Local filmmaker Hermon Farahi makes the festival rounds with ‘When They Awake’

Hermon Farahi’s When They Awake showcases North American indigenous musicians.

Hermon Farahi is having a busy November. The Las Vegan is currently prepping for his bid to become a candidate for Nevada’s 3rd Congresssional District. But he’s also touring film festivals in Portland, Canada and LA to screen, promote and discuss When They Awake.

The documentary film—which Farahi co-directed with Canadian filmmaker P.J. Marcellino—spotlights the growing cultural reclamation movement by showcasing more than 20 North American indigenous musicians, whose art aims to express and quell the pain experienced by their ancestors and themselves, creating a cultural timeline from historical colonialism to current events like the Dakota Access Pipeline protests by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

“One of the goals of the film was: How can we tell a story that celebrates native culture, and [addresses] this contemporary moment?” Farahi says. “In the end, #NoDAPL didn’t achieve its goal, but what it did achieve was creating a new, revived dialogue around native issues and broadened our horizons. I hope the film does the same.”

The project was a natural for Farahi. It was birthed after he and Marcellino followed the musicians who worked on their first film, 2014’s After the War: Memoirs of Exile, on a music-education outreach trip in subarctic Canada. Besides being a filmmaker and a cultural anthropologist—and a person who ponders notions of authenticity and heritage as someone of mixed, non-native ethnicity—Farahi is a musician himself, having played drums and percussion in various local reggae and punk bands. “So much of the music struck a chord with me; it triggered that deep, emotional state that enabled me to respond in kind as a storyteller and filmmaker.”

As part of Native American Heritage Month, Farahi will screen When They Awake locally (see below for details), which will include Q&A sessions to discuss the sociopolitical struggles of North America’s indigenous people, as well as their vibrant cultural and artistic contributions. “I hope [the movie] enables people to see beyond boundaries,” Farahi says. “Music cuts through boundaries. It enables you to find a common humanity.”

When They Awake Screenings and Q&As: November 17 (6 p.m.) at CSN Henderson, November 27 (6 p.m.) at Nevada State College & November 28 (6 p.m.) at UNLV.

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