Local Native Filmmaker At Sundance Institute Lab

Jul 14, 2015

Native American filmmaker Razelle Benally graduated from Central High School in Rapid City.
Credit Courtesy Razelle Benally
The Sundance Institute Native Filmmakers Lab is hosting two young writer/directors this week to assist them in preparing for production of their short films.  

Razelle Benally is Oglala and Navajo. She grew up in Rapid City and graduated from Central High School. Razelle says she first picked up a camera in her teens.

Filmmaker Razelle Benally confers with Sundance Institute advisors about her film “I Am Thy Weapon”.
Credit Photo by Ross Chaney

“I got involved with what was happening in and around the sanctity of Bear Butte,” Benally recalls. “And I felt strongly about it, but I didn’t know how to help. So, I tried to help in the best way that I knew how…which was documenting it through video.”

Mostly self-taught, Razelle has honed her filmmaking skills at the Institute of American Indian Arts. The short film she’s producing with the help of the Sundance Institute is semi-autobiographical. “I Am Thy Weapon” is about a young Navajo woman and former graffiti tagger who utilizes her artistic mediums to pay homage to her deceased sister.

Being able to complete her dream of making the film, says Razelle, is an honor.

“I’m extremely grateful,” Benally remarks. “It’s been a 3 or 4 year process. And this is something that I’ve always felt like I needed to do. Not only to kind of honor this urban side of me…but also to honor my peers who inspired the story.”

Filmmaker Randi LeClaire with actors at the Sundance Institute Lab discussing a scene from her film “The Other Side of the Bridge”.
Credit Photo by Bird Runningwater

Pawnee filmmaker Randi LeClaire is from Oklahoma. She started out as an actress before realizing that she was more interested in writing and telling the story of a film than performing it.

“I’ve written several screenplays so far, but this is the first one that’s actually getting produced and that I’m going to direct,” LeClaire explains.  

Randi hopes her mystery film about racial issues in small-town Oklahoma “The Other Side of the Bridge” is able to educate people about the realities of her world.

She says the entire process is a bit daunting but, like Razelle Benally, Randi LeClaire is grateful for the opportunity and support of the Sundance Institute.

Related story: 

Sundance Institute Helps Young Native Filmmakers   http://listen.sdpb.org/post/sundance-institute-helps-young-native-filmmakers  

For more information: