According to Blackmagic Design, high school students from Flagstaff Bordertown Dormitory, Arizona, collaborated with the University of Arizona’s School of Theater, Film and Television to shoot “Tsiiyééł,” featuring Blackmagic Design digital film cameras, as well as DaVinci Resolve for editing, grading, and VFX in post production. Since its completion, the film has screened at ten international film festivals, including the world’s largest indigenous film festival, the imagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival.
The students created the piece to represent drawing strength from Native American culture. In the film, a Diné (Navajo) teenager played by Haley Bekis feels depressed and decides to go for a run in Diné’s traditional hairstyle, Tsiiyééł. As she runs, she is chased by a mirror image of herself, causing her to question who she is. Drawing strength from the traditional culture to which she belongs, the protagonist learns to overcome her self-conscious struggle with her identity and learn the importance of accepting herself for who she is.
The film has been extremely successful following advice from the Film Festivals and Awards Department of the University of Arizona’s School of Theater, Film and Television. In addition to imagineNATIVE in Toronto, the film has captured the hearts of audiences at film festivals in the US and Europe, including the All American High School Film Festival in New York, the American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco, CineFestival San Antonio, and Native in the UK. Screened at the Spirit Film Festival.
The Kinlani Film Project is an after-school filmmaking program for high school students in Diné, Hopi, Tohono Oodam and Havasupai Tribes in Arizona. This project is offered to students living in the Flagstaff Bordertown Dormitory to help prepare them for the difficult choices and challenges they face in the future. It empowers students by providing a positive, healthy, social and educational environment based on knowledge and language.
“Tsiiyééł” was shot on Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro and URSA Mini Pro 4.6K G2 digital film cameras, edited and graded in DaVinci Resolve Studio. Post-production was directed by Christian Jackson, a graduate of the University of Arizona’s School of Theater, Film and Television, as part of a mentoring program for students participating in the University of Arizona and the Kinlani Film Project. He collaborated in the cloud.
The film was shot in snowy Flagstaff and had to be shot in the cold due to unpredictable lighting conditions. Blackmagic Design’s cameras excel in low light conditions, and the Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro’s built-in ND filters allowed us to capture footage that matched the narrative. A Blackmagic Video Assist 7” 3G monitor/recorder was also used attached to the camera with a 3.5m HDMI cord, allowing each staff member to participate in each shot.
Oakley Anderson Moore, award-winning filmmaker and founder of the Kinlani Film Project, has been working with students at Flagstaff Bordertown Dormitory for many years.
Mr. Moore: I am amazed at how creative students are. Students have a vision, but they don’t have the equipment and opportunities that other schools have. However, I am very proud to have used Blackmagic cameras and DaVinci Resolve to create an amazing film called ‘Tsiiyééł’.
Kerrin Niegus, Director of Public Relations for the University of Arizona School of Theater, Film and Television, was responsible for building the university’s partnership with the Flagstaff Bordertown Dormitory.
Niegus: Our faculty is committed to developing the next generation of filmmakers, so it was great to see faculty graduate Christian sharing his editing skills with the Kinlani students.
When I saw “Tsiiyééł” for the first time, I felt that it was a special work. I am also very honored to have been involved in the creation of the campaign for the film festival. I’m proud of the students who created this story that resonates with people not just in America, but around the world.
The work was also recently used in the Hollywood Professional Association (HPA)’s “The Future of Visual Storytelling”. Blackmagic Design’s Director of Sales, David Hoffman, prepared the session with Kinlani students.
Hoffman: This work was one of the annual HPA Tech Retreat presentations. We partnered with AWS to gather feedback on how the next generation of visual storytellers use state-of-the-art cloud-based workflows.
Students from the Flagstaff Bordertown Dormitory and the University of Arizona were selected as filmmakers entering the industry in five and ten years. I gave the students very little information about the technology so they could see how they figured out how to use it themselves. The subject matter of the content is completely original by the students. I was amazed at how quickly the students adapted to the new technology and workflows, and the finished product was a great reflection of their world.
“Tsiiyééł” will be screened at various film festivals through early 2023. The Kinlani crew includes writers and directors Austin Jimmy, Shanique Yazie and Haley Bekis; writers, actors and technical staff Robin Crowe, Orion Lucero, LaDonna Jackett; Zoe Nez, Rochelle Howie, Faith Bigey, Devin Goodman, Shaila Clarke, Leandre Frank.