Navajo filmmaking takes new direction

KAYENTA - The filmmakers, cast and crew of "Mile Post 398" - written and directed by Shonie and Andee De La Rosa - are working diligently to submit this entirely Navajo made premier film to the 2007 Sundance Film Festival Native American Initiative. In preparation for this entry and eventual release, a trailer, which provides a sneak-peak at the film is now available for viewing and download.

The film has been in production for more than a year and is due to premiere in January 2007. "Mile Post 398" incorporates an all Navajo cast and crew and was shot entirely on the Navajo Nation. Through each step of the film's production every aspect of resources available on the Navajo Nation was utilized.

"Everybody in this whole thing is volunteer. Everybody believes in this story. They want to see it come to life. We've got the support of some people in the Navajo Nation, the Navajo Nation film commission…." They said, "we believe in what you're doing with this story, so we're going to support you 100 percent," Shonie De La Rosa said.

He explained that many films in the past and present depicting the Navajo vary rarely include Navajos portraying themselves. Many people producing these films such as the director, writer, etc. are not even Navajo, much less even Native, he said.

"What makes this film different, I think, is that we're depicting what life on the rez is really like," De La Rosa said.

According to the filmmakers, "Mile Post 398" is the very first of its kind to incorporate an all Navajo cast and crew, a feat for which they are very proud. Many have said that the Navajo do not have the talent or the resources to produce such a film. Thus, the film's creators, cast and crew hope this sets the record strait for those that have doubted Native people as those without talent and resources.

"The authenticity is very important," De La Rosa said. "There's a different aura, a different feeling and language. Our language is important. It's who we are. It's where we're from."

"Mile Post 398" takes place in present time in Kayenta with a thirty-something Navajo guy named Cloyd. After years living a life of parties and drinking, Cloyd decides to try to turn his life around. He sets his mind to quit his problematic drinking, but soon realizes that this is easier said than done.

"It just shows how hard it is to do that," De La Rosa said. "You know, a lot of people see people like that and say, 'shoot, why didn't that guy just quit drinkin'?' It sounds simple, but in reality it's not. It's a whole different lifestyle, and it's hard to make that change."

He explained that by making this film and bringing this issue forward, Navajo people affected by alcoholism might begin to talk about it and address the problems.

Actress Kimberly White commented on the film's theme. "It's real, you know; the friends, the alcoholism, the domestic violence, the suicide … it's real," she said.

In the making of "Mile Post 398" De La Rosa said maintaining cultural accuracy was a way of showing respect to his community and heritage.

"It's respect. It's respect towards our elders, respect towards our people. It reminds us where we come from," he said.

Throughout the film, De La Rosa explained, no stereotypical "Indian" clichés are used. "There are no eagle screams, no powwows - none of that," De La Rosa said.

The De La Rosas lead Sheephead Films and have other shorts which are available at their website.

"Mile Post 398" is the first full length project for Sheephead Films and includes a very talented cast consisting of: Lawson "Beau" Benally as Cloyd; Gerald Vandever as Jimmy; James Junes as Marty; Kim White as Lorraine; Ernest David Tsosie III as Ray; KJ White as Michael; Duwayne Lake as Steve; James Cee Vanwinkle as Albert; Shaylynn Gilmore as Gloria; Ruth Bradley as Cloyd's auntie; Billy Crawley II as himself; and Luanne Bradley as Cloyd's sister-in-law.

The official "Mile Post 398" website is now available to view with the official trailer as well as additional information and production photos. Please visit www.sheepheadfilms.com for more information.

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