An IU alumna will soon offer a viewing of her first independent feature film, a movie revolving around race relations and told through the perspectives of children.
“Lakota Girls,” a film co-produced by Molli Elliot Cameron and her husband, Russell, will be shown at 6:30 p.m. March 23 at Keystone Arts Theater. The film has already been released to the public but has yet to be screened in Indiana.
Molli, also the director and writer for the film, graduated from IU in 1986 with a degree in business. She worked as a business owner in Indianapolis for years but said she always had the idea for this film in the back of her head.
The script is based on the story of her great-grandmother, a white teacher who moved to South Dakota with her two sisters and married a Lakota man.
“My great-grandma went to South Dakota and married a Native American, which was very unusual at the time,” Molli said. “I was so interested in, first of all, what made my great-grandma leave Indiana and go to South Dakota 100 years ago, and what kind of woman was my great grandma that she would marry a Native American knowing that that would be socially difficult for both of them.”
The film has already been awarded the People’s Choice Award at the Black Hills Film Festival in South Dakota and has been accepted into film festivals across the United States and Europe.
Alexa Raye, Jessica Froelich and Carrie Barnthouse, professional actresses from Indiana, played the sisters in the film. The goal was that all the Native American characters would be portrayed accurately by members of the Lakota, which they were able to do with the help of both professional actors and members of the tribe in South Dakota, Molli said.
The family-friendly film was completed with the help of more than 100 people, including the 20 Lakota Native American actors. The co-leads in the roles of the child narrators were Tika Looking Horse and Clara, Molli’s daughter. The majority of filming took place in the Black Hills and Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
“I wanted all the native actors to be local actors, which makes it difficult because there are a few known actors who are Lakota,” Molli said. “I didn’t want to have actors who weren’t Lakota because the whole story is about Lakota.”
To save money during filming, Molli said she lived with her mother-in-law in South Dakota and invited the Native American members of the cast and crew to stay with the family.
“That was a pretty interesting experience because, culturally, they are still different than the typical white family focused on what belongs to them versus sharing,” Molli said. “I think it was good for my children to experience that. What I had read and experienced came true with our interactions with them.”
Molli said the experience of her first project being an indie film gave her the opportunity to experience a collaborative filmmaking environment, which differed from the Hollywood norm of divided production structure.
“It’s nice to go through the whole process, have the script reading, discuss what we’re going to do and then to actually be there with the equipment and have them saying the lines,” Molli said. “The first day we shot, I thought, ‘Oh my god, they’re real. They’re real and talking and saying the lines.’”