Cranes, Mafiosos and a Polaroid Camera
A visually rich short-film crossing the boundaries of drama and experimental filmmaking. A paranoid late night phone call sparks a Native American woman's meditation on nature, identity and death, in the calm expanse of a crane sanctuary.
Inclusion StatementThis film is a personal exploration and documentation of indigenous identity, written by Mojave Native American poet Natalie Diaz. Helmed by a strong female team including the director-producer, an exec-producer, the actor and voiceover artist, who are all women of colour.
About The Project
Hey everyone, Tash here, director of Cranes, Mafiosos and a Polaroid Camera. I’m fortunate enough to have been commissioned to make this short film for Motionpoems - a nonprofit arts organization, carving a name for high-quality experimental work using poems as scripts.
This year, all the poems have been selected in response to the new Presidential administration of the United States, covering themes as wide-ranging as immigration, environment, women's rights, firearm regulation and Black Lives Matter.
When I first read Natalie’s poem, I was immediately taken in by it; the language is visually evocative, and the themes resonate strongly at a time when we’d just witnessed the largest single-day worldwide protest in recent years. It’s both melancholic and beautiful with a self-aware and subtle humour.
The film follows a Native American woman living close to nature, observing the Sandhill Cranes dance and migration. There’s a sense of isolation against the vast natural landscape in a bid to reconnect, which is only interrupted by her drug addict brother’s manic phone calls jarring against the stillness and quiet intimacy. The nomadic feeling of searching is emphasised by the documentary-style journey along the North Platte River, where the Cranes migrate through annually.
It’s a personal story told from the poet’s eye, gently weaving together parallels and reflections on her indigenous heritage, mysticism and culture. The film ends with a flurry of imagery; the birds in movement cut in amongst traditional Native American dance, a feeling of hopefulness and release.
Straightaway, although I'm based in London, UK, I knew I wanted to shoot in the United States, crafting a film rooted in truth and origin. Instead of replicating the land, we are documenting it and letting the humbling vastness of the American Northwest tell the story.
Filmmaking is an amazing tool to tell stories, and we think it’s important to hear and see different ones from people who are underrepresented for whatever reason; because of history, because of culture, because of things larger than ourselves, circumstances that arise because of gender, skin color, sexual orientation.
We also hope to end up with a film that crosses the boundaries between narrative, artist and documentary filmmaking, woven together to explore this personal story that speaks widely to the history of the indigenous experience and also of displacement, migration. This will be a compelling opportunity to explore the emotional, everyday side of these experiences in a truthful, poetic way.
The creative development has already begun with extensive research into Native American histories, reading literature and watching films and documentaries inspired by their stories and experiences. This preparation will lead to a final film layered with nuance and complexity. In addition to our film, I’ll be photographically documenting the filmmaking journey on 35mm stills, including the people I meet and the lay of the land, as well as making a digital behind-the-scenes documentary film as I go. I hope these will provide an interesting companion pieces to the film.
Bridging both the publishing world and film industry, Motionpoem films are often selected for film festivals around the world and Staff Picks on Vimeo, described by Forbes magazine as “astonishing, powerful, and hilarious.”
In order to make this all a reality, we need your help. We have been awarded a grant by the Andy Warhol Foundation for Visuals Arts, which is a step in the right direction, but our full budget is what we need to stay true to our original intentions to make a film rooted in authenticity, work with a like-minded and talented crew, and have an efficient production process.
Motionpoems will be providing us with some assets. We will use their partnered vendors to help with voice-casting and sound mixing, both vital components of the filmmaking process. Where you come into play is helping facilitate the production.
Your contributions will go towards paying our amazing crew and talent, shooting on film for both aesthetic and narrative purposes, and getting our project off the ground. We have an experienced and passionate team dedicated to this project, who are capable of handling funds efficiently, locking down schedules, finishing post-production and, come December, delivering a final film. We hope you would like to become part of the reason this project comes to life!
Main photo credit: Mico Toledo
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About This Team
DIRECTOR - TASH TUNG
Tash is a London-based award-winning director and visual artist with a background in fine art, graphic design and photography.
Tash won the With Teeth Commission 2017 and her new artist film will premiere at the BAFTA-recognised London Short Film Festival 2018 at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London. Her previous film collaborations in audio visual art have premiered at the British Film Institute and Manchester Art Gallery, and photographically she has exhibited at the Tate Britain.
For her commercial work, she has won a Gold Cannes Lion, 2 D&AD wooden pencils, and the Grand Prix at Epica Awards and Kinsale Sharks. Cranes, Mafiosos and a Polaroid Camera will be her next short film and is very much an important personal project.
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY - LUKE SCULLY
Luke has worked with Tash on numerous music videos and branded content, having both originally started out in the same Production Company years ago. Although fully versed in all styles, his cinematography is at its best and full of subtleties when working with natural light and human stories. His compositional eye extends to stills photography as well, always shooting analogue.
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER - DAME HEATHER RABBATTS, DBE
Heather is Managing Director of television production company Cove Pictures, as well as a British solicitor, businesswoman, and broadcaster, who rose to prominence as the youngest council chief in the UK. She served as the Football Association of England director as the first person of colour to do so, and the only woman on its board. Heather has been recognised as one of the 100 most powerful women in the United Kingdom by BBC Radio 4!
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER - ADAM CLAYTON
Adam is a 22-time Grammy Award Winner as bassist of rock band U2. As well as being involved with the philanthropic work of U2, Adam is an ambassador for mental health and has been awarded the Stevie Ray Vaughan Award from MusiCares for helping others in the industry to recover from addiction.
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER - PAUL SOWERBUTTS
Paul is the creator of “Man v Wild” with Bear Grylls, the most successful show on cable in the last five years. He was co-producer of BAFTA award-winning “Touching the Void” and the Managing Director of Channel 4’s international rights business for a number of years. He is Head of Factual Entertainment at Cove Pictures.
POET - NATALIE DIAZ
Natalie was born in the Fort Mojave Indian Village in Needles, California. She is an enrolled member of the Gila River Indian community, currently living in Mohave Valley, Arizona, where she’s worked with the last speakers of Mojave and directed a language revitalization program.
In a PBS interview, she spoke of the connection between writing and experience: "for me writing is kind of a way for me to explore why I want things and why I'm afraid of things and why I worry about things. And for me, all of those things represent a kind of hunger that comes with being raised in a place like this.”