There is a particular brand of magic that I associate with successful, character driven narration. We watch films to get out of our heads, and narration, if done badly, can often shove us right back inside. After paying eleven dollars at the movie theater, most people do not want anything to do with the inside of their heads, thank you very much.
I had the pleasure of screening Melissa Henry’s successfully narrated short film, Horse You See, during the Navajo Spotlight section of the 2007 imagineNATIVE Film Festival. As a delegate, I saw the film for free, but I gladly would have paid eleven, even, twelve dollars to see it! I kid, though. Money has nothing to do with the matter, this Melissa would tell you herself, as she made the film completely with her own resources. In fact, I believe the only items purchased for production was a tablecloth and some carrots, pears and corn.
Horse You See follows Ross, who lives somewhere in Navajo country, New Mexico. Ross is a horse, as he will tell you in the film. So are his parents and so were his grandparents. He shows us his fine, fit physique (surely kept so fit by eating all those carrots and pears) and he tells us that drinking water from a metal bowl is best. Ross also talks about his friends and shows us his home and where he goes for walks. He then ends his story by singing a song about his life and the beauty that surrounds it.
The success of Melissa’s film lies in its carefully crafted simplicity and its unassuming, unpretentious humor. The same goes for the narration, done completely in Dine', by Melissa’s father. The mood created by the film's narration is that of happy self-reflection which should make the viewers glad, after seeing the film, to retreat calmly back into their respective heads. And really, it’s not so bad in there after all, is it?
I had the chance to speak with Melissa about her process in making Horse You See, (which originally started as an idea for paintings), her work in and outside of the Navajo community, and her plans for the future. (Hint: more to come from Ross’s world.) Melissa is the human equivalent of her film: unpretentious, unassuming, and really, really funny.
p.s. It is Melissa's birthday this month, July 20th. She shares it with Alexander the Great. Happy Birthday you two!