We thought it would be a good idea to help you get to know some of our fantastic filmmakers. So, borrowing an idea from LA Weekly’s Karina Longworth (the Bernard Pivot to our James Lipton), we submitted four questions to each filmmaker about and themselves and their films. We’ll be randomly posting as many responses as we can fit in between now and the kick-off.
A Good Day to Die is a stirring account of the history of the American Indian Movement and its founder, Dennis Banks. deadCENTER is honored to host the World Premiere of this movie on Saturday, June 12th at 5:00pm, with a second screening Sunday the 13th at 1:00pm. Dennis’ daughter Tashina Banks and many special guests will also be in attendance for Saturday’s premiere.
Let’s hear from the film’s directing team, David Mueller and Lynn Salt:
1. Tell us about your movie. Give us the reductive, 25-word-or-less pitch, then explain what the quick and dirty sell leaves out.
LYNN: A GOOD DAY TO DIE is one man’s journey (Dennis Banks) through the 20th Century during a time when American Indian consciousness was being raised in part by Indian men in prison–many of whom were in for “crimes of poverty”–as they began reading books about their own tribal histories and discovering their cultural roots. These men came out transformed because they had reconnected to who they were as Indian people. In their mission to help other Indians understand who they were–and to be proud of it–they started a movement (AIM) that changed everything.
DAVID: Because we saw Dennis as a key catalyst in the formation of the American Indian Movement in the late 1960s we decided that he and the movement were so inextricably linked that the film needed to explore both stories equally. In addition to telling Dennis’ personal story, we wanted to explore the causes and sequences of events that led up to the formation of AIM and ultimately to the controversial actions at Custer and Wounded Knee. In our view, the best way to do this was through the eyes of the many different people who lived through that time. Whether or not people agree with the actions of AIM, we’ve tried to tell the story of a man who, in his own life journey, stepped forward in a time of prejudice, ignorance and abuse to bring justice, equality and most importantly respect to American Indian people.
2. Are you a full-time filmmaker? If not, tell us how you get by while raising money for your films, or share something juicy you had to do to get your film made. (or just a history of how this movie came to be)
LYNN: David and I have been partners for eight years now. We are earning our living as writers, directors and producers because we work hard to have as many projects as possible in various stages of development so we can quickly shift our focus to any one of them when funding is found. When we aren’t making films, we are writing screenplays or developing funding proposals for documentary films.
DAVID: Yes, and this wasn’t always the case. During the 20 years that I’ve been making films (mostly documentaries) and producing media projects I’ve had to take various jobs to support the filmmaking habit, from a two-year stint as a producer for Akamai Technologies during the dot com boom to raising money for a museum to becoming a partner in a post production house in Los Angeles. Thankfully everything I’ve done to earn a living while making films has been related to telling stories.
3. Have you been to deadCENTER before? What’s something you look forward to discovering (or re-living) at the festival and/or in Oklahoma City?
LYNN: First time. However, my mother (Choctaw) was born in Oklahoma and so this state holds a special place in my heart. It is also home to the Oklahoma Choctaw Nation and many other Nations. Oklahoma is Indian Country so we are very happy and very proud that our documentary will have its World Premiere at deadCENTER Film Festival in Oklahoma City. We hope American Indian people from all over the country will find their way to the “center” to see our film. We hope all American people will come and learn from our documentary too.
DAVID: First time to deadCENTER and we’re really looking forward to it. We were in Oklahoma filming in 2008 and were chased around the state by many tornadoes so we’re hoping that the skies will be calm this time! Oklahoma is also significant to this film because of its significance to Native America.
4. Every filmmaker has influences and cinematic heroes. Name one of yours, and while you’re at it, tell us one film (or scene) in history that you wish you had directed (and why).
LYNN: Beresford and Lean. Bruce Beresford makes small gems that go over big, like “Tender Mercies” because they have to do with hope and healing themes about personal growth and redemption. David Lean made epic films that made us identify with one character, like Lawrence (Peter O’Toole) in “Lawrence of Arabia”, and dropped us onto a large canvas in an era of political unrest in a remote part of the world where Western ideas (political, racial, religious) are measured against a foreign culture that is willing to listen and learn from these ideas as long as they are not forced down their throats.
DAVID: Weir, Kurosawa and Lean. Gifted, grand and deep storytellers. Weir’s two films “Gallipoli” and “The Year of Living Dangerously” are two I would have to single out has having affected me more than most. “Gallipoli” for its powerful and very personal statement about the consequences of “honor”, “duty” and war and “The Year of Living Dangerously” for its brilliant balance of socio-politics, mythology and personal love.