Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World makes Canadian film history

The Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television Awards awarded RUMBLE: The Indians Who Rocked the World three coveted awards for three different aspects of cinema, making this documentary the first film to sweep all three documentary categories.

The Best Cinematography in a Feature Length Documentary Award went to Alfonso Maiorana, the Ted Rogers Best Feature Length Documentary Award went to Executive Producers Tim Johnson and Stevie Salas, and the Best Editing in a Feature Length Documentary went to Benjamin Duffield and Jeremiah Hayes.

“As much as we believed in this amazing story highlighting the contributions of Indigenous musicians to the development and shaping of popular music, the film has far exceeded our expectations,” said conceptual author and Executive Producer Tim Johnson, from Six Nations of the Grand River.

The Canadian Academy’s awards add a beautiful turn for RUMBLE which received previous awards from the Sundance Film Festival, Hot Doc Film Festival, and many other festivals around the world.

Within an executive producer statement, Johnson wrote that during his time as associate director overseeing exhibitions and programs at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, his interest in what more he could do outside of programming for indigenous artists and their music piqued. He then established that more recognition for indigenous contributions and talents within the music industry was needed.

“These offerings advanced my interest in music produced by Native musicians and I wondered what more could be done to increase recognition of their contributions and talents,” said Johnson.

“It was during that time and within that context that Stevie Salas first came to my attention.”

Johnson said on a recommendation from his wife he started researching Salas, particularly his interest as producer of Arbor Live, a music variety show featured on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network that highlighted Native musicians alongside popular recording and performing artists of stature.

“As a result, I made a point of meeting Stevie at the recording studio’s grand opening. We quickly found common purpose in our shared objective of elevating public attention to the depth, range, and contributions of Native musicians,” writes Johnson.

Johnson said he had an instinctual and sense that Salas could bring new energy and insight to the work of indigenous artists in the industry.

Salas was hired as contemporary music advisor the pair formed the creative and structural confluence that would lead directly to the development of the popular Smithsonian exhibit, Up Where We Belong: Native Musicians in Popular Culture, and the follow-up documentary by Rezolution Pictures, RUMBLE: The Indians Who Rocked The World.

Together, Salas and Johnson brought live indigenous music programming to the Smithsonian. Drawing inspiration from Brian Wright McLeod’s The Encyclopedia of Native Music — which boasts over 1,700 entries covering Native musicians across all genres, the pair put together the exhibit for the world renowned museum.

Johnson writes, “During a three-hour conversation with Stevie aboard an Amtrak train traveling from Washington to New York, we arrived at a thesis I thought might work, an exhibit that featured Native musicians who achieved crossover success or whose contributions influenced and shaped the sound and direction of American popular music.”

This was the beginnings of the Smithsonian exhibition Up Where We Belong: Native Musicians In Popular Culture. The show, which opened on the National Mall to great fanfare and public interest in July 2010, was so popular that Johnson decided to produce an expanded version for the museum’s New York facility.

Following the success of the show Johnson says it became evident the exhibit would make a great documentary film. Johnson writes the film was purposed to be an “inspirational and educational chapter of Native American and American music history.”

The two paired with Rezolution Pictures, fresh off the Peabody Award-win for their documentary Reel Injun.

Johnson said, “Catherine’s insightful storytelling, Alfonso Maiorana’s brilliant cinematography and filmmaking skills, combined with dozens of talented film editors, staff members, researchers and production assistants, who supported the effort to produce RUMBLE: The Indians Who Rocked The World, crafted our Sundance and multiple award-winning documentary that has not only repositioned music history, but also deepened our understanding of the American identity. It’s been a remarkable and rewarding journey, one that all began with a planned introduction in a Native community.”

Given the current triumphs of the film, only more can be expected from the ground-breaking documentary.

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