ᏓᏗᏬᏂᏏ - We Will Speak

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The Cherokee language is deeply tied to Cherokee identity; yet generations of assimilation efforts by the U.S. government and anti-Indigenous stigmas have forced the Tri-Council of Cherokee tribes to declare a State of Emergency for the language in 2019. While there are 430,000 Cherokee citizens in the three federally recognized tribes, fewer than an estimated 1,500 fluent speakers remain—the majority of whom are elderly. The covid pandemic has unfortunately hastened the course. Language activists, artists, and the youth must now lead the charge of urgent radical revitalization efforts to help save the language from the brink of extinction. This feature-length documentary was shot on-location in Oklahoma and North Carolina throughout 2019-2022; through intimate interviews, vérité footage of community gatherings, and extensive archival materials, the film explores the nuanced ways the Cherokee language is vital to maintaining a unique cultural identity and relationship with the world. The collaborative project is also meant to act as an empowering agent of hope for Indigenous voices despite enduring inequity and oppression.



Touring with the Film

ᎤᎶᎩᎳ / Schon Duncan (Director) is a proud member of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians. They were born and raised in Stilwell, Oklahoma, and are a product of language work provided by elders/teachers in their early years and beyond. In 2014, they graduated from Northeastern State University and completed the Cherokee Language Master Apprentice Program in 2019. Recently, Duncan began a teaching career as a Cherokee Language Teacher at Dahlonegah Public School. ᏓᏗᏬᏂᏏ (WE WILL SPEAK) is their first feature length documentary.

Michael McDermit (Director) makes and produces documentary films, books and other projects under a small independent creative imprint, Blurry Pictures. BP documentaries have enjoyed fruitful film festival runs at the Atlanta Film Festival, Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, Provincetown International Film Festival, Cleveland International Film Festival, Dallas International Film Festival, and the RiverRun International Film Festival, among others. BP film STRAWBERRY FOREVER, about McDermit’s father’s struggle with aphasia, took home the Audience Choice Award at the 2021 disABILITY Film Festival. McDermit earned an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Oregon. In addition to filmmaking, he teaches English and Writing to underserved college students in South Los Angeles.

ᎨᎳᏗ / Keli Gonzales (Producer) is a Cherokee artist from Welling, Oklahoma. Drawing on her experiences as a Cherokee woman, Gonzales creates paintings and drawings portraying the Cherokee people in a way that is true to life. She is the producer of the documentary ᎤᏕᏲᏅ (WHAT THEY’VE BEEN TAUGHT), which premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival and is part of the Los Angeles Times “Short Docs” series.

Jacob Koestler (Cinematographer / Editor) is an artist and musician from Johnstown, Pennsylvania. He holds an MFA from the Photography and Integrated Media program at Ohio University. His practice includes photography, film and multimedia installation. Koestler is also a co-founder of Blurry Pictures, a collaborative project that produces films, books and other printed matter. Koestler’s artwork has been exhibited and published throughout the United States and internationally. After a decade working in arts education, he has recently returned to Pennsylvania to manage a tree farm and event space with his family.



North Carolina - South Carolina Circuit

Monday, April 1, 2024: Clemson, SC - The City of Clemson Arts Center 
Tuesday, April 2, 2024: Raleigh, NC - NC State University Libraries 
Wednesday, April 3, 2024: Winston-Salem, NC - a/perture cinema 
Friday, April 5, 2024: Wilmington, NC - University of North Carolina at Wilmington 


Georgia Circuit

Sunday, April 7, 2024: Atlanta, GA - Plaza Atlanta and Fox Theatre, Atlanta
Monday, April 8, 2024: Roswell, GA - City of Roswell, GA
Tuesday, April 9, 2024: Lawrenceville, GA - Aurora Theatre
Thursday, April 11, 2024: Rome, GA - Rome International Film Festival and Berry College
Friday, April 12, 2024: Hapeville, GA - City of Hapeville