Doug Miles, San Carlos Apache, says he never smiles. Due to the 500 years of bad history of Native people in the United States affected by political ‘gangsters,’ he says he doesn’t often have much to smile about.
He may not smile much, if ever, but he puts smiles on the faces of young kids on the San Carlos Apache Reservation who enjoy his skate decks. Miles is the founder of Apache Skateboards, and with the short film, The Mystery of Now, he tells a bit of his story.
Smiles on the faces of young kids on the San Carlos Apache Reservation. Screen shot YouTube
On the same day as the Indigenous People’s March in Washington D.C., director Audrey Buchanan has told Indian Country Today that she is excited to announce her directorial debut of The Mystery of Now, a short film highlighting the life of artist and founder of Apache Skateboards, Doug Miles.
The film delves into reservation life and though the film is only 16 minutes, it’s packed with content and texture.
The film profiles Native skater kids, punk kids, pro-skater Tommy Guerrero, Miles’ family, San Carlos family traditions, entrepreneurship and more.
There is a good bit of bad-assery in this film as Doug Miles, Jr. wipes ample blood off of his road-rashed palms, skater kids flip off the camera, punk kids wear “F*** the Police” and GG Allen designed clothing and musician Virgil, takes the cake by shoving a safety pin through his bottom lip.
Virgil displays his newly created lower lip piercing. Screen shot YouTube
It’s an enjoyable, sometimes serious and yet fun romp through Indian Country … best enjoyed if you are on an INDEH-style Apache skateboard designed by Miles, of course.
Provided by Buchanan, the official description of the film is as follows:
In the short film, “The Mystery of Now,” artist and Apache Skateboards founder, Douglas Miles shares socio-political context around the history that lead to life on the San Carlos Apache reservation, the personal history of how and why he started a skateboard brand and a team of local youth leaders.
He offers advice on cultivating resilience, creativity, and joy, provides guidance in a time that for many feels uncertain, polarizing and divisive in our own living rooms and around our dinner tables. The film was directed by Audrey Buchanan and released by The Woods Productions.
Watch the film here - Read an interview with Doug Miles below
In addition to the film description, Buchanan also provided a question and answer interview with Doug Miles from The Woods Productions via email.
How would you describe this film in your own words?
"The Mystery of Now" is a 15-minute visual meditative poem about life on the Apache Nation told in my own words.
With an Apache perspective, it shows how art, skateboarding and fun can positively transform a community.
Featuring the Apache Skateboards skate team Reuben Ringlero, Tray Polk, Tashadawn Hastings, Di'orr Greenwood, Elijah Albert, Trevino Noland and Douglas Miles Jr., the film's soulfully joyous hard-edge is a glimpse into the lives of Native youth artists, musicians and skaters as they learn to lead their community with art, music and skateboarding as a means of resistance.
How did you originally connect with the director and how was the idea born?
It was during the Opportunity Agenda Retreat where I met Dream Hampton. Dream is a prolific filmmaker, writer, journalist, and activist. Dream invited me to participate in Summit At Sea, a floating cruise ship conference for creatives and tech start up moguls with just enough focus on social justice issues to make it unique.
After a mad flurry of phone calls, texts, emails and last-minute passports, we were off to Florida from San Carlos, Arizona, home of the San Carlos Apache Nation, to teach skateboard design on a boat with over 3,000 other attendees in the Bahamas.
Floating on the Summit At Sea ship is where I met Audrey Buchanan, director of “The Mystery of Now.” I didn’t know that we would eventually collaborate on a film with her team of filmmakers from Echo Park and my team of Apaches from San Carlos Arizona. During my residency at the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco, she called saying she had an “idea.” This meeting became the short film “The Mystery of Now.”
Why is this film so important from a visibility perspective?
It’s no mystery that the history of Native American people in this country has been overlooked, misrepresented and maligned to create a more heroic narrative for settlers, to sell books, land and movie tickets.
This film pushes back at the invisibility that plagues Native people working in the arts and their communities. In the middle of this cultural clash of stereotypes and battles for agency, one thing that has never ceased, is Native creativity in the making of art. Simply stated, Native art is the voice of Native people. In our creativity, we recreate ourselves and in doing so, we create our world.
The current population of San Carlos, Arizona is about 14,000. The poverty level hovers about about 60% in this eastern Arizona town. For some (not all) Indian Nations, this is typical. In spite of this, what Apache Skateboards has done in its 17-year journey of creativity and skateboarding is nothing short of amazing.
What makes your skateboard brand unique?
Apache Skateboards started out as a father, making art for his son, but since then has grown into a movement sparking interest in skateboarding across Native communities for over 15 years.
I knew back then when I started, that there wasn’t Native representation in skateboarding and I wanted to create a brand that would represent Native people with Native art, not stereotypical clip-art images. I was tired of seeing brands use Native-themed imagery to sell products with no connection to Native people. Native people being used as mere selling point still goes on today.
The art I designed for Apache Skateboards paired young skaters with historical imagery encouraging them to remember Native heroes of the past, while in the present, utilizing skateboarding as a conduit for Native pride.
What's the message you want viewers to walk away with?
“Apache Skateboards is the power of the past, the key to the future and the mystery of now.”
With this short phrase I wanted to encapsulate what the Apache Skateboard brand/movement means, where it’s at and where it’s going. “The power of the past” refers to the history of Apache people, their struggle and victories over historical oppression. “The key to the future” refers to the skate-team itself and the young people that work with Apache Skateboards. They are the “key” to the future of our community. “The Mystery of Now” refers to our everyday destiny and the blessing of our lives in creating art, fun and joy together. I felt if I could create art, kids could use it and it would change the way we not only looked at art, but it would change the way we looked at our community, how we interacted with the world and how we viewed ourselves. I think together we’ve succeeded.
For more information visit the links below:
Film Website: TheMysteryofNow.com
Douglas on Instagram: @DMiles1_Apache
Audrey Buchanan on Instagram: @Audrey_Buchanan
The film on Instagram: @TheMysteryofNow
Follow Indian Country Today’s associate editor Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter - @VinceSchilling