Outdoor Film Screenings

Some people wrongly think Native American reservations are modest places with lean-tos or hogans strewn about a barren land. They imagine idlers leaning against a broken fence, empty bottle in hand. They have seen something on the news perhaps and have taken one erroneous example to be the norm. These false media reservations have a reputation for poverty and a lack of services. Electricity, however, is not one of them. It is well supplied in all territories. It is just like any other place called home.

There are times when you are away from “civilization” or a concentration of humankind. You might be visiting people, on the hunt for resources like gemstones, or in search of scenic beauty to enjoy. In this case, you have to take your electricity with you. It is in the form of one of the best portable generators that can power up most any small appliance such as a coffeemaker, electric toothbrush, TV, or radio. They are often thought of as emergency gear, but they can be just plain utilitarian in a pinch.

Take for example a film showing in the Arizona desert I read about. It is nothing like Burning Man, mind you. Hundreds did not appear. But it got a nice turnout and people really enjoyed the atmosphere of being away from city noise and the hustle and bustle of life.

You can set up equipment on a small flat plain and organize seating in front of a large-scale screen. City parks do this all the time in the summer. They show old movies, kids’ favorites, or anything of public interest. Usually, there is power nearby and a bit of cable is all that is needed to run the system.

Out in the hinterlands, however, it is a different story. You need your trusty generator to operate any kind of projection device, unless you plan on cranking it by hand. Ha ha! Seriously, a generator is a godsend for most camping experiences, so why not for a film showing. While the festival I heard about in Arizona was a big success, others have barely escaped peril. Bears have been known to be enamored with moving pictures and bonfires have gotten out of control. People need facilities for personal use and they can get pretty awful.

The worst thing that can happen, however, is to forget the generator. I know this has happened to some organizers. They plan an event down to the letter, get the space clean and ready, bring in food and entertainment, but forget a key item. No film. Unhappy people. That is what can happen.

It pays to pack the big stuff first to make sure it is in the van. There are few alternatives in the wilds. You have no electricity unless you are close to a residence or two, and that is not likely. The attraction of these film showings is the scenic beauty of the open space. The organizers want ample parking and room for people to congregate and wander. Maybe it is a bit like a mini Burning Man after all. I am sure that film showings using generators have appeared more than once in the Nevada desert.

Generators are pretty handy devices so you want to have plenty of fuel as well. People who don’t write things down forget them. It’s a fact of life. You usually think of everything, you say, so why did this happen? Someone has to take the fall.

Film showings are a unique idea that has permeated the city parks for denizens to enjoy. The selection of just the right movie is key. You have to know the taste and expectations of your audience. You can’t show R-rated films to families, now can you? On the reservation, there should be no insulting westerns. Actually, it is too bad that they have fallen out of favor. Many were quite fun. But we try to avoid being condescending in this PC era, and rightly so. It can be carried a bit too far.

This is just a word of caution for organizers to check the generator—that it still works—and put it where you can see it clearly before departing on your journey. Food and amusement will not fill the bill alone. People want the movie, whatever it may be. It can be a cultural expose of a particular tribe or a general commentary on indigenous peoples. It can cover arts and crafts and highlight artists of renown. It can be social, political, educational, or all rolled into one.