Return to Rainy Mountain is a documentary celebrating the life and legacy of author N. Scott Momaday and the rich cultural history of the Kiowa people. The film will have its premiere viewing during this year’s Santa Fe Independent Film Festival.
Producer/Director Jill Momaday takes viewers on a visual and poetic journey to places that inform the Kiowa ancestral myths and collective identity. Following the film will be a panel discussion including Dr. Momaday, recipient of the SFIFF Lifetime Achievement Award, Jill Momaday, plus mentors to the film, Chris Eyre, multi-award-winning writer and producer, known for Smoke Signals (1998), Skins (2002) and Edge of America (2003) and moderated by Kirk Ellis, Emmy award-winning writer and producer for the HBO mini-series, John Adams (2008).
Momaday’s legacy includes winning the only Pulitzer Prize for Literature awarded to a Native American writer, for his 1969 novel, House Made of Dawn. Also published in 1969, his bestselling The Way to Rainy Mountain (UNM Press) provided parts of the narrative for this film. Momaday earned a Masters and a PhD in English from Stanford University and has 20 honorary doctorates from esteemed universities. A 2005 award-winning PBS documentary Remembered Earth: New Mexico’s High Desert featured Momaday. He also narrated the 1978 documentary More Than Bows and Arrows, which aired on PBS and the Discovery Channel. Momaday was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2007 by President George W. Bush for his writings and his work that celebrates and preserves Native American art and oral tradition.” Among other notable honors are the Oklahoma Centennial State Poet Laureate in 2007, a Guggenheim Fellowship and UNESCO’s Artist for Peace Award.
Return to Rainy Mountain retraces the sacred journey of the Kiowa to Devil’s Tower in Wyoming and Rainy Mountain in southwestern Oklahoma, landmarks that inform the Kiowa oral traditions passed along for generations. Director Jill Momaday was inspired in 2014 when her Kiowa Aunt passed away at the age of 95 and she recognized the urgency and importance of capturing the Kiowa oral tradition on film. She was a great-granddaughter of Sitting Bear, the keeper of stories and knowledge, a powerful and amazing woman. “I realized with her passing, that many stories would be lost. It made a profound impression of the importance of preserving them, as my father has done with his writing,” said Momaday.
As early as 1971, Dr. Momaday was recognized as a pioneer of environmental education, authoring “The American Land Ethic” which noted the tradition of respect for nature practiced by many of America’s native people. Jill Momaday steps into the role of a modern spokesperson for this tradition of respect for nature. The 2015 annual honoree for New Mexico Women in the Arts says, “In addition to sharing the Kiowa history and oral tradition, the film gave me time with my father and a chance to really know him. He was absent much of my life as he carved out his brilliant career and legacy. We’ve been fitting the pieces of a puzzle together to tell one big story which is also the bigger story of Humanity: Man’s relationship to nature, animals, the universe, Creator and each other.” The film follows one story arc of the Kiowa legends and another of the Momaday family reconciliation.
The visual/sound and editing team includes Director of Photography/Editor, Doug Crawford, an Emmy and Peabody Award winning Cinematographer (Surviving Columbus: The Story of the Pueblo People, PBS, 1992) also Director of Photography for The Native Americans (TBS, 1994); David Aubrey, nominated for the EDDIE awards, Best Edited Documentary (Baraka, 1993), and Blackhorse Lowe, cinematographer (Among Ravens, 2014).
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