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The banner image is a mural painted by Fabián Calderón Sánchez, inspired by traditional Maya graphics, at Servicios Universitarios y Redes de Conocimiento (University Services and Knowledge Networks) in Oaxaca City, Mexico.


A young girl walks away from two women, the older of whom is holding her hand, with palm trees, beach, and ocean in the background. All three are in floral dresses.
Mother Tongue Film Festival

The Smithsonian’s Mother Tongue Film Festival celebrates cultural and linguistic diversity by showcasing films and filmmakers from around the world over multiple days of free screenings and presentations in Washington, D.C. The festival is a public program of Recovering Voices, a pan-institutional collaboration.

Founded in 2016, the annual festival coincides with International Mother Language Day on February 21. A number of films remain available to view on the website throughout the year.

A shirtless person, facing away, aim a video camera toward the green landscape beyond.
InDigital Conference

In 2023, the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage co-organized this biennial academic conference that invited researchers, trainers, and Indigenous media-makers to share experiences and discuss the developments in Indigenous media across the Americas. To date, it is the only conference of its kind in the United States. The conference took place February 23 and 24 at the NYU Washington, DC, campus.

A mask of a stylized human face, with nails poking outward from the lips, in flames on a rock.
Films d’Auteur / Langues Ancestrales

Recognizing film as a transformative tool for linguistic empowerment and cultural self-determination, the Center partnered with the Festival of Indigenous Australian Cinema and the Musée du Quai Branly–Jacques Chirac to present a first-of-its-kind film festival in Paris, France, as one of the flagship events of the first International Year Indigenous Languages.

Film still of a man and woman both looking downward, pensive.
Indigenous Cinema ’22

For the second year, Amalia Córdova curated an online series of short and feature films from the Americas for New York University’s Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics, with the theme “Images to Postpone the End of the World.” The series ran November 11 to December 12, 2022.

Media Playlists

To introduce new audiences to creative efforts in Indigenous digital storytelling, as well as emerging educational and collaborative projects, we invited Indigenous media collectives and organizations to create media playlists. Our interns also compile music videos and short films screened at the Mother Tongue Film Festival. Find out how to propose your own playlist.


Through Folklife Magazine, we have drawn from Mother Tongue Film Festival offerings to reflect on the communities and efforts behind the films. We have also published many articles relating to language as cultural heritage—from video games to hip-hop—and share some of the live discussions on Native American language and media representation that take place at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

Collaborators & Sponsors

Support the Folklife Festival, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, Cultural Vitality Program, educational outreach, and more.