Red Lake, a documentary that follows the aftermath of the deadly shooting at an Indian school in Minnesota in 2005, makes it world premiere tonight at the Los Angeles Film Festival in Culver City, California (details below).
The film, directed by Billy Luther (Navajo, Hopi and Laguna Pueblo), expands upon the events surrounding the only mass shooting on an Indian reservation on March 21, 2005, and follows three of the survivors, math teacher Missy Dodds, and two of her former students – Ashley and Jeff.
Red Lake does not recreate the events of the incident, says Luther, but is a personal story about the survivors on their journey leading up to the 10th anniversary of the tragedy.
“As a filmmaker, I was curious about what happens to these people and places after the news media has moved on. Those who died are mourned and remembered. But what about those who are still alive? [What about] those who lost loved ones or those who were injured? They have to keep going and have to get back to some kind of normality. So I decided to go back to Red Lake and find out.”
Though Luther says, “for those who survived the shooting, the wounds were as raw as the day the shots were fired,” he also experienced something he didn’t expect. “I had assumed that I would find a community organizing to remember this important anniversary. But the opposite was true. Everyone was busy ignoring it, as if it had never happened.”
It was not out of callousness, he says, “it was as if time had been stopped in place and the inhabitants of reservation were busy trying to forget that it had even happened.”
Ashley, one of the students, was working to commission a commemorative plaque, but that was the extent of the memorial efforts. The teacher of the class, Missy, has not returned to work or to the reservation for the past decade. Jeff, who nearly died saving Missy’s life, found it difficult to speak about that day.
“These incidents happen with depressing regularity and are duly reported on the news. But beyond people shaking their heads what really happens, what really changes?” says Luther. “I was so inspired by what they were going through I decided to make my next project about their lives and their journey from a completely personal point of view.”
Luther has an extensive background in documentary filmmaking concerning important issues in Indian Country, including Miss Navajo (2007), and Grab (2011), both documentaries that premiered at the Sundance Film festival and aired on national television. More recently, he has worked with MTV to co-direct the Native America episode for their documentary series Rebel Music. He is currently an executive producer on the film Remember My Name (working title) - which examines the world of LGBTQ rights and the meaning of identity during a heated primary election for the presidency of the Navajo Nation, the largest Native American tribe in the United States.
Photo: Andi Parmalee
Luther has an extensive background in documentary filmmaking concerning important issues in Indian Country, including Miss Navajo 2007), and Grab 2011), both documentaries that premiered at the Sundance Film festival and aired on national television. More recently, he has worked with MTV to co-direct the Native America episode for their documentary series Rebel Music.
Luther credits his producing partners, Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, for being one of few mainstream producers in Hollywood to support Native filmmaking. Bailey and Barbato have worked together for the last two decades covering controversial topics in films like Inside Deep Throat and Party Monster, all of which have premiered at Sundance Film Festival.
“I was such a huge fan of their work while I was in film school, and their documentary The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2000) was the reason I started working in documentary medium,” says Luther.
Red Lake, which makes its debut a few days after National Gun Violence Awareness Day, is a deeply personal film, says Luther.
The Red Lake documentary film poster
“There are more mass shootings than ever before — particularly in schools. If the personal perspective doesn’t count, what does? George W. Bush mentioned the incident in his radio address and said that the lives lost would never be forgotten. But they were forgotten as soon as the broadcast ended,” he says. “The people in my film were left to sort themselves out, get themselves back together and move on. Their personal struggle is what this film is about and is, I suspect, the reality of all these mass shootings.”
Red Lake is a World of Wonder production. Directed and produced by Billy Luther; Produced by Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato, and Billy Luther; edited by M’daya Meliani; original music by Gingger Shankar and William Stanbro; director of photography, Gabriel Bienczycki.
LOS ANGELES FILM FESTIVAL SCREENING SCHEDULE
RED LAKE PREMIERE
Friday, June 3 at 9:00 PM
Arclight Cinemas Culver City
Tuesday, June 7 at 4:05 p.m.
Arclight Cinemas Culver City