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“The Flame” Reviews


Dear Sean.
Thank you for showing your film in Crestone. As you could see, it was well received.
When I returned home, I realized part of what caused the excitement. I believe that the Crestoniens, my self included, really felt seen and heard as individuals, as groups and as a community.
The Valley has a tendency to see Crestone as ‘the crazy people’ and they’ll smirk a little when the town is mentioned. However, the movie portrayed the town as much more than crazy or different – partly because of the inclusion of the farming community. The loving intent of all the different practitioners came through clearly. It was like a chance to explain our selves.
Maybe Crestone is not as crazy as it seems……..or if it is, oh well 😉
Love and Gratitude, Anna Louise Steweart (Crestone resident)


Bird Singer rattles for trailer pg

“Sing Birds” Reviews

“I think that the deep feeling the people have for the Bird Songs comes out in this film.  It represents a genuine cultural treasure!”

Dr. Ernest Siva,  Cahuilla /Serrano Educator and Ethnomusicologist, President of the Board of the Dorothy Ramon Learning Center and Tribal Historian for the Morongo Band of Mission Indians.

“It’s a masterpiece! This kind of film has never been done before about the cahuilla People!”

Dr. Lowell Bean, Author of Mukat’s people: The Cahuilla Indians of Southern California and California Indian Shamanism and Folk Curing.

“I really like Sing Birds.  It showed the people as the are and will help the Bird Songs spread.”  

Anthony Andreas, Agua Caliente (Palm Springs) Elder and Preeminent Bird Song leader.

“The themes of “Sing Birds” are universal to all native peoples of today!  Elders passing, young people searching for identity and issues of mixed blood are seen in all the groups across the country.  I will be taking this video home to show it to the Hopi Elders.”  

Michael Kabotie (Lomawywesa), Hopi Elder and Artist

“Sean Owen is a gifted archaeomythologist, cultural archivist, master storyteller, and advocate/ worker for the preservation of the sacred.  I think “Sing Birds” is exceptional.” 

Jerome Bernstein, Jungian Analyst who has been involved with clinical research which links Navajo medicine and Western treatment modalities and author of “Borderlanders”
Sing Birds: Following the Path of Cahuilla Power
Directed and Produced by Sean Owen

A few years ago my husband and I attended the Dorothy Ramon Annual Dragonfly Gala they awarded  Robert Levi, Alvino Siva, Anthony Andreas and John Andreas for their life long work in saving the bird songs. Two were at this 2006 gala. They were in the front of the room, singing the songs and shaking their gourd rattles. Little by little they were joined by other bird singers, each one carrying their own rattle. In a little while there were many, all standing, singing and facing the three men. The love and respect they showed for the elder singers was overwhelming. Dancers joined in and one could not help but feel that this was a special moment. Sean Owen has captured these important men and others in his documentary, Sing Birds: following the Path of Cahuilla Power.

Any southern California Indian event will almost certainly have bird singers.  Like many, I did not realize that in the last 50 years the tradition of southern California bird singing has been in jeopardy.Sing Birds explores the history and contemporary resurgence of this ancient cultural practice and the difficulties that come with it, especially internally, within Cahuilla tribes.

One of the most important thing that Owen has done is recorded the words, songs and thoughts of  the main players in contemporary Cahuilla bird singing. Several of these men have since passed away. But some of their thoughts and what they knew of the past and hoped for the future has been preserved in this film.

The film’s participants discuss their Indian school experience and the effect it had on the family, as well as the damage to language, song and dance. But along with trying to save the songs is controversy and conflict by elders and others as to who should be allowed to know and sing the songs. Qualifications based on tribal affiliation, knowledge of the Cahuilla language and gender are some of the issues bird singers must deal with. It is evident that the views and differences are varied and will be discussed for many years to come.

Sean Owen was introduced to bird singing from his previous documentary, “I made a film before this called Borderlands about Cahuilla performance artist Gerald Clarke… I filmed him singing with a group at night down by his house on the rez and I went wow! I just kept thinking about it and I said this is what I want to do.” It took him three years to complete this film.

The premier was held at the Idyllwild Arts Academy in July to a crowd of over 200.  Several of the film’s participants along with the filmmaker sat on a panel afterward and answered questions and took comments from the audience. There was a general feeling that the documentary was well done and important.

Rose Ramirez is of Chumash descent, a California Indian basketweaver, photographer, and board member of the non-profit American Indian Channel