“The Strength of Siblings,” a short dramatic film made by Ute Mountain Ute youths, has won two film awards.
Shot in Towaoc and Cortez last year, the 32-minute drama focuses on substance abuse and the healing power of family. It was written and performed by 18 young people ages 10 to 22 and directed by award-winning filmmaker Alex C. Munoz.
The red carpet has been rolled out twice for the film’s actors and producers.
In June, the film earned the Best Short Film Award at the Garifuna International Indigenous Film Festival in Venice, California.
On Nov. 18, it won the Community Leadership Film Award at the Los Angeles Skins Festival. The Native American arts event is held in Hollywood at the historic TCL Chinese Theatre. Ute Mountain actors and crew attended both events.
Munoz said the honesty and raw emotion of “Strength of Siblings” caught the attention of audiences and was seen by judges as a trailblazer for addressing substance abuse issues.
“The Ute Mountain filmmakers were the talk of the festivals,” he said. “They are leading the way on how to present troublesome issues that cause so much strife and chaos.”
The compelling piece used Ute Mountain Ute actors with no, or very little, acting experience. It tells the chilling story about the destructiveness of meth abuse and the power of forgiveness. By using improvisational dialogue from young actors, the film captured a rare insight into the lives of Native American teens living on the reservation, Munoz said.
Actor Wambli Mills, 21, of Towaoc, said, “The film shows the problems of substance abuse and how the love of family helps to bring people together and overcome difficulties.”
For actor Talia Whyte, it was about tough community issues.
“The idea is for youths to talk to adults and family members about difficult issues,” Whyte said. “We’re saying that it hurts kids to see adults and other kids abuse drugs and not get the help and support they need.”
The film is part of a ongoing project funded through the Recidivism Reduction Initiative with a $250,000 grant from the Department of Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs and Office of Justice Services. Some film actors and crew were picked because they’ve had legal, truancy or family problems.
“Strength of Siblings” is the second of five films. A third film project is expected to begin next year.
The first film, “Escape,” was also awarded top honors at the LA Skins Festival.