"The Bears on Pine Ridge," (2023) is a feature documentary project, made possible by Vision Maker Media and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, set for broadcast in the Fall of 2023. It began as an award-winning short film, a compelling and poignant short documentary project that embarked on a journey five years ago to capture the story of hope and resilience within an isolated Native American community on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. This cinematic piece offers viewers unprecedented access to a State-of-Emergency unfolding in South Dakota, where the Oglala Lakota Sioux Tribe grapples with a deeply troubling youth mental health crisis. With little to no assistance from the Federal Government, the burden of healing their community falls upon the resilient residents of Pine Ridge.
At the heart of this narrative is "Tiny" DeCory, a revered Lakota elder, who selflessly puts her own well-being on the line to address the myriad needs of the reservation. In an inspiring endeavor to empower young survivors of suicide, Tiny spearheads a youth performance project known as The BEAR Program.
Composed predominantly of suicide survivors who still wrestle with depression, self-harm, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), The BEAR Program forms a resilient and uplifting collective. Clad in vibrant animal costumes, many of which bear tatters and tears, the group energetically dances to buoyant pop music, presenting heartening and comedic skits to their community. These performances not only uplift spirits during the crisis but also empower the participants within their disguises. Following their acts, the "Bears" shed their costumes, bravely engaging with the community, and sharing their personal struggles with suicidal ideation with young audiences.
Through the transformative power of The BEAR Program, these resilient youth discover their voices, fearlessly advocating for awareness while instilling joy and hope in other young individuals within the community.
Listed in Top 8 films out of 250 by Teddy Grouya, 2021 AmDocs Film Festival, Director
"I think it's beautiful..."
"...to see a community working to heal itself... there’s a lot of joy in your film…these youth, these young people are taking their experiences and trying to break the cycle.”
- Chloe Gbai - Director, IF/Then Shorts
“A Powerful Film”
"This film...it's been a really big part of our film festival...it's an important film." - Robert Misovic, 2021 Pendance Film Festival, Director
"This is a solution oriented film..."
“Thank you for sharing this beautiful and important work and I encourage everyone to go see it in the festival.” - Caitlin Mae Burke - Supervising Producer - IF/Then Shorts