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Movie produced by Chickasaw Nation earns praise


Last updated 1/3/2018 at 3:54pm

Chickasaw Nation

A scene from Te Ata, depicting the life of Mary Francis Thompson Fisher.

ADA, Okla.-This fall, the feature film Te Ata, produced by the Chickasaw Nation, was released to theaters and subsequently to DVD in November to coincide with Native American Heritage Month.

In 2014, the Chickasaw Nation embarked upon telling the story of Mary Francis Thompson, born in 1895 in Emet, Indian Territory. She acted on Broadway, toured Europe, entertained Britain's King George and Queen Elizabeth and other European dignitaries.

She was a favorite of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and first lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

Te Ata follows the early life, education and career of Thompson, who wed famed astronomer Dr. Clyde Fisher in 1933. He was curator at the American Museum of Natural History and later head of Hayden Planetarium in New York City.

The movie plot follows the events of her journey to fame. Te Ata Thompson Fisher lived to be 99, dying in Oklahoma City in 1995 just days shy of her 100th birthday.

Even late in her career, Thompson performed for and educated school children about Native Americans, their heritage, culture and significance in American history.

Deadline Hollywood and the New York Times are among those applauding the movie.

Deadline Hollywood film critic Anita Busch said the $2M indie movie "looks like a $50 million Hollywood feature."

Robyn Elliott, Cabinet Secretary of the Chickasaw Nation Department of Communications and Community Development and press secretary to the Governor of the Chickasaw Nation, told Deadline: "We've been producing documentaries for a number of years. Governor Anoatubby's idea was to share the story as a way to educate people about our impact in the early days of our country's history. And today, we are still a thriving nation. It was his vision to use film to do that."

The first film from the Chickasaw nation was Pearl about Pearl Carter Scott, the first licensed female pilot.

The Nation used various means to keep the budget low, while producing a quality movie. "We had a tremendous production team. We have a lot of good partners so were able to work with the schools," said Elliott. "What helped us bring the budget way down was the locations that we were able to get." Many of the interior scenes were shot in different rooms of the same large, historical building.

In addition, many Chickasaw participated as extras in the film.

Busch also thought the film's star excelled in the role, writing "Kilcher knocks it out of the park," adding "You could say that Te Ata is one of many Hidden Figures in the Native American culture."

Citing "great direction by Nathan Frankowski," Busch noted, "The film delves into what it meant to be Native American at a time when assimilation was forced upon the culture."

One of the elements looked upon favorably is the movie's family-friendly nature.

"It is encouraging to see something the whole family can watch that isn't simply animated or slapstick humor," The MungleShow noted in its review.

To see Indian Life's review of this movie, please see page 16.


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