Adam Piron’s love of film began as a child. Originally from Phoenix, Arizona, the Kiowa/Mohawk filmmaker got his start in the industry as a student in the University of Southern California’s film program. He became an intern in the Native American and Indigenous Film Program at Sundance and is currently assistant curator for film at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Outside his day job, Piron is also co-founder of the film collective, COUSIN. Created to support Indigenous artists experimenting and pushing the boundaries of the moving image, COUSIN often dives into films that convey personal experiences without context, choosing stories that neither adhere to traditional three-act structures or follow Indigenous ways of storytelling.
High Country News recently spoke with Piron by phone at his home in Los Angeles. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Adam Piron: I see Indigenous cinema more as an ecosystem and this development of Indigenous artists branching out and making more experimental or harder to classify work as a sign that it’s healthy and growing in ways that probably weren’t expected. To me, that’s exciting in that it’s this big unknown, and that work is getting a fair amount of attention as it’s happening now, rather than someone piecing together a retrospective 20 or 50 years from now because it just went under the radar. I’d like to see more provocative and aesthetically challenging work by Indigenous artists, rather than trying to fit within certain boxes and be the “Native version” of something that’s already been successful, or even chasing the idea that success is defined by a wide release. In my opinion, it’s not to anyone’s advantage to go that way, because you’re always going to be playing catch-up, and the work is going to trail what it’s emulating. Some of the stronger films that I’ve seen in this new development are films that are so rooted in a personal and specific cultural lens that I don’t understand everything the first time around — and maybe I never will, either. That’s fine, and it works, because they’re invitations to an experience, and it places the work on the audience and stays with them..