April 16, 2011

Preview of Run to the East

Navajo Distance Runners Star in ‘Run to the East’ DocumentaryA new documentary Run to the East about Navajo high school distance runners made its debut at The Arizona International Film Festival in Tucson on April 10. Produced by Moxie Pictures, which has represented acclaimed film directors such as Wes Anderson and Cameron Crowe, the documentary is now airing at film festivals across the country, next at the Indie Spirit Film Festival in Colorado Springs, Colorado on April 15 and 16.

The 87-minute documentary tracks three Navajo seniors competing in national track meets and vying for college scholarships. The film was inspired by a 2008 The New York Times article about Navajo youth runners overcoming the poor health conditions that afflict a disproportionate number of residents on the 27,000-acre Navajo reservation. The article also touches on their involvement in the nonprofit organization Wings of America, which educates American Indian youth against drug abuse and addiction and encourages them to succeed. Wings of America also leads a competitive group of American Indian runners from reservations around the country. “You say Wings of America to anyone in the running community—it’s synonymous with the best Native American runners,” said Eric Heins, the cross-country and distance coach at Northern Arizona University, reported the Times.

The documentary seeks to defy the “negative stereotypes of American Indians,” such as drug use, alcoholism and violence, regularly reinforced in western media, according to the film’s website. “People have stereotypes about us not being healthy and going down the wrong road as far as alcohol and drugs,” said Dillon Shije, a Navajo runner and senior at Sandia Prep High School at the time of filming, on the film’s website. “I want to prove to people that we are still here and can still be as fast.”
Comment:  For more on sports documentaries, see Preview of Off the Rez and The Uluit: Champions of the North.


Rob said...

For more on the subject, see:


The power of running, culture

"We wanted to make a contemporary, honest documentary about life on the reservation," said film editor Jess, a native of Ireland. "We wanted to tell the story about the opportunity that running gave these kids, how they used their resources and where it took them."

"Run to the East," an 87-minute Moxie Pictures documentary, is the film Lu and Jess hoped would show the world the contemporary life of a Native American but also how "a pocket of hope lies in the sport of running."

The film features three Native runners, products of poverty-stricken communities, and how they were able to break through a glass ceiling in the sport of running to earn scholarships to attend college.

Dillon Shije said...

I am not a Navajo runner. I am a Native of Zia Pueblo, which is not a Navajo community.

Rob said...

I know about Zia, Dillon. I gather the original article made a mistake. Thanks for setting the record straight.