17th Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival


9 – 12 September 2021

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Thanks to all who have entered films to this autumn’s festival. We will let you know about the selection status of your film by the 9th of August.

maɬni – towards the ocean, towards the shore

Available online

17 September – 11 October, 2020

The feature film debut of prolific Ho-Chunk filmmaker Sky Hopinka, maɬni – towards the ocean, towards the shore extends the promise of his meticulously crafted, short form experimental documentaries, while at the same time pushing towards new ideas, expressions and forms. A bifurcated portrait of the filmmaker’s two friends—Sweetwater Sahme and Jordan Mercier—the film weaves together their individual subjectivities while also purposefully never fully bringing them together.


maɬni – towards the ocean, towards the shore

An introduction from filmmaker Sky Hopinka

maɬni – towards the ocean, towards the shore

BFMAF regulars will be familiar with Hopinka’s work, shown in three previous editions of the festival. His 2017 short Dislocation Blues—“an incomplete and imperfect portrait of reflections from Standing Rock”—won that year’s Berwick New Cinema Award, leading to a Propositions presentation with Hopinka’s short films, reading and conversation in 2018. His dextrous work extends across writing, visual art, photography and cinema, each of which provides some bearing on the other areas. The result is a versatile experimental aesthetic that shifts and transforms across media, though as he succinctly summarises the central theme of his work, “personal positions of Indigenous homeland and landscape” come to the fore.

maɬni – towards the ocean, towards the shore locates this personal positioning in the third person, with the filmmaker’s embodied perspective aiming to relate the experience, philosophy and thinking of Sahme and Mercier, who never meet at any point. The film foregoes much of the abstractions found in Hopinka’s short form works in favour of a more direct, literal, photographic and legible document of his interactions and experiences with the film’s two subjects. Language, an ever-present theme in Hopinka’s films, plays a major part; the film is mostly spoken in the indigenous Chinuk Wawa language, including the filmmaker’s creative and poetic narration.

While perhaps less abstract and essayistic in style than Hopinka’s short filmmaking, the continuity remains in the method of the film’s production. The filmmaker shot and edited the film mostly on his own, with some assistance in the sound recording as well as the soundtrack composition. But this remains an individual, artisanal film without crew, script or the many trappings of a typical feature production. Instead, maɬni transmits to the viewer a sense of the immediacy with which the images were captured and the beauty of not knowing exactly how things might unfold. That the film’s extended topic of discussion is based around the Chinookian origin of death myth (Imał)—and the circular space between beginning and end, death and rebirth, life and the afterlife—makes this unfolding and not knowing all the more poignant. —Herb Shellenberger

Sky Hopinka (Ho-Chunk Nation/Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians) was born and raised in Ferndale, Washington and spent a number of years in Palm Springs and Riverside, California, Portland, Oregon, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In Portland he studied and taught chinuk wawa, a language indigenous to the Lower Columbia River Basin. His video, photo, and text work centers around personal positions of Indigenous homeland and landscape, designs of language as containers of culture expressed through personal, documentary, and non fiction forms of media. He received his BA from Portland State University in Liberal Arts and his MFA in Film, Video, Animation, and New Genres from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

His work has played at various festivals including ImagineNATIVE Media + Arts Festival, Images, Wavelengths, Ann Arbor Film Festival, Sundance, and Projections. His work was a part of the 2016 Wisconsin Triennial and the 2017 Whitney Biennial and the 2018 FRONT Triennial. He was a guest curator at the 2019 Whitney Biennial and was a part of Cosmopolis #2 at the Centre Pompidou. He was awarded jury prizes at the Onion City Film Festival, the More with Less Award at the 2016 Images Festival, the Tom Berman Award for Most Promising Filmmaker at the 54th Ann Arbor Film Festival, the New Cinema Award at the Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival and the Mary L. Nohl Fund Fellowship for Individual Artists in the Emerging artist category for 2018. He was a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University in 2018- 2019 and Sundance Art of Nonfiction Fellow for 2019, and is a 2020 Guggenheim Fellow.


Małni – towards the ocean, towards the shore – HD video – 01:20:21, 2020

Lore – 16mm transfer to HD video, 10:00, 2019

Cloudless Blue Egress of Summer – 2 channel video, 13:15, 2019

When you’re lost in the rain – HD video, 5:05, 2018

Fainting Spells – HD video, 10:45, 2018

Dislocation Blues – HD video, 16:57, 2017

Anti-Objects, or Space Without Path or Boundary – HD video, 13:05, 2017

I’ll Remember You as You Were, not as What You’ll Become – HD video, 12:32, 2016

Visions of an Island – HD video, 14:55, 2016

Jáaji Approx. – HD video, 7:37, 2015

Venite et Loquamur, Come All and Let Us Speak – HD video, 9:30, 2015

Kunįkága Remembers Red Banks, Kunįkága Remembers the Welcome Song – HD video, 9:30, 2014

wawa – HD video, 6:00, 2014


Sky Hopinka

Production Country

United States

Production Year



80 mins

Dialogue Languages

Chinuk Wawa English

Subtitle Languages

Chinuk Wawa English

Print Contact

Sky Hopinka

PODCAST — Episode 14, recorded

Sky Hopinka in conversation with BFMAF programmer Herb Shellenberger about the film ‘maɬni – towards the ocean, towards the shore’.