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Run to the East Screens on Reservations

Chee Dodge Screening

Chee Dodge Screening

While it’s still making rounds on the U.S. film festival circuit, the new documentary “Run to the East” is being screened for Native American audiences in remote reservation towns. Last week, the filmmakers set up a makeshift theater during a Wings of America Running and Fitness Camp at Chee Dodge Elementary School in Gallup, New Mexico.

“How else do you screen a film on the reservation?” said the director Henry Lu. “There are no multiplexes, no AMC or Regal, and the festival circuit doesn’t run there.”

The 90-minute documentary from Moxie Pictures follows three Native American high school runners throughout their senior year. The students run to earn scholarships that will take them off the reservation.

Lu realized how important it was to screen the film on the reservation after he shared an early cut with the families and tribal leaders. “They told me there are so many other children on reservations and Pueblos that might not see a way out, and this movie could inspire them,” he said. “I knew that I could team up with Wings of America to reach that audience now.”

Shaun Martin, the program director of Wings, believes it’s important to show the film now to youth because it provides hope. “Watching ‘Tails’, Thomas and Dillon’s story gives the kids on the rez role models that they can actually meet and talk to,” he said.

“They’re real, and it gives kids a chance to share their dreams.”

After the Chee Dodge screening of the film, Lu moderated a spirited Q & A with two of the subjects of the documentary. Chantel “Tails” Hunt and Thomas Martinez talked about the challenges of life on the rez and how running helped them overcome everyday obstacles in school.

“The goal is to stick through it and know that it’s no different than running a race,” Hunt said.

The night after the Gallup screening, a Chee Dodge fifth grade teacher named Mrs. Ellison, approached Lu. She had brought her 11-year-old daughter, Sydnee Lovejoy, to see the film, and shared something with him that validated his decision to team up with Wings. “On the drive home, her daughter asked her if she too could run,” he said.


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