May 17, 2011

Language of the Unheard

Student Documentary Shares Story of Oglala Tribe

By Sabrina LazarusSomewhere in Vermilion, South Dakota, over winter break, three Radio/TV/Film majors from Northwestern University are stuck in their car. They need gas, but no one wants to brave the blizzard outside to pump it. Matt Litwiller steps up, only to discover the gas is frozen in the pipes. There are birds—a Christmas present for Jacqueline Reyno’s grandmother in Yankton, South Dakota—freezing in the backseat. Having already traveled more than nine hours, they are only 30 minutes away from Yankton, where they will spend the night before continuing 300 miles west to their final destination, the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. But right now, so close to shelter, Jac, Matt, and Travis LaBella are at a standstill.

It is their fourth and final trip to South Dakota—15 hours from their home in Evanston, Ill.—to film footage for the documentary they’re working on, "Language of the Unheard." Back in May, they won a grant from Inspire Media to produce a film about the Oglala Native Americans nation; the film premiered May 14 at Inspire Media’s annual Symposium. Nearly all of the $1,500 was going toward gas, and now they are stranded without any.

Maybe there’s a reason all three previous winners of Inspire’s Film Grant stayed in Chicagoland to film their documentaries. But Jac spent time on the reservation the previous summer, working at a medical clinic in her hometown of Rapid City, the nearest metropolis to Pine Ridge. The experience opened her up to a whole other world right across the border, just an hour and a half away from her house.

“I didn’t know nearly as much as I thought I knew,” Reyno says. “It’s like going into a different country.”
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Native Documentaries and News.

Below:  "Northwestern students Travis LaBella, Jacqueline Reyno, and Matt Litwiller filmed a documentary about Oglala Native Americans." (NU Intel/Emily Slemaker)

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