With Spike Lee's Blessing, 'Rez' Film Sees the Light of Day

Vincent Schilling

A short film project entitled "Rez," which features an all Native American cast and tells the story of Daniel Nightbird, an Ojibwe teen living on the Leech Lake Reservation, has been released by Special Boy Films Ltd.

The 19-minute film, which was directed by Dominque Deleon, a young African American filmmaker from NYU, has received praise and social media support from Spike Lee. Due to Lee’s support the project broke records on the Seed & Spark fundraising website as the fastest film to receive full funding within just 72 hours. 

The project's roots date back to 2006, when Deleon was a student at Harvard. His roommate, Duane Meat, an Ojibwe student who had been spending a semester at his home at the Leech Lake Indian Reservation, was tragically murdered by a gang member while walking on a South Minneapolis street.

Before Meat had been murdered, DeLeon had made a promise to his roommate to bring attention to both the beauty and the hardships faced in reservation life. To honor his friend, Deleon lived on Leech Lake for a summer in order to write his film. 

“The first week I was on the rez I stayed in a small house with 7 adults and four dogs," DeLeon recalls. "Across the way in Tract 33, which is portrayed in the film, a jilted boyfriend walked over to the house where his girlfriend was staying and shot her in the face. They had kids together."

“I realized quickly that even though I’d done my research, even though I’d heard all the stories, nothing was going to prepare me to write this other than living there, being there. “


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