Bernie Dotson, Navajo-Hopi Observer
Originally published: Mar 1, 2022 8:31 a.m.
GRAND FALLS, Ariz. — Filming for the fictional short, Liberty of Jewels, recently wrapped and is now moving into post-production, according to the film’s writer and director.
Keanu Jones, a graduate of Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy, is from Grand Falls, Arizona. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Navajo Technical University in Crownpoint, New Mexico.
Jones, 25, is a former member of the 2020 Native Filmmakers Lab at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. He said the film, which was shot in downtown Gallup, is in the editing phase.
“I’m the lead editor, but I plan to collaborate with other people on music, sound design and everything else to polish the final film,” Jones said. “We plan to submit the film to as many festivals as possible, such as the Sundance Film Festival, South by Southwest Film Festival, Gallup Film Festival, Santa Fe Film Festival, and international film festivals.”
Fort Defiance-born actor and comedian Ernest Tsosie is the lead actor in the film. Jones has estimated that up to 90% of 10 Minutes’ production is Navajo affiliated.
Liberty of Jewels is the story of Gilbert Etsitty, a financially troubled Navajo father who works in Gallup as a clerk for Jeff’s Trading Post. He is tested by his employer, Jeff, who is a manipulative boss who forces Gilbert to gain autonomy for the survival of his daughter’s relationship.
“I always imagined the story would be set in Gallup early in the writing process. There’s something about the town that encompasses the Native American jewelry market in the Southwest,” Jones said. “In downtown, there are tons of trading posts, so that was the world I wanted to explore. Much of the context stems from the idea of Native American participation and ownership in frontier towns. As aboriginal people, we have a huge influence in the development of these border towns.
The New Mexico Film Office praised the production of the film, which is produced by Ashley Browning, Joelle Luman, Lauren Begay and Shaandiin Tome. The production employs about 14 New Mexico crew members and four New Mexico lead actors, Dodson said.
Jones said he learned a lot from the Sundance Native Filmmaker Lab.
“We had access to many mentors and peers to bounce our ideas off of,” he said. “There’s been a lot of development for me as a filmmaker and as a person.”
According to Jones, the goal of the fellowship is for emerging filmmakers to transition to a more professional approach to video production by assigning producers and everyone else to make the film.
“It helped me develop my confidence as a person and a filmmaker to create my own stories in collaboration with other talented people,” he said.