Interview with Festival Director Celia Xavier (Tribal Film Festival)

Tribal Film Festival seeks Indigenous films from around the world. TFF plays an important part in pushing for the accessibility of Indigenous films with inspiring and uplifting stories that change people’s lives.


Interview with Celia Xavier:

Matthew Toffolo: What is your Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

We showcase films highlighting international indigenous content as well as projects produced by Oklahoma Native filmmakers.

MT: What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival this year (2016)?

The excitement of seeing films that you can’t see anywhere else, certainly not in theaters in Oklahoma. We create events centered on blocks of programming – such as our children’s films with ice cream donated by our local Ice Cream Social – turning those events into celebrations. This year Native American Straight dancers will be on hand to celebrate a local film on ceremonial dancing . Opening night features our Silent Auction Red Carpet event and a wine and cheese tasting, which always attracts a large crowd.

MT: What are the qualifications for the selected films?

Indigenous content or features Indigenous actors

MT: Do you think that some films really don’t get a fair shake from film festivals?

Absolutely. Some festivals are political, which is an unfair advantage to most of us. But that is great because that is one of the reasons we started ours.

MT: What motivates you and your team to do this festival?

We are filmmakers ourselves. Personally, I have been to numerous of festivals. There are numerous great films that don’t get into the “Big Three,” and we have the option of screening those for our audience. Speaking of the “Big Three,” we dislike the caste system that has evolved in the festival world: the VIP ticket sales, the high ticket prices, the separation this creates amongst “the have and the have nots”. Our festival is free to anyone and everyone. We treat everyone like a VIP!

MT: How has the festival changed since its inception?

Filmmakers can now choose whether to be distributed on our TribalTV digital platform after screening at our festival.

MT: Where do you see the festival by 2020?

In four years we hope to have expanded, holding screenings in the theater at our neighboring university NSU and showing children’s movies outdoors in the center square. These locations are all within walking distance from our current theater and are one of the reasons we picked this town for our festival. We’d also envision a famous band open our reception.

MT: What film have you seen the most times in your life?

What a timely question. The only film I have seen more than once is “Purple Rain”.

MT: In one sentence, what makes a great film?

The unexpected, authentic journey a film takes you on.

MT: How is the film scene in your city?

Not very much of a scene at all.

Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

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