AWI Short Film Competition


Tekona reflects on his family’s teachings while he braids his hair in the early morning and makes deeper connections to his Indigenous identity. 

The film is a glimpse into the mental health of young indigenous men by way of treating emotional vulnerability with insight and compassion. Faced with feelings of isolation, toxic masculinity, and stereotypes of Native people, Tekona embraces the visceral connection to his mother and the matriarchs who inspire him to be strong.

Content heads up: racism, toxic masculinity, sexism

ViewHide Film Transcript
Director: Tomás Karmelo Amaya & Shalene Joseph

Tomás Karmelo Amaya is Yoeme (Yaqui), A:shiwi (Zuni), and Rarámuri (Tarahumara). He is an award winning director, writer, and photographer born and raised in Phoenix, AZ. As a Native person, the traditional teachings and values of his people have heavily influenced how he internalizes and interacts with the world. His work has been known to empower communities by way of high-quality, striking images that show dignity, respect, and cultural sensitivity while celebrating resiliency. Tomás’ work has been published in The New York Times, Buzzfeed, The Sundance Institute, Northwestern University, The Guardian, Arizona State University, The Fader, Pacific Standard Magazine, BBC News, among several others. Raised by storytellers and healers, he continues to develop the concept of offering a poet's perspective to honor people, spaces, and items, describing his style as "moving my camera as I would my pen.” Shalene Joseph, from the Gros-Ventre or A'aniih people of Fort Belknap, Montana and Athabascan people from Tanana, Alaska, graduated with her bachelor's degree in Native American and Indigenous Studies from Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado and a master's degree in American Indian Studies from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) where her master's thesis was on Historical Wisdom. Growing up, Shalene has been mentored and molded into a youth leader through the Native Wellness Institute (NWI) and currently works for NWI as a Project Coordinator. Both Tomás and Shalene, along with many of their peers helped launch the movement from the Native Wellness Institute known as the Indigenous 20 Something Project (I20SP), where their generation is organizing and collaborating to heal from the lasting impacts of historical and intergenerational trauma.