Julian Brave NoiseCat receives Sundance Directing Award for "Sugarcane" Documentary

February 1, 2024

Former Center for Racial Justice Fellow Julian Brave NoiseCat, along with co-director Emily Kassie, received the United States Directing Award for the Documentary Sugarcane at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Sugarcane follows an investigation launched in 2021 into “long-circulating, long-denied, rumors of physical and sexual abuse” at St. Joseph’s Mission near Williams Lake, British Columbia, a Catholic-run Indigenous boarding school that operated until 1981.

“64 years ago, my dad was born at an Indian School and left in the school’s incinerator,” NoiseCat said as he accepted the award. “But he survived and here we are.”

The film reveals that there were 350 Indigenous boarding schools in the United States and advocates for a more expansive approach to uncovering atrocities in both Canada and the U.S. NoiseCat informed the Sundance audience that U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, the first Native American in the U.S. cabinet, is spearheading an investigation into American boarding schools.

“It’s an intimate and epic cinematic portrait of my people in the moment when the spirits of our missing children started to come home,” explained NoiseCat. “It was made with a lot of love and a little bit of magic—at least that’s how I interpret this film's origin story.”

In addition to being a writer, filmmaker, and journalist, NoiseCat was part of the Ford School’s Center for Racial Justice Visiting Fellows Program in 2022-2023. As a Visiting Fellow, NoiseCat worked on the documentary that eventually became Sugarcane, as well as his first book, We Survived the Night, the latter aims to "change and reclaim the narrative about the often marginalized and forgotten First Peoples in the United States and Canada.” We Survived the Night is scheduled for release later this year.

About the Visiting Fellows Program

The Visiting Fellows Program, the signature initiative of the Center for Racial Justice, represents a unique opportunity to work collaboratively with a diverse array of policy thinkers to advance racial justice. The Center’s Visiting Fellows Program offers a cohort of racial justice leaders, activists, artists, advocates, and scholars a prestigious, highly competitive fellowship designed to recognize their transformative work to date and provide opportunities to strengthen their impact within the policy landscape.

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