Jesse Edwards’ first feature film will have its world premiere at the Nashville Film Festival this Saturday.
Prey, Dark Winds, and Reservation Dogs recently have shined a light on Native Americans in terms of representation and storytelling in film/tv. However, the media landscape, either long or short form, still remains embarrassingly bare when it comes to showcasing the culture and ancestral roots of the Native American people, considering the fact that they were the first inhabitants of our hemisphere. On top of that, colonization, land ownership, and reparations are hardly ever discussed on screen and rarely given their proper perspective in published text. While there should be a larger discussion about how a combination of these issues is lacking in the current Hollywood landscape, Alta Valley showcases them all in a compelling neo-Western that may drive the conversation thanks to its strong fictional story and captivating message.
Alta Valley tells the story of two women, mechanic Lupe Ryes (Briza Covarrubias) and troublemaker (and cowgirl) Maddy Monroe (Allee-Sutton Hethcoat), whose lives become intertwined when Lupe runs into Maddy while trying to raise money to help pay for her mother’s medical treatment. Shortly thereafter, they venture to Alta Valley, a land where not only Navajo live, but also where a landowner with connections to Lupe’s past resides. Lupe, seeking financial help from the landowner, and Maddy, running away from a Mexican mob boss, uncover past and current secrets hidden in Alta Valley as they work together on their respective problems.
From the start, Alta Valley wastes no time introducing intrigue and mystery and quickly follows with the introduction of its two lead characters. Giving audiences characters worth investing in, the film settles into its main story, while moving at a brisk pace, often spotlighting the film’s beautiful backdrop, compliments of some desert scenery from Utah. While dramatic and accompanied by an often-sweeping score by Ryan Taubert, there is a surprising amount of action and quick comedic punches to keep things from growing stale or overly emotional. And without spoiling anything, there are twists and revelations constantly revealed through the film’s final act.
Briza Covarrubias and Allee-Sutton Hethcoat lead the cast of Alta Valley, and each of them give strong performances. Forming great chemistry, it is refreshing not only to see two unknown actors lead a strong film, but it also is especially refreshing to see them in a genre where females are not often front and center; one hopes that both actresses will be on the map for other projects after the release of this film. Rounding out the primary cast are Micah Fitzgerald as the landowner of Alta Valley, Paula Miranda as Lupe’s mother, and Paulette-Horton-Lamori as one of the residents of Alta Valley; all three of these actors give good performances in their respective roles.
While fictional in presentation, this film presents some of the modern-day ramifications of the abombimal treatment of Native Americans by the people who not only robbed them of their land, but also erased their culture and basic way of life. Kudos to director, writer, and producer Jesse Edwards for bringing awareness to these issues that still plague us to this day. Without a doubt, we should have more stories on film/tv about Native Americans–especially stories that point out the grim realities they faced, and continue to face, like the one presented in Alta Valley. And we can only hope they will be as good as this neo-Western.
(out of five stars)
If you would like to attend the world premiere of Alta Valley this Saturday, tickets are available for purchase here.