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“BARKING WATER” writer-director, Sterlin Harjo

[PREMIERE SCREENING: Saturday, Jan. 17, 2:15 pm — Racquet Club, Park City]

I knew before we began making Barking Water that I wanted to try something different. The story is about an older couple who has had a very tumultuous relationship for the past 40 years. The woman, Irene, comes to the man, Frankie, on his deathbed and agrees to take him from the hospital and get him home. The problem, of course, is that Frankie is dying, so the film explores their relationship as she tries to get him home to see his daughter before he dies. Under the stress of getting him home in time Irene must keep things together and be strong, and Frankie is both reflective and emotional on his final journey. That was the story at its core, and once the story was established we could go anywhere we wanted with scenes, style and dialogue. The actors were given the freedom to say things their own way and the situation was the same for me. If I felt like changing a scene or making a new scene up, the crew and everyone adjusted. This was something that I wanted from the beginning and, to the producers’ and crew’s credit, everyone really got behind this idea. I think it was a relief for everyone to make a film with a small crew and just roll their sleeves up and make it happen. It was a reminder to everyone why we began making films in the first place. I wanted to establish an atmosphere that allowed us to experiment while making the film with the hopes that this energy would translate to the screen. It’s a road movie and the nature of the story is to not be contained and laid out in a row. When you watch a road movie you want to feel like anything goes, and we tried to make the film with this same spirit of freedom. It was important to me to shoot the film in sequential order so that we could experience this trip that these characters take with them, and this also helped the actors a great deal because their characters are growing as we move along in the story. We also took the physical trip with the characters that I had mapped out while writing the film. The landscape and the characters both changed a great deal throughout the shoot. It was a beautiful thing to watch.

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