Navajo rug documentary to be shown at library

Mike Easterling
Filmmaker Dwayne Joe will show his documentary "Big Sister Rug" Tuesday, May 10 at the Farmington Public Library

FARMINGTON – The first local screening of a new short documentary film about the largest Navajo rug in existence will take place Tuesday, May 10 at the Farmington Public Library.

Director, writer and producer Dwayne Joe, a Shiprock native, will be on hand at the screening to talk about his 2015 film, “Big Sister Rug,” which he made as part of his senior thesis at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe. The film was shown in early April as part of the Taos Shortz Film Fest, but it has not been shown in the Four Corners area.

The film focuses on the enormous rug created in the late 1970s by a team of 11 Navajo weavers from the Chilchinbeto Chapter in Arionza. The rug measures 24 feet, 5 inches by 37 feet, 10 inches, and only a few of the weavers who helped create it remain alive.

“We wanted to (show the film) because it’s part of the culture the library supports,” said Betty Decker, an adult services librarian. “Not many people know about (the rug). We thought that by hosting this screening it would bring more attention to the nature of Navajo rugs.”

Joe, who is enrolled in the Navajo Nation but who is also part Hopi, is excited to finally have the chance to show the film in San Juan County, where he grew up.

“I can’t wait,” he said during a phone interview from his home in Albuquerque. “It’s where I started from. I found myself becoming a filmmaker there.”

The filmmaker also will be speaking to students and screening his film Tuesday afternoon at Navajo Prep.

Joe said he was pleased with the reception the film got in Taos.

“I really wanted to get the audience’s reaction because I didn’t know what to expect,” he said, noting that viewers at the festival laughed during the comedic parts and seemed emotionally moved during other scenes. He hopes the film raises enough awareness about the rug so that it can be properly stored and displayed, instead of remaining in a wooden box in Chilchinbeto.

“It needs to be put in a glass case,” he said. “I hope we’ll get that out there.”

The version of the film Joe showed in Taos was only 15 minutes, which he said is the standard length for film festivals. But he’ll be showing a 22-minute cut of the film at the library.

The next stop for “Big Sister Rug” will be a screening on May 19 at the Roswell Film Festival, and Joe has submitted it for inclusion in the Santa Fe Indian Market in August and the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival in October. He has not scheduled a screening of the film in Shiprock or in Chilchinbeto, where the rug is kept, but he hopes to do so soon.

Joe said he has three scripts he’s considering for his next independent project, which he’d like to shoot in the Shiprock area. But for now he’s working on a project in Albuquerque that is being produced by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a nonprofit organization that promotes a vegan diet, preventive medicine and alternatives to animal research.

The documentary film focuses on attempts to prevent diabetes in indigenous communities, and Joe serves as assistant director to director James Costa, whose 2011 documentary “Lunch Hour” explores the national school lunch program, childhood obesity and our addiction to unhealthy foods.

“We’re looking at several communities, including Window Rock (Ariz.),” Joe said. “There are several communities out there we’d like to get, and we’ll be working there this summer.”

Joe said he has a personal connection to the film’s subject matter.

“I have several family members who are diabetic,” he said. “I think it’s a good topic to cover.”

Mike Easterling is the A&E editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.


If you go

What: Screening of the short documentary “Big Sister Rug”

When: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 10

Where: The Farmington Public Library, 2101 Farmington Ave.

For more information: Call 505-599-1260 or visit