A Navajo Nightmare.
When a Navajo family betrays a powerful witch, he vows to destroy the entire clan. A chief risks everything to save his family, unaware that his beloved young daughter is called to the darkside herself.
After years of suffering, a Navajo man, Tse, is desperate to be free from the “ghost sickness,” an illness where he fends off a murderous ghost in his nightmares. One night while having this nightmare, he almost strangles his beloved ten year-old daughter, Haseya. Tse tracks down the last person who might be able to cure him: an old blind man disguised as a healer, but who is really a skinwalker (witch). The skinwalker heals him, but when Tse’s wealthy family cheats him on payment, he sets out to destroy Tse’s entire clan and rob the graves of his victims. He kills nightly, and Tse’s clan members accuse Tse of being responsible. Desperate to save his daughter and pregnant wife from a crazed witch-hunting mob, Tse takes them on a dangerous trek into the mountains to hide from his clan members determined to kill him. The skinwalker continues to kill while Tse mentally unravels from stress and sleep deprivation. After the skinwalker brutally slaughters many of his clan including his wife, Tse erroneously believes his own daughter has now become possessed and caused the murders, and he hunts her down. Haseya hides from her father in the skinwalker’s cave where the skinwalker attempts to win her over and join him. When Tse corners Haseya, she finally breaks through to him as the skinwalker appears. In a moment of clarity, Tse defends his daughter, sacrificing himself to save her life so she may destroy the skinwalker herself.
BUDGET 2 million USD (not including P&A)
GENRE: Period supernatural horror
ESTIMATED RUN TIME: 90 minutes
RECOGNITION: semifinalist in horror category for Slamdance 2019 Screenplay Competition; semifinalist in ScreenCraft Screenwriting Fellowship 2019
TIME PERIOD: late 1890s
TONALLY COMPARABLE FILMS & INFLUENCES
The makers of The Shepherd are inspired by contemporary and well-executed horror films such as The Babadook and The Witch, in addition to classic horror films such as The Exorcist and The Shining. Our target audience is for filmgoers that enjoyed these two mentioned contemporary horror films, in addition to smart horror films like Hereditary and Get Out.
STATEMENT OF INTENT
The Shepherd might just be the first of its kind: a Navajo horror film entirely in the native language, shot in the Navajo Nation, in the stunning desert Southwest of the USA.
But making a terrifying but unique film like this also has some crucial social statements that give The Shepherd even more importance. Native Americans have long been subject to inaccurate portrayals in cinema, or have had to uphold the stereotype of the “Noble savage.” In addition, many early films about Native Americans are rarely outside the genres of Westerns or drama, and these films often prescribe a singular image to all natives. An image that is entirely inaccurate.
By reimagining a potent story from Navajo lore, and doing so with historical accuracy, The Shepherd will provide a more complex and modern story of the Navajo through this vivid and horrifying retelling.
We are working with the Navajo community to engage their culture in a genre of film they are not often represented. By focusing on the universal struggle of family bonds and survival against evil, the film has character complexity that audiences take for granted in films with non-indigenous characters. The story is set in the late 1890s, a time period in which the Navajo are not often shown. The film will be shot entirely in the native Navajo language (Diné Bizaad), which will also help contribute to the preservation of the Diné language.
A film like this is long overdue.