“Crow Stories,” photographer Sean Kernan’s new documentary shot on the Crow Reservation, receives its first Montana screening at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 5 at the Yellowstone Art Museum in Billings.
The story began when Kernan got an unexpected call: “Come spend a week on the Crow Reservation in Montana.” He was off, and at some point on that trip he pushed a button labeled “video” on a new camera for the first time, just to see what would happen.
That’s how the door opened, and for the next six years Kernan went back and back again to the ancestral lands of the Crow along the Little Bighorn River, in all weathers and seasons. Photographing turned to filming the land, the people, and the life that he found there.
From Handgames to Sundancers
Kernan, whose work has been seen in books, exhibitions, and ads around the world, translated what he heard and saw into “Crow Stories,” a unique immersion into the world of the tribe. Viewers join in hunting buffalo in the Bighorn Mountains, watch Sundancers rehearsing in a night meadow, and view the fierce battles of villages and clans playing the Handgame.
They follow a herd galloping across the high pastures while poet Henry Realbird sings his ode, “Rivers of Horse.” Kevin Dust relives the unexpected audition that took him to Paris and the Wild West Show at Disneyland there.
And once again Custer comes to a bad end, as he does every year in the re-enactment on the land where the battle was fought.
There’s the poignant moment when Etting Little Owl sings a song just for the filmmaker … and his camera.
Rising Crow rap star Supaman asks, “Why are suicide on the rez so high?” And Joe Medicine Crow, the last War Chief, tells how to live a balanced life.
During seven years of filming, people unfolded their thoughts and lives. Kernan’s work was simply to listen and take it in.
“I was given the enormous gift of a sojourn far out of my usual world. Now all I want is to pass this gift along to anyone who would like to travel there.”