Native Youth Leadership Alliance

(Jesse Shortbull) Realizing a Dream: Our Film Istinma


Istinma_To Rest_promo card

On November 15th 2013 I was able to attend the 7th Annual LA Skinsfest Film Festival in Los Angeles, California and view a short film I co-wrote on the big screen of Regal Cinemas in downtown LA.

As I stepped onto the hustle of the city streets I noticed the neon lights flowing down onto the hundreds of people decked with hottest fashions and trends milling about effortlessly in the mild winter night. I must admit I felt a little overwhelmed coming from a town of 65 people to a town of 9 million give or take but I was here to see a dream come true.

pplOur film Istinma – To Rest is a story of breaking the cycle of historical trauma as it follows a son who forgives his father on the Pine Ridge Lakota Nation. Istinma (pronounced ISH-TEEN-MA) is a Lakota word which loosely put is to sleep or rest. What it means for our film is laying troubles of the past to rest for the greater good. It was written by Andres Torres Vives and myself and the film reflects our journey with our own fathers. This is a short film about eight minutes long and features Milo Yellowhair, Scott Means, Milley Young Bull Bear and Sue Leach.

When I walked inside the Regal Cinema Complex a feeling of joy rushed through my body.  As I milled around the lobby draped with designer carpet and dramatic lighting I saw a large poster with the title of a film I poured my heart and soul into.  ISTINMA was premiering for the first time.

On this night of the premiere I couldn’t help but notice it was the two year anniversary of my father’s funeral. As our crew and I made our way to our seats I took a moment to reflect how the film mirrored my own life and relationship with my dad.  I was able to completely forgive him when I understood the concept of historical trauma which was born from the recent history of having our indigenous nations rattled by war and misdeed.

As the film played I felt a tear roll down my face. Not a tear of sadness but one of great optimism. I was able to break free from surviving and move to thriving. I had a small dream of making a movie and it had come true. I want to see more Native American’s make this transition to achieving their limitless dreams.

I couldn’t have done it without the help of the Native Youth Leadership Alliance whose unconditional support provided me the leadership and confidence I needed to help get this film off the ground. I have been involved with NYLA since its creation and they prepared me for taking on this task of making a short film.  For the first time in my life I achieved satisfaction knowing I did something to the best of my abilities.

I think of this movie as just the start and I know if I can do it anyone can. I want to see more Native young people succeed and thrive in their communities.  We have a wealth of talent and potential waiting to be discovered! There has never been a better time to invest in Indian Country.

Shortly after our debut we were told that we had won an award in the short film category. It was a great honor for our team.  Every single person involved went above and beyond and this award recognizes our hard work and dedication to the art of storytelling through film.

 See Jesse’s NYLA Profile