THE LAST MANHUNT
Jason Momoa and Crew Talk About The Last Manhunt
World Premiere at Pioneertown International Film Festival
By Lisa Lynn Morgan
Jason Momoa is a man of action. While in Joshua Tree, he came across the story of Willie Boy, known as the “Desert Runner,” and the infamous manhunt that ended in a death toll of three, including Willie Boy. Tragic as it was, the story Momoa was told was a far cry from the fear-breeding hype that sold newspapers in 1909, or the one Hollywood cashed in on 60 years later with the star-packed movie, Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here. Momoa immediately began to lay the groundwork to set the record straight.
“I love Joshua Tree and the community out there,” shared Executive Producer, Momoa. “I remember hearing about Willie Boy, the Desert Runner, and was fascinated by the story surrounding him. What should be a universal story of a relationship gone bad, quickly became a muddy, complex story about the power of crooked media and how Native Americans are portrayed to the public. The true story of Willie Boy has never been told, and it’s a beautiful one. I developed the story with my team because I wanted to set the record straight and set the spirits of this story free.”
Momoa contacted indigenous writer, Pa’a Sibbett, and the two went to work on the script. In a meeting with tribal leaders of the 29 Palms Band of Chemehuevi, some of which are direct descendants of Willie Boy’s story. The tribes were given the script and told that if there was any reason they didn’t feel comfortable with the production of this beloved story, then production would stop, and no movie would be filmed. The tribal leaders agreed to the production and the filming of The Last Manhunt.
“The truth of Willie Boy’s story lies in the overlooked voices of the desert: the Chemehuevi people who have inhabited the desert for many generations,” states Producer, Martin Kistler. “If you listen to them, Willie Boy wasn’t a savage murderer, he was simply a man who fell in love with a woman that wasn’t meant for him. With underrepresented cultures coming to the forefront in film and tv, we were committed to approach this Native tale with the utmost respect to the cultures represented by it, hoping to set a precedent for how Hollywood could approach stories of diversity like this.”
Momoa’s fellow Executive Producer (and co-owner of the Los Angeles Lakers) Jeanie Buss, remembers vividly “the iconic moment in Oscar history when Sacheen Littlefeather represented Marlon Brando to raise awareness of Native American issues at the 45th Academy Awards in 1973, accepting the Best Actor Award for his performance of The Godfather. I was only 12 years old, but it left such a profound and lasting impact on me, and this is why The Last Manhunt is important to me. I am very proud that we honored the true story of Willie Boy.”
The Last Manhunt tells the tragic, true story of the last great manhunt of the old west, based on the oral history of the Chemehuevi tribe, located in Joshua Tree, California. What begins as a simple love story takes a violent turn with the accidental murder of a tribal leader, the father of Willie Boy’s love, Carlota. The manhunt begins, and with President Taft coming to the area, the local sheriff leads two Native American trackers seeking justice.
Filming of The Last Manhunt began with a tribal ceremony, where members of the Chemehuevi, Serrano, and Cahuilla tribes all participated. The production was honored to have Dr. Cliff Traftzer, a long-time researcher and scholar of California’s desert tribes, as well as Matt Leivas, one of the last keepers of the sacred Chemehuevi Salt Songs and respected elder, to consult on the script. Matt Leivas even agreed to chant the sacred songs and assist with the Chemehuevi language spoken in the film.
The Last Manhunt is an On the Roam production. Founded by Jason Momoa, On the Roam is a creative production company, which produces scripted and unscripted original branded content, television series and motion pictures. Consisting of a creative collective of ambitious and innovative artists, the team shares a belief in quality storytelling through beautifully honest cinematic technique. https://www.ontheroam.com.
Tickets and program available at pioneertownfilmfest.com
OPENING DAY EVENTS
The Pioneertown International Film Festival has worked vigorously over the last two years to bring a world-class event to a storied town founded in 1942 as a living, breathing backdrop for Western films.
The World Premiere of The Last Manhunt will be the apex of opening day events that promise to be as historic for the community as for those in attendance. Jason Momoa will give a personal introduction to the film remotely, via Skype, along with cast and crew members who will all be available for a remote Q&A.
Leaders of the local tribes will be onsite for Q&A, giving an introduction, sharing the history of the land, and their involvement in the film and production. Perhaps most significantly, the leaders will come together to give a ceremonial blessing over the festival.
The Autry Museum in Los Angeles at Griffith Park will be announcing their partnership with Pioneertown International Film Festival at the festival. They will be screening some of the festival’s film entries at the museum, as well as presenting a special program at the festival itself.
Paramount will be showcasing restored westerns, many of which have never seen the light of day. These are films that have been painstakingly restored, frame by frame, taking years in the process. Heads of departments responsible for these restorations will be on site, sharing the histories of the films and the process of restoring them.
“It is a great honor that Pioneertown International Film Festival will be hosting the World Premier of The Last Manhunt, along with the other world class films premiering,” shared Julian Pinder, the festival’s founder. “It’s difficult to express how incredibly proud I am of what our Head Programmer, Tom Luoto, has been able to accomplish and the relationships he has brought together. It’s astounding what this team has produced for a first-time film festival.”
Pinder shared that the biggest challenge to this event is providing a world-class viewing experience in this very rustic location. These films will be shown in the barns once used in films by Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. Through expert sound abatement and top-tier technology, Pinder assured confidently, “We are creating a very high caliber screening theater that will create a world-class viewing experience.”