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Albuquerque Journal

Makers of documentary on Navajo miner say trust was key 

Part of making a great documentary is having the trust of your subjects.

In the case of "The Blessing," Hunter Robert Baker and Jordan Fein did just that.

The two were able to tell a poignant story.

"We worked together to find a way to not only bring the reality of the present and the importance of the stories from their past; we're also able to bring the audience into the world that they might not have access to," Fein says.

"The Blessing" will screen at 7 tonight at the Lensic Performing Arts Center in Santa Fe. The screening is part of the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival.

The film follows a Navajo coal miner raising his daughter as a single father, struggling with his part in the irreversible destruction of their sacred mountain at the hands of America's largest coal producer.

The film was also made with support from the International Documentary Association and the Points North Institute. Over the course of five years, the filmmakers join a Navajo family for some of the most deeply personal and important moments in the characters' lives, including a miner enduring a life-threatening injury and confronting the deep spiritual sacrifice he makes to provide for his family.

Another character is a young Navajo woman discovering her inner identity and managing the expectations of her traditional father, while playing on the men's varsity football team and being crowned homecoming queen.

The directors say the film is first and foremost a character-driven movie, though it brings the search for acceptance to broad audiences through the unprecedented and intimate access the filmmakers have been given to this underreported social and environmental story on the Navajo Nation.

The pair faced some obstacles while making the film.

"I think the biggest obstacle was trust," Baker says. "A film like this can't be made without trust. People don't get to just walk on the Navajo Nation with a camera and start filming. The values were always about being respectful. You can tell when you view the film that there was trust."

The executive producer or the film is New Mexico native Raoul Max Trujillo.

"'The Blessing' stirs up my political, activist and spiritual sentiments," Trujillo says. "The film so hooks me, I am transported into this daunting but beautiful conflict on so many levels with their lives and with my own. This is a very important film and must be shared."

By Adrian Gomez

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