Alfred Clah – Through Navajo Eyes: The Intrepid Shadows (1966)
The Intrepid Shadows
This is one of the most complex films made by the Navajo. It is the one least understood by the Navajo and most appreciated by “avant-garde” filmmakers in our society. The film opens with a long series of shots showing the varieties of landscape around our schoolhouse. We see rocks, earth, trees, sky, in a variety of shapes but mostly in still or static shots. ’The shadows are very small or short. When we have familiarized ourselves with the things that comprise the “world” we see a young Navajo come walking into the landscape. He picks up a stick, kneels down, and begins to poke at a huge spider web. At this point the tone of the film changes. Suddenly a hand appears rolling an old metal hoop. The hoop is cut in intermittently throughout the rest of the film, rolling as if propelled by unseen hands through the variations in the landscape. A Yeibechai mask appears in the film at this point, wandering and walking through the landscape seemingly looking for something. The Yeibechai wanders behind trees, seen always through bushes, looking at the sky, looking in all directions, and is intercut in an extremely complex manner with continuing scenes of the landscape and of the legs and body of a person dressed in white.
As the Yeibechai mask wanders, the camera work depicting the landscape begins to change from static to complex circular, spiral, and almost indescribable movements. As the hoop, and then a rolling ball, and then the pages of a notebook turn and move faster and faster, so do the movements of the camera as they seemingly search along trees and rocks and bushes for whatever the Yeibechai is searching for. Now the shadows in the film are long and some of the scenes are deliberately dark. Suddenly we see what is very clearly the shadow of the camera man walking through the landscape trying to lengthen itself, and merging with the various parts of the landscape, the rocks, the bushes, and the trees, until at the very end the shadow of the man is almost a hundred feet long. There follows the last shot in the film, a long shot showing the shadow of the hoop whirling and twirling for almost fifteen seconds; suddenly in the corner of the frame the hoop itself appears, and as the spinning, which can now be seen as the hoop and its shadow, grows slower, both come into the frame so that at the very end we see the hoop spinning and the shadow that it makes. The film is ended abruptly.
-Sol Worth & John Adair
194MB | 18:00.237 | 592×448 | avi