into exclusive Sundance program
OK - A small town boy and member of the Seminole Tribe of Oklahoma
has been selected to participate in an elite cinema making opportunity.
Harjo, 24, will travel to Utah to take part in the Directors Lab
at Sundance Village in Utah.
originally from Holdenville and now living in Norman, does not sound
like a guy from the country. Citing his cinematic influences, Harjo
reels off a list of independent directors like Jim Jarmusch, Jane
Campion and John Cassavetes, filmmakers your not likely to find
in your average Holdenville video store, or most places in Oklahoma
for that matter.
started at University of Oklahoma and then when I left school for
awhile I started writing short stories," Harjo tells the Native
American Times. "I was always into film, but never thought I could
Joseph: You gotta look mean or people won't respect you. White people
will run all over you if you don't look mean. You gotta look like
a warrior! You gotta look like you just came back from killing a
Builds-The-Fire: But our tribe never hunted buffalo - we were fishermen.
Joseph: You want to look like you just came back from catching a
fish? This ain't "Dances With Salmon" you know!
from "Smoke Signals."
came "Smoke Signals," Chris Eyre's groundbreaking 1998 film about
modern day American Indians, adapted from a novel by Sherman Alexie.
kind of opened the doors," said Harjo. " Before that, movies about
Native Americans had to be mystical and stuff. But when Smoke Signals
came out, people liked it and it encouraged people."
Harjo wrote his own screenplay, "Four Sheets to the Wind."
The draft was one of 12, out of 3000, entries accepted to the Sundance
about a young guy who is Seminole and Creek," Harjo describes the
film. " It's about how he goes from Point A to Point B in his life.
He is with his family in a small town and they try to deal with
Harjo has received the attention of Sundance has not gone unnoticed
in his community.
is one of the hottest Native American writers that has come through
the ranks," said Bird Runningwater, Programmer for Native American
initiatives for Sundance and OU alumnus. "He's a naturally
gifted writer and gifted storyteller."
projects selected for the lab represent the distinctive and innovative
voices of an exciting group of emerging filmmakers from the U.S.
and around the world," said Michelle Satter, Director, Sundance
Institute Feature Film Program. "Individually, and as a whole,
the projects explore the diversity and complexity of our contemporary
culture with originality, humor, and emotional truth. During the
lab, the filmmakers will have the opportunity to further develop
their talent and projects in a creative community that values risk-taking
and bold ideas."
meanwhile, hopes his success gives voice to other budding Native
screenwriters and filmmakers.
anything I hope it helps. In America, there are not a lot of film
and acting opportunities for Native people. I hope it will encourage
people not to think their story is not worth telling," he said.