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Run to the East – Henry Lu + Stephen Jess at the Whitehouse Post New York

Run to the East

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“Run to the East”, a feature documentary edited by Whitehouse NY editor Stephen Jess, has been awarded “Best Sports documentary” at the Red Nation Film Festival in Los Angeles.

The film follows three Native American High school kids through their graduating year of High School. Each kid is an elite cross country runner and the film follows their attempt to use running as a way to get a college scholarship and get of the rez.

“This film is an honest portrayal of what life is like for a teenager living on the Rez today,” explains Jess “It’s rare to get so much intimate access into Native communities and to see the kids struggle to balance their Native culture with the opportunities off the Rez. I was inspired by their determination to succeed”.

“Running is intrinsic to Navajo culture,” explains Joe Spring, writer on the project. “During a girl’s coming of age ceremony, Kinaalda, the young girl rises before dawn and runs east toward the sunrise. According to the tradition, the longer she runs, the longer she lives.”

Director Henry Lu of Moxie Pictures was inspired to make the film after reading Spring’s article Running from Despair in the New York Times.  “It was a story that really fascinated me and grabbed me. To see these incredible kids, faced with such seemingly insurmountable obstacles, doing what they’re doing with such little support and infrastructure. I was immediately taken by their sense of drive, determination and pride of who they were. I knew it was a rare positive story coming from Native American reservations that needed to be told.”

“Running empowers these kids,” says Shaun Martin of Wings of America, a Youth Development organization that supports American Indian youth through athletic and educational programs. “Not only is it part of their cultural past,  it’s also a tool to help them build a more powerful future.”

The film has also been awarded “Best Sport film” by Indie Spirit Film Festival and “Best Documentary” at the White Sands Film Festival. It continues to screen at film festivals across the US this winter.

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