexts and seeing what works and doesn't work are all a part of these necessary conversations.


You note how weary you became - at an early age - of simplified representations, and representations that you were repeatedly exposed to because there just weren't more stories and films about Indigenous, Native American, or Ho-Chunk peoples. As a filmmaker, your approach is to deliberately not be "direct" in the content you create, in terms of how you shoot it or edit it or put it all together. But you've also said that "However esoteric my videos can be, I don't want them to be isolating." Can you speak to that balance? Between inviting the viewer in, but not isolating them?

By making the videos for a specific audience I try to redirect the idea of what is ‘direct’ to someone else. What makes something decipherable or understandable, as broad as those terms may be, is how the maker is speaking to you as an audience member. What may be exotic and esoteric for one audience is run of the mill and common ground for another. The balance that I tend to find comes from ways to speaking directly to the audience that I am trying to speak with, but doing so in a ways that formally constructs a logic, a lexicon, a language in the work that an audience outside of those communities can recognize as having meaning, even if they don't have access to it, and hopefully doing some work to meet the work part of the way despite that denial.


The future of film is uncertain right now - given the trouble that film festivals and movie theaters find themselves in now during the pandemic, and when things open back up. I've thought a lot about this point that you made - that while you love the cinematic experience, it is also one that isolates and creates hierarchies. Can you expound on this? This moment creates such a possibility to remake cinema culture and the cinematic experience. What would be your vision for this?

I read once that attention is the medium of performance, and I think that holds true for cinema as well. As a filmmaker the only thing I'm asking is that a viewer pay attention to what I'm trying to say, what I'm trying to do, and these different spaces offer different ways for them to give that attention. A cinema holds an audience for the duration of a film, but at a festival a film may only screen once and maybe it's at an inconvenient time, and who knows about, or has access to these festivals speaks to the variety of communities they serve. At a gallery or a museum a film may loop for months from opening to closing, and thousands of people have an opportunity to see it, but whether or not they'll sit through the whole film, feel comfortable, stay for the entirety of the loop, or even experience an optimal sound/visual setup is uncertain. I feel like I've been trained to pay more attention when I'm sitting in a cinema. It’s hard for me to focus at home, on my laptop, on my couch, but still I'll watch anything anywhere. Part of a remaking of cinema culture could be trusting an audience to meet the work on their terms with the best intentions.

But I don't know if I'm ready to try to answer this question. There's a certain focus on the present that I'm wrapped up in, as I write this and as I've sat with the question the past few days, that anything I say or offer of what the future of cinema could be feels disingenuous. Maybe that's a reflection of the times, or a reflection of myself? I've done a number of screenings via Zoom and other platforms over the past 6 weeks and I don't know how I feel about those. They were successful and necessary in some regards and frustrating and difficult in others. I'll continue to participate in them when asked, but maybe I'm too far in it right now to imagine possibilities when so much is uncertain and at stake. I don't know what that looks like for cinemas in the coming months or years, and more than anything I want to see my friends again and to be around them whether at a festival, a microcinema, or going to watch the Rock at the multiplex. Maybe I'm humbled by the fact that no matter what vision I could offer for the future, we're all still at the mercy of this virus and have to proceed carefully, cautiously, and aware that the decisions we make as individuals  affect us all and how we'll survive.


Hopinka malni - towards the ocean, towards the shore - trailer

“There comes a point when members of a community grow weary and wary of simplified representation.”

-Sky Hopinka

Hopinka I'I Remember You as You Were, not as What You'll Become - still 1
Hopinka I'I Remember You as You Were, not as What You'll Become - still 2
Hopinka I'I Remember You as You Were, not as What You'll Become - still 3
Hopinka Lore (excerpt)

“I'd rather be insidious than complacent.”

-Sky Hopinka

Lore - still 1
Hopinka Lore - still 2
Hopinka malni - still 4
Hopinka Cloudless Blue Egress of Summer - still 5
Hopinka Cloudless Blue Egress of Summer - still 8
Hopinka Cloudless Blue Egress of Summer - still 7


Hopinka Cloudless Blue Egress of Summer - still 6