University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee graduate student Sky Hopkina found international success for his very own film.
Hopkina recently showed his film, Jáaji, at Media City Film Festival in Windsor, Canada in July, and will show again in Canada next year at ImagineNative Film Festival in Toronto. Jáaji, the Ho Chunk word for “father”, is an experimental film that Hopkina made this past winter driving from Milwaukee to Washington and Southern California.
“(Jáaji) approximately is about a connection to my father, and that I relate him through the shared experience of travel,” Hopkina said.
When Hopkina was younger he listened to recordings with his father, and he continued to listen to them throughout the filming process as an inspiration.
“I felt like I was relating to him in a way where, through these recordings, it served as a sort of convoy for connection,” he said.“(What inspires) is this idea of survival or just presence of being native. There are a lot of negative things surrounding it and I just look for ways to assert sort of presence and survival – to show different ways that cultures exist without having too didactic.”
Hopkina explains the process of making Jáaji as experimental, but moving.
“Since I’ve been in the graduate program here I’ve really used experimental forms of film as a way to branch out and explore different ideas, culture and language,” he said.
Before making films, Hopkina started out making and recording music from the ages of thirteen to seventeen and through editing it he turned it into storytelling. He was an English major for his undergrad, and eventually switched over to film calling it, “a natural progression” and “the next step” to his storytelling.
Hopkina says that the response to Jáaji has been generally positive.
“It is always to good to hear feedback and comments, and to put my works through critique and just to get the perspectives that aren’t necessarily from my cultural view,” Hopkina said, “There are a lot of different ways that we can relate to the work though there’s definitely some specific cultural references that they might not be aware of. It’s good to try and make things accessible without making them exclusive.”
Hopkina is a third year graduate student at UWM and for the future he hopes to finish smaller video projects and his college thesis, which will take him through to the following year.