Ben-Alex Dupris wanted to make a positive impact on the country, and — specifically — Indian country. That activist spirit led him to the front lines of a North Dakota protest against a multi-billion dollar oil pipeline in 2016, where he found himself residing for much longer than intended.
"I went to stay at Oceti Sakowin (a camp site in Cannon Ball) for a week and stayed for roughly five months," Dupris said.
A documentarian who has directed works such as The 7th Wave, he felt it necessary to capture a perspective of those standing in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline (and in solidarity with the nearby Standing Rock Sioux), known as #noDAPL. He ran into Cody Lucich, an award-winning Native American director, in his time there and the two decided to collaborate.
"I was shooting my own footage when I ran into him," Dupris said. "And we decided to make a run at something special."
Along with fellow producers Heather Rae and Gingger Shankar, the group completed a film — Akicita: The Battle of Standing Rock — which was selected for the prestigious Sundance Film Festival this month.
"After a year and a half, Akicita will premiere at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival (in Park City Utah)," Dupris said. "It has been a long, searching and heartbreaking journey. I truly hope Indian country will watch this film, and become stronger from it."
The synopsis of the movie is as follows:
Standing Rock, 2016: the largest Native American occupation since Wounded Knee, thousands of activists, environmentalists, and militarized police descend on the Dakota Access Pipeline, in a standoff between Big Oil and a new generation of native warriors. Embedded in the movement, native activist and filmmaker Cody Lucich chronicles the sweeping struggle in stunning clarity, as the forces battle through summer to bitter winter, capturing the spirit and havoc of an uprising.
Dupris said the film conveys an accurate depiction of how the Indigenous life ways are under constant attack from corporations who have little consideration for natural resource protection.
"The vision was to show the world a visceral, first-person account of the movement from an Indigenous perspective," Dupris said. "There were many films being made by non-Native filmmakers, but in Cody we had a unique cinematographer who was creating stunning photography from the Native perspective. There is nothing like this film in Native cinema, and I'm proud of its completion."
He hopes that giving the audience that perspective will help usher in a new era of activism.
"It's time to motivate the new generation of young minds to step forward and take positive action," Dupris said. "That's what we strive for as artists. We want to move people from the heart, to change the world out of love."
The Sundance Film Festival runs from Jan. 18-28, and showcases American and international independent filmmakers.
Dupris is the son of tribal member Anita Dupris.
SUN DANCE NOTABLES
The Sundance Film Festival has been noted as a place where many directors have caught their "big break." Here are some notable films to debut at the festival, including documentaries.
Reservoir Dogs (1992)
The Usual Suspects (!995)
Sex, Lies & Videotape (1989)
Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
*When We Were Kings (1996)
*Super Size Me (2004)
Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)
Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
El Mariachi (1992)
Winter's Bone (201)
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Blood Simple (1984)
*Roger & Me (1989)
Before Sunrise (1995)
Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
You Can Count on Me (2000)
Animal Kingdom (2010)