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Special Screening of Marvel’s Echo for IAIA Students during Native American Heritage Month

Feb 5, 2024

For last year’s Native American Heritage Month, Marvel Studios sponsored a private advance screening of Echo on November 21 for the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) at the Violet Crown Cinema in Santa Fe, followed by a Q&A with Executive Producer and Director Sydney Freeland (Navajo). The IAIA community was among one of the first audiences to see the first two episodes from the five-episode miniseries. Echo began screening on January 10, 2024, on Hulu and Disney+, hitting the No. 1 spot on both platforms after being released, and stars Alaqua Cox (Menominee and Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican) as the Choctaw character Maya Lopez alongside an impressive roster of Native actors.

The Santa Fe New Mexican’s Pasatiempo covered the show and IAIA screening in “Marvel Studios’ “Echo” is a triumph of Native storytelling” and The Albuquerque Journal wrote about Freeland in  “’I want more of this’: Gallup native Sydney Freeland one of the creative forces behind Marvel’s ‘Echo’”. Additionally, IAIA Alum Sam Sandoval (Salish and Navajo), a reporter for the Flathead Indian Reservation’s Char-Koosta News, ran a story with photos from IAIA. Freeland was also interviewed by local news stations KOAT and KRQE.

In attendance at the screening were IAIA students, staff, and faculty, IAIA trustees, local film industry professionals, and the press. A white motorcoach transported students in style from the IAIA campus to the entrance of Violet Crown, which was sponsored by Marvel. People steadily streamed into Theater 1, one of the Violet Crown’s largest theaters, outside of which was a mini red carpet. IAIA President Dr. Robert Martin (Cherokee) acknowledged the IAIA students, staff, faculty, and trustees in attendance, thanked Marvel Studios and Violet Crown, and gave an acknowledgement to the Tanoan and Keres speaking Peoples on whose traditional land IAIA resides.

After the episodes screened, and IAIA Cinematic Arts and Technology Department Chair James Lujan (Taos Pueblo) engaged in an interview with Sydney Freeland, who recently served as a mentor in IAIA’s Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program and attended IAIA’s Disney’s Summer Film and Television workshop a decade ago. “Yeah, I think it’s pretty surreal to be sitting here. I don’t feel like I’m that far removed from being a film student myself,” said Freeland. “I’d say—I mean, if I was going to give advice, just go and make stuff. Live off the McDonald’s dollar value menu for a week to get a short film made. Make stuff, make stuff, make stuff.”

“Yeah, I think it’s pretty surreal to be sitting here. I don’t feel like I’m that far removed from being a film student myself. I’d say—I mean, if I was going to give advice, just go and make stuff. Live off the McDonald’s dollar value menu for a week to get a short film made. Make stuff, make stuff, make stuff.”

Sydney Freeland (Navajo)

Q&A Discussion During the “Echo” Screening

Freeland discussed exploring the “shades of grey” of the main character, developing problem-solving skills on independent movies, and representing Deaf and Native communities respectfully. The crew engaged directly and intentionally with the Choctaw Nation, asking for their permission and input. “So, I mean, representation was extremely important, in front of, behind the camera, not only on the Native Indigenous side, but also on the Deaf side as well, too,” Freeland shared. “You know, I’m not Deaf, but our lead actress Alaqua Cox is, and that was something we really wanted to honor and embrace with this.” Creating a frame with her arms, Freeland said, “this is a closeup on our show.” The closeup accommodates for both the characters’ faces and signing and was used consistently in filming all characters. After, there was time for just one question. A Navajo, Choctaw, and Creek student inquired about the possibility of further disability representation. Relating to her time shadowing on Pose, where trans women were leads in the show, Freeland said, “And when I was on set with everybody, it was like, ‘Oh, wow, they—there is talent in the community. You just have to look.’”

Freeland acknowledged two Echo cast and crew members in the audience— Peshawn Bread (Comanche, Kiowa, and Cherokee), who served as a cultural coordinator for the show, and MorningStar Angeline (Navajo, Chippewa Cree, Blackfeet, Shoshone, and Latinx), whose role as a fierce stickball player in an action-packed scene set in distant Choctaw history prompted enthusiastic cheers and claps from several audience members.

Quotes have been edited for brevity and clarity.

For more information, please contact Jason S. Ordaz, Director of Communications, at jason.ordaz@iaia.edu or (505) 424-2348.

Photographic Views

If you’re interested in Cinematic Arts, check out our other stories highlighting Native filmmakers and IAIA’s Cinematic Arts and Technology Program.