The producers of the Jim Thorpe film select Mohawk Tracey Deer to direct

Producers of a film about Olympic gold medalist Jim Thorpe’s formative years (Sac & Fox/Potawatomi) announced this week that award-winning director Tracey Deer (Mohawk) will direct their feature film, Thorpe. The film was previously in development with the working title Bright Path: The Jim Thorpe Story.

After winning Olympic gold for the pentathlon and decathlon in 1912, Thorpe was presented with his medals by King Gustav V of Sweden, who told him: “You, sir, are the greatest athlete in the world.

Deer (Mohawk) has won two Gemini Awards and numerous film festival awards for her documentary work. She has worked with the CBC, the National Film Board (NFB) and numerous independent production companies across Canada on both documentary and feature films.

The “greatest athlete in the world” Jim Thorpe. (photo/file)

“I’m honored and excited to bring Jim Thorpe’s incredible story to the big screen for audiences around the world to experience the tremendous hurdles he overcame to become the ‘greatest athlete’ of the 20th century,” said Deer . “His resilience, passion and pride are shining examples of the greatness of which indigenous peoples are capable, yet which the dominant society has tried so hard to suppress over the years.”

Abraham Taylor, Josh Aker, Chris Taylor and Nedra Darling (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation) are producing for Pictureworks Entertainment.

“I was always taught, ‘Things happen for a reason,’ and that proved to be true in the construction of this film. I truly believe the Creator guided us through the journey of recreating Jim Thorpe’s amazing story and he led us straight to Tracey Deer,” said Darling. “Just as Jim has been at the forefront of pioneering the path for Native Americans in athletics, Deer is pioneering a path at the forefront of their industry. She is one of the most talented local filmmakers of this time.”

Thorpe wrote the screenplay by William N. Collage (Emancipation). The screenplay is based on Jim Thorpe: World’s Greatest Athlete, a book by author Robert Wheeler.

In addition to Thorpe’s athleticism, which led to him winning Olympic gold medals in the pentathlon and decathlon at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, Thorpe will also look at the time he spent at Carlisle, an Indian boarding school. This highlight aligns with the US Department of the Interior’s Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative, which is in its second year investigating the atrocities that befell thousands of Native American children while they attended Indian boarding schools for over a century.

Thorpe attended Carlisle Indian Industrial School as a teenager, where he eventually played college football under legendary coach Glenn “Pop” Warner, who, the filmmakers say, sold Carlisle Football to the public as a sporting version of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Collage’s screenplay tells the story of Thorpe’s resilience as he rises to college football dominance and ultimate success.

“The residential (boarding) school system is just one of the injustices that Jim and so many of our people have had to survive. Just as Jim has now rightfully regained his place as an Olympic gold medalist, it is time for the world to confront the realities of systemic racism and persecution that have permeated North American society so that we can begin to grow as a nation heal,” Hirsch said.

Producer Chris Taylor (Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana) thinks the film “could only have been told one way. And with the broad support of Indian Country. The true story of boarding schools has not been told to a wide audience, and while this film will be Jim’s story, it also pertains to the more than 140 tribes whose children were brought to Carlisle, and the countless other tribes across the United States and Canada, whose children were inspired to the other Carlisle schools.

The film project was funded by several Native American tribes including: Tuolumne Band of Me Wuk Indians, Chicken Ranch Rancheria Me-Wuk Indians of California, Tonto Apache Tribe, The Mohegan Tribe, Sealaska, Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria , the Shingle Springs Band of the Miwok Indians and the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay.

Deer is represented by CAA, attorney Jeff Bernstein and manager Perry Zimel; Collage is CAA, Syndicate Entertainment and McKuin Frankel.

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