Latest projects by CRASH ROLL FILm
a Short Film by Jesse Littlebird
Jackrabbit is a short film drama about a Native American boy who questions who he is growing up on the Rez. Through his instinctive running and a deepening relationship with his uncle, the boy begins to discover his cultural identity through his lineage. His uncle has come back to the Rez looking for him after receiving a disturbing drunken phone message from the boy’s dad who is the uncle’s brother. The uncle encounters the boy running like a scared animal seemingly in no clear direction away from the world in which he lives.
In Jesse Littlebird’s film, Jackrabbit, he speaks to the toll that colonization and cultural genocide has taken on his Native people. Set in his Pueblo homelands, the striking beauty of the American Southwest landscape is contrasted with the poverty squalor of the Rez as Littlebird tells us a story of an America that has not been seen or heard.
Told through stark images, crisp dialogue and in a silence that speaks volumes, Jackrabbit is a child’s story pulled out of the reservoir of lineage and inter-generational struggles. We see two angry brothers who are polar opposites although clearly they once shared profound experiences growing up with their father, Junior’s revered grandfather. The grandpa’s wise teachings are brought to remembrance as the story pivots around a broken down sweat lodge where things have gone terribly awry.
Junior, the young boy, seeks to discover who he is and understand the mixed blood in his veins. The only culture and heritage he sees around him is an “Indian drunk” for a father and an abusive Anglo stepmother. All the men in Junior’s family are either drunks or convicts except for the one uncle, Wes, who is a ray of hope. As Junior wonders where his future may lie, he looks to Wes for guidance. Wes is a Native American man in his mid-thirties, struggling to make it in the mainstream world yet clinging to an uncertain identity of what it means to be Indian in America. He is a man of stature and strength, but with hurt behind his eyes. He is frustrated with the loss of respect that some of his own Native people have for their own spiritual-cultural- life-ways. He sees hope in his nephew, a seeker and strong runner like he once was.
In a pivotal scene, as Junior sits on a truck tailgate with his uncle, Wes tells Junior about his childhood nickname, “Jackrabbit”. They share a connected moment while out on the land gathering pinon nuts in the shadowed high desert afternoon light. Wes awkwardly attempts to teach by example some meaningful things he learned from his father. The boy and uncle share a blessed window of relief from the oppressive heaviness of every day life on the Rez. The moment however is short lived as they return home to conduct a sweat lodge ceremony.
An altercation at the sweat lodge with Wes and Junior’s drunken father strips away the little grain of hope from Junior’s grasp and in the midst of the threatening chaos and confusion he takes off running. This last running sequence brings Junior to a crossroads as he runs into a nearby stream in the luminous full moonlit night. Here immersed in water, he sings out the meaningful words in a song his Uncle taught him. Junior reflects on the questions that he and his uncle talked about earlier: Where do jackrabbits run to when they are scared? Are they running home? Do they continue to take flight or do they choose to fight back?
STYLE AND FORMAT
The style of the film is inspired by the legendary Russian filmmaker, Andrei Tarkovsky’s philosophy of cinema as to how a story affects an audience. He believed traditional film rules were all secondary to the feeling being conveyed through the story’s characters. It is that same philosophy that is at the core of the creative vision for Jackrabbit – to create a world in which the characters relate and poetically give life to the script. The images are like exaggerated strokes from a painter’s brush and Japanese Haiku in their simplicity. Jackrabbit will be shot using vintage Russian Lomo anamorphic lenses which aid to the visual aesthetics of classic cinema and imperfect artifacts, intensifying the character’s motivations and human qualities. Shooting with “anamorphic” gives the film an otherworldly feel yet immersive at the same time. The lenses have an effect that distorts and stretches the frame that gives a sense that there is more present than what is actually seen in the viewer’s theater window. The opening sequence is influenced by Naderi’s The Runner in format and style. The prominent running sequences build with an ebb and flow evoking the boy’s emotional struggle within himself. A compelling element is the use of slow motion in Junior’s and Wes’s running sequences used to highlight the contrast of the power and struggle of their Native American linage. The arcing spiritual archetype of the runner represents Junior as he courageously takes strides towards his future and evokes a message to the younger generation to be brave, be strong – keep going.
The film takes place over the course of one full day. Shot mostly outdoors in the landscape of the high desert of New Mexico the story culminates in a full moonlit night. The audience has a close-up view of the beautiful stark Southwest backdrop as each shot is laid out like a free forming landscape watercolor painting with bold strokes. The film’s concept art are hand done watercolors painted by a Native American artist.
AUDIENCE AND DISTRIBUTION
Jesse Littlebird’s passion for writing this screenplay and his other works is to make films that give a voice to people who do not have one. Littlebird says it like this, “I want to make films that have to be seen twice, that leave viewers impacted by the characters, that they cant’ stop thinking about the story the rest of the night or the next day”.
We envision this film reaching a wide audience of young and old, Native and non- Native as Jackrabbit tells a personal story that is universal. People of all creeds, races and backgrounds yearn to be connected to the Earth and be part of a larger story. Jackrabbit gives a voice to marginalized cultures and societies and reminds us what it’s like to be a kid with the world stacked against you.
DONATE HERE: http://www.hamaatsa.org/Donate.html
If you wish to know more about this project or would like to contribute please email Jesse.