Jeff Barehand at the Seattle International Film Festival

by Bryan Willis for OLY ARTS

How does a stay-at-home dad get bitten by the video bug and wind up with an invitation to the famous Sundance Native Lab? “It was my kids,” explains local filmmaker Jeff Barehand. “I made videos of my kids to send back to my parents. Without family I wouldn’t have gotten into it.”

Barehand, an enrolled citizen of the Gila River Indian Community of Arizona, is currently working on a documentary featuring New Zealand Māori master carver Lyonel Grant and Makah artist Alex McCarty. The film will premiere later this month in the Seattle International Film Festival’s Fly Filmmaking Challenge.

The event showcases the work of six filmmakers who are given 10 weeks to produce an original short documentary about a creative professional in their community. Barehand is no stranger to fans of the Festival.

“He has a stellar track record,” explains SIFF’s publicist Megan Bernovich. “Jeff is a well-known community leader and influential artist in the Pacific Northwest film scene. He’s had shorts featured at SIFF in the past.”

Barehand’s professional experience is wildly varied—ranging from law school, commercial work, educator, writer, serving as Board Chair of Red Eagle Soaring native youth theater, co-founder of the Olympia Film Collective, and helping to run Sky Bear Media video productions. He studied at the Studio Theatre Acting Conservatory in Washington, D.C. and filmmaking at the American Indian Arts Institute’s intensive filmmaking workshop sponsored by ABC/Disney.

Despite his success with “docs,” Barehand doesn’t consider himself a documentarian, “But I like the process,” he says. “You have to ask the right questions and then put it all together. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle. You have to listen to what they say and put the pieces together through the story and edits.”

Much of Barehand’s work is focused on increasing exposure of native people in cinema and developing voices of native youth via contemporary and traditional stories. His work with the Olympia Film Collective provides resources to local filmmakers with an emphasis on increasing opportunities for minority groups and women. “I believe in the mission,” he says. “It’s not the easiest mission, but I believe in it.”

That mission and the quality of Barehand’s work are part of what inspired the invitation to join the Fly Filmmaking Challenge. SIFF programmer Dustin Kaspar explains: “We love the opportunity to showcase talented storytellers who expand the community conversation through creativity and craft. Jeff Barehand has exemplified those values in his filmmaking and his work with the Olympia Film Collective. Jeff’s short film deftly brings together the mutual creative process of two artists from different global Indigenous cultures in a way that celebrates their unique woodworking sensibilities and their commitment to the shared vision for the facade of the Fiber Arts Building at The Evergreen State College they are creating.”

Lyonel Grant’s and Alex McCarty’s individual work is stunningly good. Barehand’s film promises to be an opportunity to discover and celebrate the collaboration of these two phenomenally gifted artists.

The Fly Filmmaking Challenge is scheduled to premiere on Monday, May 28 and will screen again on Wednesday, June 6. Running time for all six films – 42 minutes (seven minutes each)

Seattle International Film Festival’s
The Fly Filmmaking Challenge

SIFF Cinema Uptown – 511 Queen Anne Ave. N, Seattle 98109

Monday, May 28 – 3:30 p.m.
& Wednesday June 6 – 3:30 p.m.

$14 general
$13 seniors (65+)
$12 SIFF members


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