Crew Statement for Horse Tribe

Crew Statement for Horse Tribe

Horses brought me to this story. I began riding as a little girl, and reluctantly continued as a teenager. My reluctance stemmed from being a part of a blue collar family that did not don expensive outfits or belong to exclusive social circles as my counterparts did.

Later, I took riding lessons to fulfill a college physical education requirement. I found myself riding for hours after class was over on the unfinished still-dirt Ohio interstate. Being on horseback gave sweet relief from the rigors of a double major in political science and philosophy.

After college, I saved my wages as a NYC film technician and bought my first horse, an Appaloosa, who lived in a corral behind my mother’s forest cabin. With him, I came to know the mountain in all seasons.

After finishing my Cold War documentary, Begin With Me, I was seeking another project. I saw an article in The New York Times titled “Tribe Known for Horses Sees Future in Them.” All the horses I had loved, and all the things I had studied, suddenly came together.

We began work on Horse Tribe in 1998, expecting to have a finished film within five years. But, when completion fundraising difficulties coincided with a radical change in the storyline, there was nothing for it but to keep shooting. I think that every documentary director finishes a project with at least three films—the one envisioned, the one completed, and the one that got away. We set out to portray children and society flourishing in the company of horses, and the ancient equestrian culture of one of America’s great horse tribes adapting to modern purpose. The story, as it evolved, became a more complex, nuanced account of vision and grit, a community in conflict, a man in crisis, and a beloved herd at risk.

I have fond memories of my time spent filming. For instance, I discovered that simply holding the halter of a skittish horse on a windy hillside so that the rider could saddle up would lead to a critical endorsement of character, and that sitting fully clothed in a cool river on a sweltering day with a silent elder would lead to friendship. These are exquisite things. The inexplicably generous instincts of a people who have experienced incomprehensible loss are a lesson, a mystery, and a gift to me. I am privileged to have been among the Nez Perce.

- Janet Kern, Producer, Horse Tribe


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