Red Dirt Diaries: Oklahoma Filmmakers Premiere Documentary At Sundance

Thursday, December 20th 2018, 5:29 pm
By: Karl Torp

Filmmakers from Oklahoma are bringing the story of an award-winning author and poet to the big screen. 

Kiowa novelist N. Scott Momaday was born in Lawton and drew inspiration from the reservations he grew up on.

His 1968 book "House Made of Dawn" won the Pulitzer for fiction. It is considered the first major work of the Native American Renaissance.

“Indians weren’t visible for any number of things. But for a writer, a poet, it made a huge difference for people who wanted to do that kind of work,” says Gus Palmer Jr.

Palmer is an OU Professor of Emeritus and fellow Kiowa. He’s part of the team telling Momaday’s story in the documentary called “Words from a Bear.”

Palmer’s son Jeffery is the film’s director.

Momaday has written several books, and in 2007 he was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President George W. Bush.

How the now 84-year-old influenced fellow artists and writers is highlighted in the film.

Actors Beau Bridges, Jeff Bridges, Robert Redford and James Earl Jones are all interviewed for the film.

“They are all storytellers. Storytellers like to tell stories. They hang out with each other,” adds Palmer, who did many of the interviews for the film.

“Words from a Bear” will appear on PBS and premiere at the Sundance Film Festival next month.

“That’s a huge honor. I think 10,000 films were submitted to Sundance and they only chose a few hundred,” says ‘Words from a Bear’ associate producer Desiree Hill, who teaches at UCO.

The filmmakers feel the Sundance Film Festival will allow them to tell Momaday’s story to larger audience.