DER Documentary

The Sunrise Dance

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by Gianfranco Norelli
color, 28 minutes, 1994




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This documentary shows an ancient, sacred Apache ritual that has never before been filmed. The Sunrise Ceremony, which marks the passage from adolescence to adulthood for young Apache women, is disappearing under the pressures of cultural assimilation. This documentary focuses on the Sunrise Ceremony of 13-year-old Maureen Nachu, who lives on the Fort Apache Reservation in Whiteriver, Arizona, and is a member of the White Mountain Apache Tribe.

We see all the elaborate preparations for the ceremony: the rituals of the Medicine Man who presides over the dance, including spiritual purification rites in the "Sweat Lodge" and the midnight appearance of the "Crown Dancers".

The Sunrise Dance itself is a tremendous physical test, lasting four days. It proves that Maureen has the courage and strength of character to take her place in adult society. The dance is the strongest commitment a young Apache girl can make to her family and tradition. For Maureen, her family and her community, the ceremony is a reaffirmation of tribal identity and a celebration of the central role of women in Apache culture.


Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
Margaret Mead Festival, 1994
Festival dei Popoli, Florence, Italy, 1994

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