Filmmaker Attempts to Shed Light on Navajo Nation’s COVID Crisis and Monumental Effort to Protect its Most Vulnerable
After visiting the Navajo nation earlier this month, filmmaker Karney Hatch (Overdrawn, Plant This Movie!) was overcome by the staggering number of cases and the scale of the loss facing the community and decided to volunteer in hopes of helping the Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund raise money by shooting some footage for their gofundme campaign. The Navajo Nation has been among the hardest hit by the virus and had lost over 4,000 people as of May 14. The cause, and Karney’s footage, were circulated internationally by news sources like PBS, ABC, and Al Jazeera, with the PBS News Hour eventually hiring Karney to shoot a full story.
Tragically, the news cycle has moved on while these communities and their members are left fighting for their lives. And, although there has been some press, nothing in the mainstream really goes to the heart of what’s happening and the ways in which native folks have experienced of this pandemic is part of a complex, traumatic, recurring history. For that, Karney is turning to documentary in hopes of crafting a more dynamic, deeper representation of the impacts of a loss that is both historic and part of an ongoing cycle of violence against, and disregard for, Native communities by the U.S. government. Writes Karney,“History is being written right now, can’t pass it up.”
For some context on how the COVID-19 crisis has taken shape among Native populations, a film from last year’s festival, Dodging Bullets—Stories from Survivors of Historical Trauma (Bob Trench, 2018), is a thoughtful, complex, and detailed look at Historical Trauma as a unique and insidious part of the genetic code that conditions life across a large and variable swath of resilient Native American populations, which is thrown into sharp relief by episodes like the one unfolding in the present day.
Congrats to SDFF 2020 selection That’s My Jazz on Webby!
We’d like to congratulate That’s My Jazz for their Webby win in editing! That’s My Jazz is an SDFF 2020 Official Selection and one of the more recent projects to come out of Breakwater Studios, which is also responsible for Life’s Work, honored by SDFF in 2017.
Breakwater’s oeuvre of documentary shorts is well worth seeking out, particularly given its background in creating branded content, which may be at first glance appears to be at odds with documentary filmmaking. While the proliferation of branded content has been a hallmark of the era of spreadable media, Breakwater’s shorts are visually striking and emotionally compelling in completely unexpected ways. That’s My Jazz is one of Breakwater’s newer offerings, and has appeared as part of the Tribeca Film Festival and hotdocs. The film is unexpectedly moving and beautifully shot (and edited!) and has been followed by a lauded collaboration between Ben Proudfoot/Breakwater and the New York Times, Almost Famous, which focuses on people who are just slightly adjacent to history.
Almost Famous is directed by Breakwater founder, Nova Scotian filmmaker Ben Proudfoot, who started the studio with an eye towards the “return of original and handmade filmmaking, to explore and evangelize the idiosyncratic power of the short.” The studio’s collection of documentary shorts tends to celebrate individuals or places in poetic fashion, and mix contemporary sensibility and subjects with the exploratory impulse and celebration of the film medium that defined early actualities. The studio also hearkens back to the studio era, working out of Disney’s original business offices while looking to update the creative studio campuses of the 1930s. This engagement with the past is part of what makes the studio’s thoroughly modern content stand out.
In addition to nods from traditional film festivals like Tribecca, hotdocs, or our own SDFF, Breakwater has also been in the running for newer honors like the Webbies. In 2018, they received a Webby nomination for their first original, Kunstglaser, and in 2019, they were honored in the Long Form category and the Youngest Captain winning the Best Branded Entertainment Documentary Webby. This year, Breakwater received three nods, two for That’s My Jazz, which won for Best Video Editing. Proudfoot and Breakwater have also been honored by SDFF on two occasions, most recently for That’s My Jazz, which was a 2020 Official Selection.
In That’s My Jazz Milt Abel II, a world renowned pastry chef, reflects on his relationship with his deceased father Milton Abel Sr., famed Kansas City Jazz musician. Milt longed to follow in the fortuitous footsteps of his father, but on a different stage. From a young age he found his passion in the culinary arts, working his way from being a dishwasher in diners to the head pastry chef at Thomas Keller’s prestigious restaurant, The French Laundry, and sous pastry chef at the two-Michelin-star Noma. But while Milt II was rising to the top in his career, his father’s was slowly coming to an end. That’s My Jazz follows Milt II at the peak of his career yet facing the realization of his own limitations. Finding himself at a critical crossroad of life, Milt II pushes the button to turn back time, reflecting on the rise of his star and its intersection with the sunset of his father’s.