On Saturday, April 5, The Jingle Dress made its debut in a sold-out sneak preview screening at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival. The film stars Stacey Thunder, Kimberly Guerrero, Chaske Spencer and Steve Reevis. “The screening went great and there was definitely a packed house — chairs were added in the very back of the theater,” says Thunder, who took a few moments to discuss the film with ICTMN. (The Jingle Dress will next screen in Minneapolis in about a month, she says, but there is no firm date or venue at this time — follow facebook.com/jingledressmovie for updates.)
What’s The Jingle Dress about?
It’s a contemporary story of a Native American family who move from their rural home on the reservation in northern Minnesota to the faster paced urban environment of Minneapolis. I play Elsie, the mother of the Red Elk family. She is the backbone of the family and loves them dearly. She is very strong, yet sensitive and looks to her husband John (Chaske Spencer) and sister Janet (Kimberly Guerrero), for support. She worries about her family as they experience their new life in Minneapolis.
What is the significance of the jingle dress to the story?
Its healing power. After Elsie tells her daughter Rose the story of the dress while making it for her, Rose wears and dances in the dress in order to help her family.
You worked with Chaske Spencer, who’s one of the most accomplished Native actors in recent times, what was that like?
It was great! Chaske is a nice guy and fun to work with. In fact, there were a lot of smiles and laughs on set because everyone, including our amazing crew, got along so well. And when Kimberly Guererro, Steve Reevis, and Brandon Oakes were on set, the Native humor went up at least tenfold. We were all so happy to be working together to tell a positive story of our people. Making films like this should definitely happen more often.
For better or worse, it seems most films about the contemporary Native experience have an educational element — seeking to help people outside Native culture gain some understanding of it. Is there an element of that going on in this film?
Yes, definitely. The Jingle Dress shows a real side to our lives today — that we are still here and still very real. And by watching the Red Elk family, viewers get to learn about one unique Indigenous culture and tradition, which is very important, but that they’ll also see Native peoples are also human beings like them who have and share the same feelings, hopes, dreams, goals and challenges.
You’re a busy woman, with a few other projects on the horizon — what can you tell us about?
I will be launching a new video series soon, which I’m incredibly excited about and can’t wait to share with everyone. It’s a series that will share stories about Indigenous peoples today in an entertaining and upbeat way in order to help change how the world perceives us — to educate, empower within, and bridge the culture gap.
And Native Report, the PBS show I host and co-produce, will be celebrating 10 years this May. By that time, we would’ve aired nine seasons, including a pilot season of four episodes, totaling 139 episodes. Being on air for 10 years is a huge accomplishment and we are very proud of it.