'Mayors of Shiprock' produced by husband-and-wife team


FARMINGTON — The story of a group of young Navajos in Shiprock will be shared with a statewide audience this week.

The documentary film "The Mayors of Shiprock" tells the story of the Northern Diné Youth Committee, a group of Navajo young people working to address conditions in Shiprock. It will make its broadcast premiere on KNME at 7 p.m. Thursday.

KNME, the PBS affiliate based in Albuquerque, shows on over-the-air Channel 5.1 and on Comcast Channel 5 and Channel 220.

This is the seventh offering for filmmaker Ramona Emerson, who, with her husband, Kelly Byars, chronicled the group's community projects and moments from the members' lives starting in March 2012.

"I think it is a very true portrait of what we contend with on the Navajo reservation as far as outlook, as far as the politics and the red tape we all face," Emerson said in a telephone interview today.

MORE: 'Mayors of Shiprock' premiere

"I think it does show the issues that we have and why it's so difficult being on the reservation, but I don't think it dwells on it. I think what it does is, it shows opportunities to change it," she added.

Franz Joachim, general manager and CEO of New Mexico PBS, said the station is proud to present the broadcast premiere.

Joachim is also a board member for Vision Maker Media, an organization that assists the development and production of films that focus on Native Americans, and helped fund the film.

"We found it a compelling story and one that should be shared with a broad audience. The broadcast of 'Mayors of Shiprock' is the culmination of the process and the filmmaker's journey," Joachim said.

After its New Mexico broadcast, the film will be released nationally on Nov. 6 by WORLD channel, which is produced and distributed by WGBH/Boston, American Public Television and WNET/New York.

MORE: Navajo filmmaker has high hopes for new projects

WORLD channel will make the documentary available for broadcast by any PBS station, in addition to making it available online, Emerson said.

"New Mexico gets first dibs. …The fact that it's getting on PBS is exciting. I think that's the ultimate goal, to get your film shown to such a wide audience," she said.

In April, the film premiered in Shiprock, then showed in communities on and near the Navajo Nation with another documentary, "Metal Road."

Emerson is working to bring a screening of "The Mayors of Shiprock" to a venue in Farmington, as well as have it return to Shiprock.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.


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