'Kills Last'

"Kills Last: A Blackfeet Coup Story" 

A Blackfeet visual artist is raising money for his first film, "Kills Last," a post-apocalyptic short based on traditional tribal coup stories.

Lauren Monroe Jr., who's studying for an MFA in screenwriting, said the story is set several decades after the apocalypse, and the Blackfeet are surviving on their traditional territory.

While a band of four warriors are away on a hunting trip, their camp is attacked and several people are kidnapped. Their search for the missing leads them across the plains, through the forest and then the mountains of the Rocky Mountain Front.

It's based on traditional stories in Monroe's family, and the tale can be seen as a metaphor for Blackfeet culture "surviving no matter what. The language will continue, the land will continue," he said in an interview.

"I feel like as indigenous storytellers, it's up to us to tell an authentic story and a compelling story in our own language, and our own understanding and our own point of view," he said in his pitch video.

It's also about friendship and the lengths you'll go for the things you love, he said.

The 15-minute film will call for a cast of about 15, and the majority of the dialogue will be spoken in Blackfeet.

In keeping with the post-apocalyptic theme, the art direction will be inventive, mixing traditional Blackfeet beadwork and designs with the bare-essential gear the warriors use in dystopian future (including AK-47s).

He plans on shooting for about four days in July on the Blackfeet Reservation, using a local cast.

He's signed on Eddie Roqueta as his director of photography. The Montana State University graduate directed "Silencing the Thunder," a documentary about debate over bison and Yellowstone National Park, and co-directed "Toad to Nowhere," a road-trip film by Missoulians Marshall Granger and Andrew Rizzo.

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Monroe, who grew up on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, has exhibited his art in Missoula and around the state for years and helped co-found the Creative Indigenous Collective, a group of artists based in Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota.

Monroe came to Missoula for college, earning a degree in English literature while also pursuing art. One of his pieces caught the eye of Montana-based filmmaker Andrew Smith, who was adapting novelist James Welch's novel "Winter in the Blood" for the screen.

Monroe worked as an intern technical assistant on the movie, which led to connections in the state's film industry and art direction gigs on that string of indie movies shot in Montana: "Winter Light," "Jimmy P: Psychology of a Plains Indian" and "The Ballad of Lefty Brown."

After those experiences, he enrolled in the MFA screenwriting program through the Institute of American Indian Art in Santa Fe.

Monroe, who's entering his final year in the program, hopes to someday adapt "Kills Last" into a feature-length movie, drawing on "oral stories that have been told through generations."

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