The talent, creativity and skill of Native women was prominently displayed during the 2015 New Mexico Women in Film Fiesta, which took place in Las Cruces, Albuquerque, and Santa Fe July 10-12. Two award-winning films by or about Natives were shown: A Thousand Voices and #Nights Like These. The former, narrated by Irene Bedard, received multiple awards from the Fiesta , including Best Cinematography; Best Directing; tied for Best Documentary; and The Grand Award for Best in the Festival. The latter, co-starring Amber Midthunder and Shay Eyre, has also been highly acclaimed and recognized on the film festival circuit, earning awards in New Mexico, Idaho, and New York.
#Nights Like These is a story about how young people live now, in an age of interconnectedness — perhaps overconnectedness. “Rowan and Cali, two fifteen-year-old girls, sneak out to visit Rowan’s crush, an older man who works at a gas station,” reads the synopsis at nightslikethesemovie.com. “As both girls are obsessed with their phones, we experience life with them through their social media — a series of hashtags, selfies and texts from boyfriends and bullies. When the night’s escapade takes a disturbing turn for the worst, we learn just how disconnected and desensitized social media has made these troubled teens.”
Midthunder is a veteran presence on the set, despite her youth. An enrolled member of the Ft. Peck Sioux Tribe, she’s had recurring roles on Longmire and Banshee, and has acted in a number of films as well. “Shortly before this, I had co-directed another short film my mommy dearest,” she says, referring to Angelique Midthunder. “In front the of camera is kind of my first home. My dad is an actor and my mom works in casting. So, I’m one of those people for whom acting is just in my heart and my soul. And I can’t not do it.” The film was co-written by Midthunder and Hannah Macpherson. “To be involved through the whole process felt very natural. To have a character that I felt so close to, and that we spent such a long time developing — it only felt natural to be involved in all the other areas.”
Midthunder was joined onscreen by Shay Eyre (Cheyenne-Arapaho and Oglala/Mnicoujou Lakota), another actress with experience beyond her years; daughter of director Chris Eyre, Shay reaped praise for her performance in Empire of Dirt. Both actresses are still in their teens.
Angelique Midthunder acted as Executive Producer on the film. “I brought the talent and the funding to the project. I did work a little bit creatively with Hannah, who wrote it. But, ultimately, I was fairly hands-off. I wanted the directors to have their creative freedom. It’s always rewarding when I get to work with any of my family members, especially my daughter, but on this one I really wanted to let her, and her co-directors, take the reins.” The film has attracted the attention of at least one major studio in Hollywood and could be considered for development into a television series.
A Thousand Voices has already been screened, nationally, on PBS and was very well received at the 2015 Albuquerque Film and Media Experience. The film was co-produced by Lisa Lucas, Pamela Pierce and Matthew Martinez of Silver Bullet Productions (Santa Fe, New Mexico.) Pierce says “Silver Bullet Productions focuses on documentaries that bring a lot of knowledge and light to Indian Country, and this project, in particular, is about the voices of Native women; the strong, beautiful voices of our mothers and leaders in our community,” Pierce says. “I grew up in a Lutheran family. And we had a male god. Not until the ’60s did it occur for us to call ‘Him’ ‘Her’ — and that was a new notion. So to look at people who grew up with female deities, to have the power of a female from the beginning of time, and from the origin stories that the power was always there — and did not have to be fought for in the 60’s as part of a movement — was changing to me. I had never thought of it that way.”
“We’ve had several screenings of this film,” Lucas adds. “We’ve had a lot of Native women in the audiences who were very, very affected by it. Just watching the footage of people, and hearing them tell their story — it’s very emotional. It’s a very emotional ride. The strength of these women is always the common denominator, and it just gives you so much hope for the future.”