An adaptation of Ofelia Zepeda’s poem about a ritual in which people join the animals and elements. O’odham Dances is a lyrical film adaptation of Ofeli’s poem, portraying a Tohono O'odham ritual in which people join with not only the animals of the desert but all the important elements necessary for rain, including winds, clouds, and the heat off the desert. The film shows the dramatic transformation of the Sonoran desert as night falls–the sun sets, the moon rises, and animals that have quieted their movements through the day’s intense heat come out in search of food and water. Desert images and sounds to convey the powerful sense of place and sacred space that Zepeda’s poem evokes.
Poem by Ofelia Zepeda. Film by Jonathan VanBallenberghe.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Ofelia Zepeda is a member of the Tohono O’odham Nation of southern Arizona and was born and raised in Stanfield, Arizona. She is a Regents’ Professor of Linguistics at the University of Arizona and recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship for her work in American Indian language education, maintenance and recovery. She has published works in the Tohono O’odham language and in English including A Papago Grammar and three collections of poetry, Where Clouds Are Formed, Ocean Power: Poems from the Desert and Jewed I-hoi / Earth Movements.
Jonathan VanBallenberghe is a documentary filmmaker with a lifelong interest in wildlife and the environment. Raised in Juneau, Alaska, he now lives in Tucson, Arizona, where he runs Open Lens Productions. His films include In The Company Of Moose and River Of Bears. He is currently at work on Almost An Island, a documentary about an Inupiaq family living in Kotzebue, Alaska.
Produced by the Western Folklife Center in 2017.
Made possible by the National Endowment for the Arts, ArtPlace America, the Community Foundation of Utah, Western Folklife Center stakeholders, and by the multitude of staff, artists, volunteers, and community members working behind the scenes.
Brought to you by the Western Folklife Center, using story and cultural expression to connect the American West to the world.