The award-winning documentary 100 Years is coming to PBS’: America Reframed on March 13th. The film is based on the story of Elouise Cobell (Blackfeet) who fought a 30-year battle against the U.S. Government for its gross mismanagement of funds impacting more than 300,000 Native individuals.
Melinda Janko is producer, director and writer of 100 Years. She graduated cum laude from Emerson College in Boston, Mass.
Janko told Indian Country Today via email that after moving to Southern California in 2003, she formed Fire in the Belly Productions, Inc., after discovering the story of the broken Indian Trust Fund and the Cobell lawsuit.
Outraged by the injustice, Janko says she vowed to bring 100 Years to the world and spent two years researching and building relationships of trust with Elouise Cobell and Native American leaders.
Janko traveled throughout the U.S. with Cobell for some four years and was granted exclusive access to Cobell’s story. Filming began in Washington, DC and also continued into eight states and many Tribal lands. Janko was later granted access to high-level officials of the Department of the Interior who had previously declined to talk.
She has interviewed senators, congressmen, the presiding federal judge, the lead attorney, and many Native American beneficiaries of the Indian Trust Fund.
As a result of the success of 100 Years, Janko has been interviewed by the BBC Radio, NPR, Indian Country Today and wrote a special feature article about Elouise Cobell for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian Magazine. 100 Years is her Directorial debut.
The film has won many awards to include the 2017 Big Sky Documentary Award, it was shortlisted for a Best Song for the 2017 Academy Awards and listed as one of the top 100 Films of 2017 by film critic, Kam Williams.
100 Years will have its broadcast premiere on PBS, America ReFramed on March 13 and release on Netflix, March 21.
100 Years Official Trailer
In an interview with Indian Country Today, Janko explained how she felt that the film has managed to garner so much recognition, what it means to Indian country, and what’s to come in the future.
Schilling: How does it feel to have come this far in the filmmaking process?
Janko: I am very proud of the work that my team and I have done to bring Elouise Cobell’s story to the world. This has been a 14-year journey for me. We started filming in 2004 and released the film in the fall of 2016. Our tribute song, On Ghost Ridge, was shortlisted for a Best Song Academy Award in 2017, we won the Big Sky Documentary Award that same year. 100 Years was also listed as one of the top 100 films of 2017 by film critic, Kam Williams. The Montana Public Schools have 300 copies, and wrote their curriculum around the film.
Schilling: There is no mistaking the amazing work of Elouise Cobell, but I am curious, why did you wish to make this film in the first place?
Janko: I made this film because I was outraged by the U.S. Government’s gross mismanagement of the Indian Trust Funds that belonged to 300,000 Native Americans. I wanted to know why Native people who owned mineral rich lands were living in abject poverty without running water and electricity? I found it odd that the largest class action lawsuit ever filed against the U.S. Government was not front page news. It was, in fact, a little known story tucked away from the public.
Schilling: Well, it has certainly made an impression and will assuredly continue to do so. That said, what’s to come?
Janko: We are extremely excited about the upcoming broadcast premiere of 100 Years on the PBS series, America ReFramed on March 13th and the March 21st release of the film on Netflix. I have been on the speaking circuit since the release of the film and I am still out there bringing 100 Years to colleges, universities, public schools, government agencies and more. Our goal is to get the film in public schools, law schools, colleges and universities.