Producer Gale Anne Hurd and director Valerie Red-Horse collaborate on a mesmerizing documentary that shines a spotlight on Wilma Mankiller, an unknown trailblazer who fought to forge a stronger future for the Cherokee Nation.
Producer Gale Anne Hurd's new venture, MANKILLER, follows the life of a female activist who has been otherwise unrecognized.
Wilma Mankiller stands apart from her peers, not only because of her Native American ancestry, but because she was a woman who disregarded the disenfranchisement of her people and gender, and moved onward to become the first female President Chief of the Cherokee Nation—and that's only scratching the surface.
Despite her long repertoire of accolades, Mankiller has been conveniently missing from historical rhetoric, which director and producer Valerie Red-Horse and producer Gale Anne Hurd hope to alter. "With MANKILLER, I want to tell an incredible, but true story about a woman who challenged the status quo," said Hurd. "She was a role model and a true champion of her people." The two producers ultimately hope to pay homage to Mankiller's dedication to actively supporting and defending her people, and reconstruct the lost story of an individual who was never truly appreciated for her feats.
From experiencing relocations under government mandates and the U.S.' tense relations with the Cherokee people, Mankiller fostered a strong political mind and revolutionary attitude, which was the fiery mindset she held onto when she came into office in 1985. Since her time in service, Mankiller lifted up the Cherokee nation to become the strongest Native American tribe in the country, and moved them closer toward self-dependence through targeted economic and healthcare programs. In a broader sense, Mankiller simply gave her people more reasons to be prideful of their culture and history.
Still, Mankiller is not a name familiar to the public. “When most people think of prominent Native American women, they think of Pocahontas and Sacagawea," said Hurd. "It’s a shame that Wilma Mankiller is not a household name, given all she accomplished as an activist and political leader.”
For Red-Horse, who is also of Cherokee descent and spearheads her own production company to unearth inspiring stories of Native Americans, and Hurd, this documentary represents more than the desire to tell a compelling life's story; the film represents the "danger of losing her story in time" and the need to make the name Wilma Mankiller concrete and recognizable.
Hurd, the executive producer of The Walking Dead, with actor Steven Yeun who plays Glenn Rhee on the show.
To continue their passion and ensure that this documentary comes to fruition, Red-Horse and Hurd created a Kickstarter fund, which attests to their deep-rooted understanding and appreciation for Mankiller's accomplishments, and the willingness to introduce a character who is foreign and can, at times, feel uncomfortable to get to know. “Fundraising through Kickstarter is as much about building a community around Wilma’s story as it is [about] making the film itself," said Hurd. "It's incredibly inspiring to have people in your corner from the very beginning.”
The fund, which hopes to meet its goal of $150,000, is currently accepting donations, and will remain open until April 8.
PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF STEPHAN SHUGERMAN (KILLERMAN)