In Young Lakota, we are brought directly into the emotional and often uncertain journey of Sunny Clifford, her twin sister Serena, and their politically ambitious friend Brandon Ferguson, who all share the compelling desire to make a difference for themselves and their community.
Their political awakening begins when Cecelia Fire Thunder, the first female president of their tribe, defies a proposed South Dakota law criminalizing all abortion by threatening to build a women’s clinic on the sovereign territory of the reservation. Sunny, just back on the reservation after two years in college, Serena, unwed and with a toddler, and Brendan with two little boys, find themselves immersed in this political battle as they struggle between opportunity and principle; between selling out or staying the course through twists and turns that they could not have anticipated.
This is a uniquely sensitive portrayal of bright young people finding their way, as the film follows the surprising highs and lows of the statewide referendum on abortion and a divisive tribal election. Young Lakota tells the tale of the diverging paths Brandon and Sunny begin to take. Ultimately it is the complex interplay of personal choice, and cultural, economic and political circumstance that defines who they are and what kind of adults they are becoming. Beyond the divisiveness and turmoil, the stark disappointments and heady triumphs, Sunny’s courage and Cecelia Fire Thunder’s wisdom gives Young Lakota a sense of enduring possibility and of life being lived deeply that will resonate with any audience.
About the Directors:
Filmmaking duo Marion Lipschutz and Rose Rosenblatt are no strangers to reproductive rights-themed documentaries. Their award-winning work includes Live Free or Die (POV, 2000), about a New Hampshire OB-GYN on the frontlines of the “abortion wars, and The Education of Shelby Knox (POV, 2005), about a teenage girl campaigning for sex education in a conservative school district with high teen pregnancy rates. Their new film is a natural progression from these other compelling stories: Young Lakota also features a strong-minded young woman who finds herself at the center of political controversy on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation.
Beginning her career teaching video production in New York City schools and working on projects about early American cinema, Marion Lipschutz started producing and directing with the award-winning Hard Choices, about a “rustbelt” steel town devastated by the closing of its local mill. After associate producing and researching a series on the history of entrepreneurship and a special on AIDS, she worked for HBO on several America Undercover shows and the Real Sex series. She lives on a farm outside of New York City with her husband and two children.
Rose Rosenblatt trained as a writer and editor, beginning with the Emmy award-winning series Lifeline, which aired on NBC. She wrote several National Endowment for the Humanities scripts, including The Two Worlds of Angelita, a dramatic film that showed at the Carnegie Hall Cinema in 1987. She edited Mandela in America (1990) and then launched her producing/directing career with Rights and Wrongs (PBS), a series chronicling human rights abuses around the world. In 1991, while editing The Human Language, a series on linguistics for PBS, she met and partnered with Marion Lipschutz. Rose lives in Manhattan. Her daughter is a sophomore at Bowdoin College in Maine.