Conversation With Filmmaker, Former Lady Griz Megan Harrington on “Native Ball: Legacy of a Trailblazer”
The same filmmaking crew, led by former Montana Lady Griz Megan Harrington, that produced the Robin Selvig documentary The House That Rob Built is now releasing its second film:
The film highlights former Montana Lady Griz Malia Kipp and the path she cleared as an Indigenous, female athlete at the collegiate sports level. The official synopsis is below:
Annually, nearly 5,000 high school girls' basketball players earn a full-ride Division I scholarship. In 1992, only one was Native American: Blackfeet Nation’s Malia Kipp. Living in two worlds presented challenges and so did the pressure to succeed as a University of Montana Lady Griz. Through the support of her family and community, she carried the burden with resilience, grace and grit. Described by her Chief as “a warrior,” she blazed a trail – and heroic legacy – for other Native girls to follow." - Courtesy of familytheater.org
Malia Kipp's story
Malia Kipp was a Montana Lady Griz from 1992-1996. Kipp, from Browning, Montana and a member of the Blackfeet Tribe, was the only Native American girl to go on scholarship to play collegiately in 1992 out of approx. 5,000 high school girls nationwide.
Harrington, a former teammate of Kipp, emphasized the importance of Kipp's role with other Native American athletes and the challenges she faced leaving her home and assimilating to a different culture.
"I had no idea what she was going through," explained Harrington. "I had no idea what she was facing, the hurdles that she was, you know, jumping over. So even for me experiencing the film was like how special she was that she persevered with such grit."
Harrington explained Kipp faced many challenges and wanted to quit basketball at times, but she continued for other Native American high school athletes.
"She knew that she represented her tribe... [she said] 'I need to be able to do this. If I don't do this other might not think that they can."
"To set an example, to prove that something can be done and the power of that. In whatever it is in life. There's so many wonderful stories, and this story is one of those that I hope it opens people's eyes to the possibilities that lie within."
The reception of the film
It can be a whirlwind promoting a film I'm sure, but Harrington says the hard work is paying off thanks to the film's great reception.
"It's been just incredible to witness the response to Malia's story, to her journey," expressed Harrington."Also, it's been a whirlwind but I am so happy for her and the others."
"The response has been overwhelming, really. Hopefully, the film can start a conversation as well."
Harrington's seen the impact firsthand in the screenings.
"We did one screening, in a focus group in particular, and there was a Native American college student there. And she raised her hand after the film and she said 'I still feel that way.' She didn't play basketball, but she feels the same way of coming to a different culture, of leaving home, leaving her reservation, leaving her tribe. That still exists."
Native Ball: Legacy of a Trailblazer hits television sets nationwide this week. The nationwide premiere is tonight (Thursday, November 2) at 7:30pm. Harrington said the documentary is playing at almost 300 stations across 42 states with 900 air dates.
"It's covering 86% of the country," exclaimed Harrington.
In case you're in the cord-cutting generation, it's available on PBS.org and attached to the article below.
PBS will carry it on its website until the end of November.
The film has been honored at a number of film festivals already. Native Ball received the MINT award for "Best Made in Montana Film," and the "Programmers' Choice Award for Best Short" at the Cleveland International Film Festival among others.
Full interview found here.