SUNDANCE Film Festival | 2019
Nominee Short Film Grand Jury Prize
Shorts Program 1
January 24th 18:00 - Prospector Square Theatre Park City
The Blackfoot bareback horse-racing tradition returns in the astonishingly dangerous Indian Relay. Siksika horseman Allison Red Crow struggles with secondhand horses and a new jockey on his way to challenging the best riders in the Blackfoot Confederacy.
Hi Alex thanks for talking to TNC, you all set for the festival?
As best as we can be, it is really exciting to be apart of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival and we are honoured and humbled to be one of 7 Indigenous-Made films to premiere at the festival.
Fast Horse is set to be screened on the opening night of Sundance, are there any nerves ahead of the screening?
I think the reason most of us got into film making is to behind the camera not in front so the intensity of Sundance and the red carpet will be interesting and nerve-racking but we hope that the film resonates with the sold-out audience and that people come away with a new perspective about indigenous cinema.
How does it feel to be at the festival with Fast Horse?
This is the little film that could, I have to shout out to our Executive Producer at CBC Digital Lesley Birchard for believing in this film and for pushing to work with Indigenous and up and coming filmmakers. Without her passion and persistence, I doubt I would be here today. I also have to give props to my Producer Niobe Thompson and the team at Handful of Films for helping foster young directors, it was a passion project by all. We had a small budget and everyone, the producing team, the crew, our editor Sarah Taylor went above and beyond because they all believed in the film and the guys.
Fast Horse is also nominated for Short Film Grand Jury Prize, does this add any extra pressure on you?
I think we are just riding this wave, there are so many great films from around the world in competition and we are all winners at the end of this experience.
Tell me a little bit about Fast Horse, how did the film come about?
The film came about because my Producer Niobe Thompson was working on a docu-series for CBC and PBS called Equus Story of the Horse, he had met this team and knew there was a film in their journey He approached me and asked if I would be interested, and I grew up watching Indian Relay in Northern Alberta (on a smaller scale) but once I met Allison Red Crow and Cody Big Tobacco I knew we had to make this film. I met up with the team at the 2017 Calgary Stampede where they made history, it was the first Indian Relay event in the history of the historic Calgary Stampede. I was standing behind the shoots with the crew and saw an audience of over 150,000 people cheering for these young indigenous men, the crowd was so loud my chest was vibrating and never in my entire life had I ever seen that many people cheer for indigenous people. That feeling that's what we tried to create in our film FAST HORSE.
What was it about the Indian Relay that interested you so much?
I had grown up watching Indian Relay on the rodeo circuit in Northern Alberta and I had always had an interest but it really was meeting Allison and Cody and seeing their passion for the sport, their love for their horses and their pride in participating in Indian Relay that excited me. You never know what a film will be, if it will turn out, especially with this type of vérité film. We were following these young guys for a year and this to me is the best part of making a documentary the unexpected surprises that happen over time.
"...I think my work comes from more of a place of social justice..."
Have you always been interested in filmmaking?
I have always been interested in storytelling. For me, I think my work comes from more of a place of social justice of trying to show different ways of how indigenous people are seen. How we are under-represented in film and media, and most of the time the stories that are told about us are not by us and are not directed by us. We need to let the world know we are still here, we are not relegated to the history books but we are thriving in big and small ways.
As a Cree filmmaker how important is it for you to bring indigenous stories, experience and history to the big screen?
This is the most important part of my practice and the reason I make films about indigenous communities. I think it's important to acknowledge the other indigenous filmmakers at Sundance this year. They all bring different ways of viewing and experiencing the indigenous experience, like for example Sky Hopinka's film Fainting Spells.
Do you think more can be done for cinema to be more inclusive to indigenous stories and filmmakers?
Yes I think there is so much more work to be done. We not only need to be more inclusive of indigenous stories and filmmakers but we need to allow indigenous executive producers, curators, film programmers, film critics, board members - indigenous people in positions of power.
"You have to keep working, you have to keep learning, you have to keep pushing yourself..."
How has your approach to your films changed since your debut film?
At this moment, I am trying to tell stories that are positive so that audiences can see indigenous people as something more than a news headline. It is important to me that my nieces and nephews are able to see themselves on the big screen and have people to look up to who look like them, I did not have that growing up and I don't even see that now. Personally, I am exhausted of seeing indigenous people were murdered or just be a dead body in films, and yet it is in 2019 the images we see over and over again. This is why we need people in power positions to hire filmmakers like Sky Hopinka, the Sundance indigenous film fellows Danis Goulet and Miciana Hutcherson and so many others who have unique ideas and visions for cinema.
Do you have any advice or tips for a fellow filmmaker?
I think my biggest advice is that from the outside it seems like filmmakers who premiere at Sundance are overnight successes and I think that is so far from the truth, for some very few that is true but most people like myself we have all been working for years honing our craft and being rejected. I have been making films for over 10 years and this is my first premiere at Sundance. You have to keep working, you have to keep learning, you have to keep pushing yourself - when it gets hard, and when you are tired you have to keep trying to achieve perfection because it is when you are tired and exhausted that is when you make the little mistakes that you always regret and you say to yourself in the edit we should have pushed for that last shot, that last soundbite. As Shonda Rhimes said, "you keep laying track down, no matter what, because the train of production is coming toward you – no matter what"
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from this film?
I hope that people enjoy the ride!