Film explores ‘Indian relay’ racing

A little known, but highly exciting form of horse racing is the backdrop for the short documentary film Fast Horse.

The film, by director Alex Lazarowich, is a multiple nominee at the upcoming Yorkton Film Festival as a finalists from the Kathleen Shannon Award, Director (Non Fiction), Multicultural (under 30-mins), and Indigenous Award.

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“In Blackfoot country, they call Indian Relay ‘North America’s original extreme sport’. Jockeys bareback gallop their horses around a track, jumping off one and on to another in a chaotic melee of horses and handlers at ‘the exchange’. Accidents happen. Simply finishing a race demands masterful skill and courage,” relates www.cbc.ca

Siksika horseman Allison RedCrow dreams of bringing a team to the “greatest outdoor show on Earth” – the Calgary Stampede – so he and his people can show the world their unparalleled skill on horseback.

“Our cameras follow Allison and his new jockey, Cody BigTobacco, over the course of a year as they assemble a team of horses, train them for the relay race and finally make their debut at the Calgary Stampede. Their team, Old Sun, will face the best riders in the Blackfoot Confederacy, many of them veteran competitors from Montana. Fast Horse puts the audience on the back of a galloping horse, an exhilarating POV experience that captures the thrill and risk of this white-knuckle sport,” relates the CBC site.

Lazarowich said Fast Horse is the type of film she became a filmmaker to create.

“I got into the film industry because I was frustrated with what was being made, I want to make films that are reflective of my upbringing as an indigenous youth, an indigenous woman,” she told Yorkton This Week. “Films that are modern and reflective of who we are today.

“When I was growing up there was no role models, or people who looked like me on screen. I got into film to create role models for my nieces and nephews to create heroes for them on screen, who look like them. If you can’t see it you can’t be it.”

For Lazarowich film is simply a passion.

“I do not have a film degree, but I grew up in the industry and I really learned by watching and experiencing,” she said. “I started literally from the bottom over 13 years ago as a Production Assistant and learned, grew and watched. Over the years I have been part of many film fellowships to hone my craft.”

The film “captures the touching bond Cody and Allison have with their horses. Witness, with intimate proximity, the committed effort these majestic animals demand from their riders and handlers. We see the horses accept their role and learn the complex movements of the race.

“With a heart-pumping climax, experience the final race at the Calgary Stampede from Cody’s own perspective. And just as promised, learn just how unpredictable and dangerous the Indian Relay can be,” notes the CBC site.

Lazarowich said the film owes much to those who allowed the cameras inside their world.

“We were very lucky to have the Old Sun Indian Relay team want to be a part of the project,” she said. “Without them and their passion and time we would not have a film. They are the film, they make the film, and we are forever grateful to them and the Indian relay community.”

So what was the most challenging aspect of the project?

“I think the most challenging aspect of making any documentary is you never really know what is going to happen, this is real life and things change - you have to roll with it literally and figuratively,” said Lazarowich. “We had an amazing crew of Directors of Photography who were able to capture moments that really make the film.”

It was the inside look at the world of Indian relay Lazarowich said comes through as the strongest element of the film.

“I think the best aspect of the film is that we were welcomed into the Siksika community, and the Indian Relay Community they allowed us to share their story with the world,” she said.

Lazarowich does think the film is having an effect.

“I think if this film inspires other indigenous youth to follow their dreams, then I think we have done the best that we could do,” she said, adding “our audiences range from people who love Indian Relay, the rodeo and those who know nothing about the sport. What’s unique about Fast Horse is that it’s an insider look into what it takes to be in Indian relay.

“Viewers who have never seen Indian relay are in awe of this incredible sport and the skill it takes to be accomplished. I would be eager to hear how the Yorkton audiences react to the film.”

Fast Horse has already drawn industry recognition as winner of the Short Film Special Jury Award for Directing at Sundance 2019 for Lazarowich.

Fast Horse also won the Best Documentary Work Short Format award at imagineNATIVE 2018.

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