Back in 2015, Riley Keough befriended two extras on the set of American Honey—Franklin Sioux Bob and Bill Reddy. She introduced them to her best friend Gina Gammell, and a creative foursome was born.
Now, with their film War Pony—written by Sioux Bob, Reddy and Gammell—making its debut at Cannes, they recalled the process of telling a story that authentically reflects Native American life.
“When we met Bill and Frank we were just people who were collaborating together in general,” Gammell said at Deadline’s Cannes studio. “It was such an organic slow burn of a process that we suddenly had a script, and once we had a script it felt very powerful to all of us.”
She added, “Frank and Bill are the most incredible storytellers and I think they have many many, many more films in them as well.”
Keough and Gammell’s directorial debut explores life on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota through the lens of two young Oglala Lakota men played by first-time actors, 23-year-old Bill (Jojo Bapteist Whiting), and 12 year-old Matho (LaDainian Crazy Thunder).
The stories are drawn from Sioux Bob and Reddy’s own lives and those of their friends and family and Sioux Bob came to the project with the desire to create a realistic onscreen representation of Native American culture.
“It’s really just the representation, because if you’ve seen other Native films, they don’t show what this film is showing,” he said. “I just wanted everything I lived through in daily life, living on the reservation, to be portrayed through the film. And it has, and it’s really what I wanted, so I feel like my goal? Check! That’s really what I wanted was the authenticity to be felt, that’s the main thing. Because in a lot of Native films it’s either the poverty porn or it’s about one topic. It’s about one dilemma, it’s not about everything, and that’s what this film gives you, is everything. It’s s**t that I lived in.”
Keough and Gammell spent a great deal of time on the reservation prior to filming.
“We were filming in a community that we’ve spent seven years in,” Keough said.
Also, bringing unknown film crew members into the connected community required a gentle approach.
“That was probably the most challenging,” Keough said. “Just to be mindful and responsible in our collaboration, and that definitely brought up a lot of things we had to work through every day, but I feel really proud of what we were able to achieve in that way.”
And the Pine Ridge community rallied around helping the film come together, she said.
“In terms of the filming process, it was extremely collaborative in that we didn’t have a crazy amount of money so we had to find things, and we needed help getting cars, and people’s homes and locations… It was very collaborative in the friends and family we have in Pine Ridge who helped us make it work.”
For more, click on the video above.
Aero is the official sponsor of the Deadline Studio at Cannes Film Festival, sponsors are Soia & Kyo and Jamones Iberico from Spain: Ambassadors of Europe in the World
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