If you haven’t heard of the Red Nation Film Festival, the annual two-week long Los Angeles-based celebration of American Indian and Indigenous cinema, it’s not for the  lack of effort, passion or spirit stemming from its founder, director, publicist and  one-woman cheerleading squad, Joanelle Romero.

Working out of her home office – she jokingly says, “I’m in a teepee,” but adds that  a move to a formal office is scheduled after the first of the new year –Romero is  currently editing highlights of Red Nation’s just completed 10th anniversary.  This  year, her festival received more than 100 submissions, screened 29 films, and opened  with “Jimmy P: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian,” starring Benecio del Toro.

“This has been our biggest and most exciting year yet,” says Romero. “We’ve come a long way. But we still aren’t on prime time television. So we still have a long way  to go.”

After months of preparation and weeks of overseeing the opening festivities,  numerous screenings and award ceremonies, as well as festivities that preceded the  festival, like a fashion show, one might expect her energy to be low.

But no, Romero is going full tilt, juggling calls and chores as she answers  questions in enthusiastic bursts.  Red Nation, she says, has  always been about one  thing – “putting American Indian filmmakers at the forefront of the entertainment  industry.”

Romero is herself a filmmaker. Her searing documentary “American Holocaust: When  It’s All Over I’ll Still Be Indian,” a 2009 exploration that compared the extermination of Jews in Nazi-controlled Germany to the killing of Indigenous people  in North America, is available in with XFINITY On Demand and online in the Native  American Heritage collection.

Other Red Nation-related films, both long and short, in the XFINITY On Demand  collection include “Broken Rainbows,” “Urban Rez,” “Cangleska Wakan,” “Good Wolf Voice,” and “Yellow Woman.”

“There was a definite strategy behind these selections,” says Romero. “I picked films [for XFINITY On Demand] that would expose people to a broad range of issues and insights about the culture of American Indians and Indigenous People.”

Growing up in Los Angeles, Romero – who explains she’s Apache and Cheyenne on her father’s side and Apache and Spanish on her mother’s was drawn to show business  early on from watching her mother, a dancer on the Red Skelton and Carol Burnett variety shows. Romero’sstories about her childhood are punctuated with famous names, like her mother’s second husband (a trumpet player for Herb Albert’s Tijuana Brass), Dennis Hopper (“once my legal guardian”), and Elvis Presley (“I was  convinced he wanted to marry me, and I was only 12 years old”).

At 18, Romero was cast in “A Girl Called Heather Fox,” a CBS movie of the week.  “They were looking all over the country for an actress to play Heather Fox,” she  says. “Then my mom’s friend, who was one of Bob Dylan’s best friends, came over. She was an agent, and she asked if I was an actress. I said yes, and she told me that I had to go up for the role.  So I borrowed our family friend John Barrymore’s pants, tore them all up and went in to the audition in borrowed clothes, my great grandpa’s poncho, no makeup, my hair all wild, and guess what? I got the part.”

More acting followed, as did a record album, and two children, a daughter, Sage, 27, now an actress, and a son, NAME TK, 19, who is currently in school.  In 1991, two weeks after launching her own production company, Romero received a call from Michael Jackson’s people. Romero and Jackson had known each other in elementary  school. The Gloved One was shooting a music video for his song “Black or White” and wanted American Indian dancers. Romero got him five, including her  then-five-year-old daughter.  The association helped jumpstart her company.

In 1994, she began the “journey” of her documentary, “American Holocaust,” and she proudly tells of submitting the film for Oscar consideration after it was finally released 15 years later. Now, she plans to re-release it in Europe sometime in 2014.  She also has plans for a book on her life.  But her primary focus is the Red Nation Film Festival, whose roots go back 18 years ago to the founding of an arts and culture nonprofit she called Red Nation Celebration. Out of that eventually grew the film festival, whose indie film vibe and multicultural theme make it hip. Yet its  original mission has remained unchanged.

“It’s dedicated to breaking the barrier of racism,” she says, “by successfully replacing American Indian stereotypes with recognition, new vision, arts, culture, and economic prosperity by placing American Indian film makers at the forefront of  the entertainment industry to introduce American Indian filmmakers to larger global mainstream finances while establishing relations between American Indian community and American Indian industry.”


ABC Ch 7 George Pennachio Reports on Red Nation Film Festival

CBS & KCAL 9 – Check it out ….


Actor Russell Means Honored At Red Nation Film Festival

Russell Means, an Oglala/Lakota and long time American Indian and civil right activist, and actor, was honored with the “Oyate Wayanka Po Win Lifetime Achievement Award” at the Red Nation Film Festival. Rick Garcia reports.





Martha Fast Horse

The Martha Fast Horse Show: Producer & Host: Martha Fast Horse (Lakota). Co-Host: Morten Krogh (Norwegian). Special Guest: Joanelle Romero (Apache/Cheyenne), Red Nation Film Festival – Owner/Founder/Director, announces the 8th Annual Red Nation Film Festival to be held November 1st-7th, 2011 in Los Angeles, CA. For More Info: & Feat Song: “Wanna Be Starting Something” by Michael Jackson. Streams Sunday 10/30/11 at 12:00 a.m. CST on Blog Talk Radio. Enjoy the show

The Martha Fast Horse Show Producer Host Martha Fast Horse Lakota. Co-Host Morten Krogh Norwegian. Special Guest Joanelle Romero Apache/Cheyenne Red Nation F Oct 30

KPFK 90.7


Local Film Sweeps Native American Film Festival Awards in Studio City’Yellow Rock’ took honors for Best Director, Best Actor and Best Picture.

  • November 18, 2011 16, 2011 1:55 a.m.



For the eighth year in a row, the Red Nation Film Festival will be honoring the best in Native American cinema. “Hollywood has Oscar, Broadway has Tony, Television has the Emmy, and now the American Indian has the Red Nation Film Award,” said President/Founder Joanelle Romero.


Russell Means received the “Oyate Wayanka Po Win Lifetime Achievement Award” at the 8th Annual Red Nation Film Festival gala last Monday in Los Angeles, California.

‎8th Annual Red Nation Film Festival closed in November celebrating American Indian Heritage Month and American Indian Cinema reaching over 10 million viewers including 37 counties. The most successful year thus far …..