Recently, looking back at my first Native American movie, I found myself drawn to what I like to call the 'Wild Horse Scene'. (see movie clip above) I remember thinking about this when I was writing it at the time and how most Hollywood American Indian movies available then, usually had a horse ride that involved a beautiful sunset across a beautiful part of ancient indigenous land like Monument Valley or similar. I remember laughing to myself and thinking it would be fun to change things up a touch and have our 'Native horse scene' happen across beautiful land and beautiful light with beautiful people, but add a nice reservation reality and twist to it.
I had lived a couple years on the Navajo and Hopi Nations and had seen many horses, some in pasture, some running free. I well understood that not every horse on the reservation could be ridden, or caught, and not every Native American knows how to ride a horse just like not all kids from Idaho know how to drive a tractor! I also had spent two years riding a mountain bike across Navajoland and so I could easily imagine what this collage of different elements could look like. I also liked the fact that Harry, played by Deshava Apachee (Navajo/Mescalero Apache), was trying to impress a young lady friend, played by Natasha Kaye Johnson (Navajo/Arabic), on their first date and his talk of being a great horseman created some great anticipation.
Enter the legendary Native American humorist/singer/songwriter Vincent Craig (Navajo), who played Uncle Billy in the movie, who comes out of the house to try and help catch the families four legged friends. After numerous failed attempts, and with a bit of sun still up, the two men give up chasing the horses, while city loving Turquoise Rose enjoys from the sidelines. Heartbroken that Harry can't win his girl's heart over, they still manage to have a bike ride through 'never before seen on screen' beautiful reservation land.
I originally wanted to have shots of the two riding bikes through Monument Valley, Shiprock, Window Rock and a few other well known places, to 'show off' more of what Navajoland has to offer, but we ran out of time. I also thought it would push the scene's humor as anyone from the rez really knows how far apart some of these places are and can only imagine how many days it would have taken to ride bikes from Shiprock to Window Rock to Monument Valley.
This was one of my favorite days of filmmaking on Turquoise Rose. I will never forget working with my friend Vincent Craig and all the talent that came with him. Native country lost one of the best when he passed on. I'm grateful to have known him. I also think of the Barney's who allowed us to film at their place with their well trained horses and have been so kind over the years.
I've enjoyed a brief visit down memory lane! Hope you did too. I would love to hear your thoughts about this scene!
- Holt Hamilton, writer/director of Indigenous and Native American film