In the world of Indigenous film-making, Peshawn Bread is continuing to make strides with thought-provoking art that’s unafraid to be itself. Their directorial debut, The Daily Life of Mistress Red, has already captured the hearts of many for its powerful and progressive themes, as well as for bringing proper representation to subject matter usually considered ‘taboo’ in the Indigenous community. Native Max has previously spoken to Peshawn about the process of making their short film and what that journey was like for them, all of which you can read here. Now that their film is on a festival tour, we decided to catch up with the director on the audience’s reception of the movie, and their future in the world of film-making.
The Daily Life of Mistress Red is a mockumentary about an Indigenous blogger who discovers that her idol, the titular character, is a dominatrix. Mistress Red, or Marie, “takes the effects of racism, sexism, and colonization into her own hands by educating white supremacists through pleasure.” In 2019, Peshawn was one of the recipients of the Sundance Native Filmmakers Lab Fellowship where they then received help in workshopping the script. From there on, their team persevered through backlash, financial barriers, and the pandemic to see the film through.
Peshawn spoke about some of the controversial themes present in the story and the backlash they received because of them: “It’s taboo to talk about sex. It’s taboo for Native women to be in power. Even though a lot of people respect our Native women now, hardly ever would they put a Native woman in power in that kind of way…I received death threats before we even started production and messages of people just being mean: ‘this isn’t what film is supposed to be, you’re a fake, you’re a fake Indian.’ In the end, this is something that very heavily affects our communities and something that people aren’t used to seeing or talking about.”
Their crew eventually finished production during the pandemic, though not without facing several hardships during that time: “Being without a job was scary. Capitalism always ruins the creative process…I was working on Mistress Red trying to find ways to support it while also supporting my team because when you’re making a film it’s not just about one person, it’s about a whole community.”
The film first premiered at the 2022 Atlanta Short Films fest, moving on to be shown at two others, including the Pathways Indigenous Arts Festival in Santa Fe. It’s also set to show at the imagineNative Film + Media Arts Festival, the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival, and the RNCI Red Nation International Film Festival & Awards later this year.
During one of their showings at the “The Way We See the World: Exploring Indigenous Representation in Film” Panel, Peshawn displayed their film to a large Native audience for the first time.
“Of course I was nervous. This was with Native people and a lot of Native women in the audience….People were moved by it, it resonated with them in some way. It felt so moving to see some young people come up and say ‘hey, I’m two-spirit and I’m too scared to come out, but the fact that you’re talking about sex and things like this is so comforting.’”
Once the festival tour wraps up, Peshawn hopes to release The Daily Life of Mistress Red digitally for all to see and is in the midst of completing captioning for the piece. Their ambitions don’t end there, though. Peshawn shared how excited they were for the future of Indigenous media and what they hope to add.
“I’m writing a Native vampire series that follows Indigenous and Native history through each character and that follows different eras and different times. It also intertwines the world of how Native people are seen as commodities with the undertone of being an Indigenous vampire, I could go on for days about that. My future film-making ambition would be to make something beautiful. Beautiful in terms of aesthetics, story, fashion.”
With media such as Reservation Dogs and Prey coming out, it’s not just our own community seeing these, but the general public is now viewing Indigenous representation by Indigenous people. When asked about what they were excited to see next, Peshawn said: “I want to see Native people being cast as lead roles without the content being specifically Native…people creating spaces and narratives for us where we can be ourselves, where we don’t have to put on a stoic accent. I want to see Indigenous joy, dammit!”
Stories such as The Daily Life of Mistress Red that tackle subjects like sex, sexuality, and the BDSM community, especially through the lens of Indigenous life, help to facilitate conversations that some in the Indigenous community continuously try to avoid or silence. It’s an exciting time to live in to see directors like Peshawn sharing empowering narratives that help people to feel seen and to grow, and to laugh a little along the way.