Up Heartbreak Hill Film Screening

Documentary explores complexities of life-changing decisions in the experiences of Navajo teenagers.




7:30 p.m.


Hostetter Lecture Room (209), Stratton Hall

General Info

Wells College announces a screening of the POV documentary “Up Heartbreak Hill.” The film explores tensions and dual identities in the experiences of students at Navajo Pine High School as they attempt to hold onto their cultural heritage while living modern lives. The screening will take place at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, September 13, 2012, in the E. Margie Matthews Filter Hostetter ’62 Lecture Room (209) of Stratton Hall on the Wells College campus.

This event is a collaboration with POV, the award-winning independent non-fiction film series on PBS (www.pbs.org/pov). It is being held in coordination with the College’s Peachtown Native American Festival and is a Social Science Colloquium event. Admission is free, and the public is cordially invited to attend.

“Up Heartbreak Hill” follows the lives of Navajo teenagers approaching the end of their high school career. In addition to normal frustrations and stresses, life on the 27,000-square mile Navajo Nation reservation (spread across parts of Utah, Arizona and New Mexico) adds a host of complications. From the broad difficulty of holding onto traditional Navajo culture in the middle of a high-tech, globalized society; to the continuing economic problems and lack of opportunities presented by history, geography and current social crises; to more personal issues such as broken families and substance abuse, these young people have a lot to deal with.

The documentary focuses on students Thomas Martinez, a statewide high school cross-country and track star, and Tamara Hardy, also an athlete in addition to senior class president and a top contender for valedictorian. As standouts at Navajo Pine High School and steeped in a deep Navajo tradition of running, they become the objects of family and community hopes while they carry on a typical adolescent struggle to understand themselves. Their talents and successes provide opportunity to continue their education in college far from the reservation; however, as many others in their place, they have to balance the connections with their home and cultural traditions against the possibility of moving away permanently.

“Up Heartbreak Hill was born of the realization that as Americans, we are largely unaware not only of cultures abroad but, perhaps even more alarmingly, of communities within our own borders,” said director, producer, and cinematographer Erica Scharf. “I hope this film will help forge a greater understanding of a rarely glimpsed American community — a nation within a nation — whose current history, tribulations and triumphs are widely ignored.”

Scharf has spent much of her career in documentary film and television. She began her career as an associate producer for “Worlds Apart” (NGC) and has worked on the award-winning films “Marnee: A Garage Sale Retrospective,” “City” and “God Grew Tired of Us.” Other credits include Discovery’s “Dual Survival,” Biography’s “Celebrity Ghost Stories” A&E’s “SWAT” and HGTV's “House Hunters International.” She is a graduate of New York University's Tisch School of the Arts.

Over the last two years, “Up Heartbreak Hill” has been chosen for screening in 10 films festivals across the country. Its national broadcast premiere took place in July as part of the the 25th anniversary season of POV, American television's longest-running independent documentary series. Since 1988, POV has pioneered the art of presentation and outreach using independent nonfiction media to build new communities in conversation about today's most pressing social issues. POV is the winner of a Special Emmy for Excellence in Television Documentary Filmmaking, two International Documentary Association Awards for Continuing Series and the National Association of Latino Independent Producers Corporate Commitment to Diversity Award. For more information, visit www.pbs.org/pov.