GOINGS ON SANTA BARBARA : Cultural Barrier : Filmmaker makes the most of a disappointing visit with her Navajo grandmother.


Filmmaker Arlene Bowman didn’t get what she expected when she visited her grandmother on a Navajo reservation in northern Arizona in 1980. But she did get a documentary out of it.

Her film, titled “Navajo Talking Picture,” will kick off the monthlong Native American Film Festival at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History beginning Friday night. Bowman will be on hand to discuss the role of films in preserving Native American culture.

“My initial goal was to make a portrait of my grandmother,” said the 41-year-old Bowman. “Halfway through she decided she didn’t want to be in it. I know for sure it had to do with my relatives talking about me, exaggerating movie makers. Probably they told her things like, ‘She’s going to make lots of money on you. . . . We’re worlds apart, basically. It was really hard to communicate what I was really there for, that I wasn’t exploiting her.”

And that communication problem is the essence of the film. Bowman grew up in Los Angeles and speaks only English. Her grandmother, who is about 90 years old, grew up on the reservation and speaks only Navajo. Their languages and cultures are vastly different.


“I could see what they thought about me. It was rejection,” Bowman said. “I’ll know that feeling of rejection for the rest of my life because I grew up in the city and I don’t know their language. I think they stereotype. They put the blame on me.”

Bowman said her film will show other assimilated Native Americans that they aren’t alone in their difficulties fitting in with the more traditional Indian lifestyle.

“The movie is something Indian people don’t want to talk about. They don’t want to face those issues,” Bowman said. “I don’t know about other tribes, but when I go out to the reservation I have to change my gears totally. But I had to learn it the hard way.”

“Navajo Talking Picture” will be on a double bill with “Wisdom of Two Worlds,” a movie about a Hopi Indian who explores traditional and urban values. The program will run from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at the museum’s Fleischmann Auditorium. Five other movies will be shown during May. Admission is free. The museum is located at 2559 Puesta del Sol Road. Call 682-4711.


Is it true that too many cooks spoil the broth? The proof, or lack of it, will be in the pudding, so to speak, at tonight’s “Taste of the Nation” fund-raising dinner at the Sheraton Santa Barbara.

Seven of the top chefs in town will each prepare a course for this extravagant $85-per-person meal, the proceeds of which will benefit the Santa Barbara Food Bank and other organizations helping the hungry. The list of chefs include Norbert Schulz of Allegro (who will whip up a rack of lamb), John Downey of Downey’s (smoked duck and papaya appetizer) and Patrick LeSec of Charlotte (truffles and cookies). For more information, call Brigette Guehr at 965-6012. Tickets are available at the door. The Sheraton is located at 1111 E. Cabrillo Blvd.

The “Dance Brazil” Company will perform at UC Santa Barbara’s Campbell Hall on Saturday night, which means plenty of frenzied activity onstage.

The group has been acclaimed for its Afro-Brazilian dance and its martial arts/dance performances. Show time is 8 p.m. Tickets are $16, $14 and $12. For information, call 893-3535.

Elizabeth Mannion, a professor of music at UCSB, will lead the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra in a presentation of Giuseppe Verdi’s “Il Trovatore” Monday and Tuesday at the Lobero Theatre.

This 1853 opera, about a Gypsy torn between the love of her son and her vow to avenge the death of her mother, will be sung in Italian and narrated in English. For tickets and show times, call 963-0761. The Lobero is at 33 E. Canon Perdido.

A “Metaphysical Museum” exhibit by artist John Cushing recently opened at the Frances Puccinelli Gallery in Carpinteria. Here’s Cushing’s written explanation of his work: ". . . I strive for a Zen-like opposition of tensions reaching for a spontaneous conclusion/resolution. All art is metaphysical. One can view my art as an interface between spirit and matter, as alchemy transforming the material into the spiritual. . . .”

Enough said. The gallery is located at 888 Linden Ave. on the second floor.