Father and son’s environmental film delights global audiences

Mivon Prince-Leyva's SAE student film We Are Our Totem: A Native American Tale, has received worldwide acclaim. The documentary stars Mivon's father, Bobby Runningfox, a Medicine Man who is the spiritual healer of his tribe.
Father and son in natural environment


The film, which Mivon directed, touches on one of the oldest Indigenous cultures in the world, and shares a deeper environmental message that continues to be ignored. To date, it’s been selected at 27 film festivals around the world, and won best documentary at the 2022 Australia Independent Film Festival.

The film was created as part of Mivon’s studies at SAE Brisbane and takes a look at the physical and spiritual relationship, and how it impacts our environment.

“My father shares why the communion with animals and humans is such a priority to Native American culture, and how it continues to have wider relevance in today’s society” Mivon said.

“I love the boiling frog analogy for explaining the environment,” Mivon added. “We as mankind are like frogs in a pond, and as the pond gets hotter and hotter, we’ll continue to sit there. However, if you throw a frog into a boiling pot of water, it will jump straight out.

“We, as humans, are too slow to react to gradual changes and learn from what nature and animals are telling us, and that’s what my father discusses in the documentary.”

Mivon Prince-Leyva


Mivon explained why the story means so much to him personally: “My father is a Native American Medicine Man and I have been in training since I was eight years old, learning from him and absorbing his wisdom of the world.”

Award-winning filmmaker, Damon Gameau, made famous for 2040 has been in touch with Mivon about featuring in Gameau’s upcoming Regenerating Australia documentary, which looks at what Australia would look like in 2030 if it listened to the needs of its people.

“It’s very exciting, but still in the very early stages of development with Damon. As We Are Our Totem is not just a story about culture and spirituality, but a focus on the environmental factors associated with our actions.”


SAE National Chair of Film, Simon Temple explained how SAE supports students like Mivon. “We always tell students to find strong stories, and the impactful message of that will follow,” Simon said. “Which is exactly what Mivon has been successful in doing.”

Simon added the complexity of interviewing family on film: “From my own perspective in the industry, it can sometimes be easier to have no emotional connection to the person you’re interviewing, which makes Mivon’s achievements even more impressive.”

Looking to the future, Mivon is passionate about telling the stories of further Indigenous cultures through film. “When I first started thinking about a documentary as part of my studies at SAE, I wanted to cover First Nations’ Peoples from Australia, New Zealand and North America,” Mivon said.

“I thought it would be fascinating to look at their different perspectives of the world, and how they intertwine in different ways. I would love to explore a series of films on those cultures down the track!”

Three students view a camera in a green screen studio

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