Pure Grit: Director Kim Bartley on documenting Native American bareback rider Sharmaine Weed

After discovering Native American bareback horse rider Sharmaine Weed on Facebook, documentarian Kim Bartley (The Revolution Will Not Be Televised) spent three years travelling backwards and forwards between her home in Ireland and Wyoming’s Wind River reservation to film Pure Grit. With minimal funding, Bartley shot the whole thing virtually single-handed, following Sharmaine through the highs and lows of her relationship with city girl Savannah, the challenges of becoming a professional racer and the difficulties faced by her traditional family.

The result is a compelling documentary that weaves those three years into a narrative of hope and determination against the odds. Pure Grit won the Best Irish Feature Documentary award at this year’s Galway Film Festival, and will make its US premiere at the Newport Beach Film Festival on October 24th. I spoke to Bartley about the challenges of making such an intimate yet expansive film, and why authenticity and honesty are are the core of everything she does.

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Frozen River (2008)

Cool runnings…

As Courtney Hunt’s film opens on a lingering shot of the frozen Saint Lawrence river in the wilds of upstate New York, so a chill sets in that permeates the whole of this remarkable human thriller. And it’s not just the sub-zero weather than sends a shiver up the spine, but the length the movie’s protagonist Ray (Melissa Leo) has to go to in order to survive.

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