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Miss Navajo 

After the recent YouTube sensation of Miss Teen South Carolina rambling through a clueless attempt to explain why one in five Americans can't locate their own nation on a world map, one might wonder both what values these pageants aspire to embody and if they in fact actually do represent some portion of the nation quite well. At first blush, the documentary Miss Navajo may seem like its own absurd riff on the virtues of young womanhood. One day of the competition is devoted to the contestants each slaughtering, skinning and cooking a sheep, a rite of passage that proves a young Navajo woman is ready for marriage. Set against the brilliant ochre-colored backdrops of the Southwest, the film follows some inspiring young women in both an endearing and poignant exploration of an indigenous culture losing its traditions. Just like Cajun people had to fight to revive their language, music and heritage, the Navajo face the same struggle, and as absurd as it seems, they have taken the vapid ceremony of a beauty pageant and made it meaningful. The competitors are quizzed on treaties signed with the U.S. Government, on their religion, customs and community. In one heartbreaking scene, a young woman asked about the problem of substance abuse stumbles to silence when describing her own alcoholic father. The film follows a beautiful and determined young woman named Crystal Frazier (pictured) as she enters the pageant and strives to be, in her words, the only Navajo many Americans might ever get the chance to meet. She wants to represent her tribe and its values as best she can even as she struggles to express herself in its native tongue. Free admission. " Will Coviello

6:30 p.m. Sun., Oct. 7

AshŽ Cultural Arts Center, 1712 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd., 569-9070; www.ashecac.org

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