Harlem High School Film Releases Third Student-Produced Film


September 22, 2021

HARLEM – Seven months after being nominated for a Student Production Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS) Northwest Chapter, one of the highest honors in the United States for high school filmmakers, student-led filmmaking organization from Harlem, Montana, Milk River Productions, returns for the Annual Native American Week celebration with their third student-produced film.

Their third feature film, Waking the Generations, will premier during Native American Week’s family night at Harlem High School (HHS), on Wednesday, September 22, 2021.

In 2018, Milk River Productions created their first film, a short spoken-word documentary, HARLEM RAP – Montana Style. This short piece, featuring former student Hunter Gray, describes life growing up on the Fort Belknap Reservation. It was created through a 2-day intensive workshop supervised by Craig Todd, former instructor of Industrial Technology at Harlem High School (HHS), and produced/ instructed by MAPS Media Institute.

MAPS Media Institute is an eighteen-year-old Montana nonprofit providing year-round free-of-charge after-school media arts programs to empower, inspire, and prepare Montana’s future generations for success through professional media arts instruction, engaging community service, and compassionate mentoring.

In 2019, the HHS and MAPS 5-day workshop resulted in Looking Forward from Yesterday, a short documentary directed by Alexis Bigby and edited by Dante Jackson. In February of 2020, Looking Forward from Yesterday was selected from nearly 2,000 regional entries and premiered at the 17th Annual Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in Missoula, MT.

In March of 2020, the film earned the “Heart Award” from the Future Forward jury at the 43rd Annual Portland International Film Festival (PIFF), in Portland, Oregon. This film festival surveys work from up-and-coming teen filmmakers living in Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Washington, Alaska, and British Columbia.

In June of 2020, Looking Forward from Yesterday won the Regional Student Production Award for Short Form Nonfiction from the NATAS Northwest Chapter and in 2021 Harlem High School’s student-made film was a finalist for a National Student Production Award from NATAS.

In January of 2021, MAPS presented a new series broadcasted on Montana PBS: “Stories from Montana’s Future,” a series filmed entirely by MAPS students from across the state. The first episode, titled “Blackfeet Country,” aired on January 7 and featured award-winning films produced and edited by students from Browning Middle School and Browning High School. A third episode in the MAPS MT PBS series “Stories from Montana’s Future,” will showcase Looking Forward From Yesterday and a 4th episode coming in October will showcase Waking the Generations.

During the 2020-2021 school year, Milk River Productions began editing the many hours of film collected during the 2019 Native American Week. On September 3, 2021, the film was completed, thereby bringing together months of editing and organizational work. Waking the Generations was produced and edited by Amilia Blackcrow, Nellie King, Mitchrena Begay, and Dante Jackson, all of whom attend or formerly attended Harlem High School.

Waking the Generations documents a historic Native American Week, in September of 2019, in which HHS hosted four other schools including Hays/Lodgepole, Dodson, St. Paul’s Mission School, and the White Clay Immersion School on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, as well as students from Malta, Turner, and Chinook, for a rough total of 1,000 people during the weeklong event.

“In Waking the Generations, Harlem High School students shine a light on the painful and hidden details of their ancestral past as a way to help others understand why their heritage should never be allowed to fade away. This socially relevant film, filmed during Native American Week in 2019, connects how cultural identification today not only honors the past but also has the ability to save and preserve an entire way of life for future generations,” said Clare Ann Harff, MAPS Media Institute Executive Director.

Amazingly, Waking the Generations was edited during an uncertain time in the national pandemic, between frequent school shutdowns and quarantines. Blackcrow, King, and Begay had to learn the film editing process over ZOOM meetings and with limited access to proper equipment. Each time a quarantine took place, school was shut down and the student filmmakers had to stop work. The editing process was irregular until the spring of the 2020-2021 school year.

Under the direction of MAPS Film Instructor Dru Carr, Milk River Productions continued work on the film into the summer.

“It was a huge relief to complete this film. At times, the team felt as if the film would never be completed, constantly running into obstacles during the process such as securing funding for the project only a week before starting, battling the uncertainties of the pandemic, teaching editing software and processes over the Internet, and finding ways to meet that fit everyone’s’ schedule. Ultimately, the project overcame these obstacles to tell a critical story,” said Carr.

Waking the Generations will premiere at Harlem High School during the Annual Native American Week. It will also be shown on Montana PBS on Thursday, October 7 at 7:00 p.m. with a repeat on Sunday, October 10 at 10:00 a.m.

Information on the film and on fundraising to help the students with travel expenses can be found on their Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/milkriverproductions.

For more information about MAPS, please visit mapsmediainstitute.com.


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