This year, the Sundance Film Festival previewed a script about a Native dominatrix for hire finding healing by whipping white supremacists and having them apologize for racism, sexism, and most importantly for colonization.
Peshawn Bread, filmmaker and director, created the script and short film “The Daily Life of Mistress Red.”
Both Bread and Jhane Myers, producer and Bread’s mother, attended the Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 27 in Park City, Utah.
Bread said her script was presented under Sundance’s Talent Forum, a program that links artists with industry professionals to assemble support for post-production, to raise awareness and seek funding for her film.
Bread is of the Penneducah (sugar eater) and Yappaducah (root eater) bands of the Comanche tribe. She is a Sundance Institutes Full Circle Fellow and recipient of the Sundance’s Native Filmmakers Lab Fellowship which allowed her to create her short film.
Her personal anger about being a Native woman who is fed up with white authority, as well as being a member of the Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, and Sadism and Masochism practice, inspired her to create this film.
Myers said what drew people into this specific story was its unique plot and knowledge of Native American culture.
Missing Indigenous women are disappearing in different parts of Native reservations and Bread said her film was written in part to address those issues.
“A lot of women are being taken advantage of in sexual ways,” Bread said, “They’re being harmed through sex and that’s not okay. Sex is something that is beautiful and sacred, and it’s always been that way. So, for it to be taken from us is really alarming. This is sort of a way to give it back to us.”
Jennifer Rader, actress and member of the Ojibwe Nation, said there was a moment where she felt the words of Bread’s script and in that moment, she could feel how everyone else felt about the issues surrounding rape, colonialism, and sexuality. Rader described that moment as a collective time of sadness developing into strength.
“I had to spend some time with the actress Jennifer, who played Mistress Red, and to kind of like get her to understand what kink is and how much of a community it is,” Bread said, “It’s about community communication, it’s one of the safest places I’ve ever felt.”
Jennifer said during the making of the film her character breaks in a moment and it was the first time she was allowed to experience those feelings. She said the collective team around her could empathize with those same feelings.
“What makes me feel good is the attention and approval from Native women,” Bread said, “That’s who I made this film for and it’s very validating to know that Native women want to see this.”
During filming, about 50 pounds of kinky equipment, including dildos, nipple clips, whips, handcuffs, and clothing were transported by plane. Bread said she needed to write a note to the Transportation Security Administration.
“We had to take that on the flight and it was just ridiculous,” Bread said, “ I had to like write a note to TSA, in case they opened it, and I wrote like ‘I’m sorry I’m a freak, but this is literally 50 pounds of BDSM gear. We are trying to make a movie.”
Michelle Malach, Associate Professor with an expertise in queer theory at Fort Lewis College, said this film is intersectional for its coverage about an Indigenous woman and her sexuality and several political concepts which would make an interesting tool to incorporate into several courses at FLC.
“In a nutshell what it looks at is that which is not normal,” Malach said, “Obviously this kind of narrow version of queer theory would be looking at issues of gender, sex and sexuality and how those get constride as whats normal and whats not normal.”
Malach said queer theory is a tough subject to define and how Bread’s film involves queer theory is that the authority is given to a Native female dominatrix, rather than a dominant white male.
“Forty percent of the student population is Indigenous, these issues need to be out there they need to be discussed,” Malach said, “So, I think it’s hugely important because you have these Indigenous communities that have, in many cases, been excluded from those conversations.”
Malach taught the General Women’s Studies course at FLC and within that class she learned that it was the first time for many Indigenous women to speak openly about sexuality in a comfortable setting.
“I thought it would be good to bring this kind of figure, this champion, this person I needed in my life which was a female dominatrix,” Bread said, “I think every Native girl needs a dominatrix in their life, like a good powerful figure, because she is someone who would stand up for us and someone who is unapologetic about her love.”
Myers said the film is different as well as empowering to Native women because people misjudge them for the current problem circulating the abduction and killing of Native women.
“I felt like it was sexually positive, but it also put Native women in a very powerful place,” Myers said.
Myers said she thinks it's important for Native women, who hold traditional core values, to be true to themselves by owning their sexuality because those values weigh in on their everyday lives.
The sooner that Native women can own their sexuality the sooner they can do more in their life because their sexuality is a part of them, she said. Owning that sexuality ties in with happiness and productivity, which is why Myers said it was important for women to own their sexuality.
Rader said her view of sexuality has changed through the film because women ought to feel happy, and if that happiness is through feeling sexy then they should own that.
Myers said if the short film were to reach across Native communities and colleges, that it would be important because there has never been a film that covers this topic.
“We didn’t have a lot of offers for people to fund us to make it a feature film but she’s kind of considering making it into a series,” Myers said, “So imagine if something like this was a series that was on television.”
Myers said the characters in the film have such large backgrounds which lead to endless possibilities for their future, so if this streams within Native communities it would be an important teaching tool for people on reservations and elsewhere.
“I created this character because I wanted Native girls to have someone there for them,” Bread said, “I wanted Native girls to look up to this woman and say ‘okay that’s who’s going to speak for us and that’s okay, that’s not who’s going to speak for all of us but it’s someone who’s going to make me feel comfortable.”
Bread said her future plan is to create this film into a series or full movie which should screen in January 2021.