The Sundance Native Lab Fellowship never ceases to introduce talented and creative Indigenous filmmakers with bright futures ahead, the latest being Kymon Greyhorse (Navajo), whose directorial debut is set to premiere later this month! “Can I Love You” is a short film about a Navajo woman who faces the decision to step away from her family and her role as a mother figure after receiving an acceptance letter to college. The story is inspired by the experiences of Greyhorse’s own mother, with much of their family having contributed their own thoughts and feelings to the writing process. We sat down to speak with the up-and-coming director to learn more about their journey, as well as what it’s in store for their debut.
Greyhorse grew up surrounded by movies, remembering how his father would take him to Hollywood Video or Blockbuster to pick out films to watch. He always gravitated towards stylistic movies, genres such as horror or thrillers, and found that no matter what he was feeling, he could go to a film for comfort. When they got their first phone, Greyhorse would gather their friends and family to make short movies together, basing them off the ones they watched and held so dearly.
After graduating from the University of New Mexico in May, Greyhorse took his first big step into the industry when they applied to the Sundance Native Filmmakers Lab, although it was by no means a straight road: “I literally applied the day it was due…I didn’t think I was going to get in, but that was sort of my first stepping stone in life. I just remember pouring my heart out onto the application and thankfully got in.”
After getting in, Greyhorse spent two weeks in Santa Fe for the fellowship and found the time spent there to be extremely rewarding: “It was just a great experience to be surrounded by other Native filmmakers and mentors, all at different stages of their lives. It really allowed me to feel appreciated and know that my voice and what I have to say in my storytelling is valid and matters.”
For his directorial debut, Greyhorse drew from family experiences and situations that can easily be related to the Indigenous community. They began the writing process in October of 2021, speaking with their family about how they viewed the situation of his own mother leaving home to pursue an education. “There’s always two sides to every story, and this film is from the perspective of my mom and why she did what she did. My auntie and my uncles have different perspectives of feeling abandoned, and a lot of that came up during our conversations.”
After they completed the script, Gryehorse went through the casting process and ran into several roadblocks before filming began. Most notably was when several members of their team suddenly dropped from the project, and Greyhorse had to scramble and find a friend who could fill those positions. They also battled a lot of self-doubt and pressure prior to filming and felt discouraged to keep going. After going through a cold read of the script with their cast, however, others’ ability to relate to the story and its themes gave them the push and final bit of encouragement needed to continue on.
This was the largest scale project that he had worked on at that point, though he was still able to achieve great feats, such as shooting the entire 16-page script in a matter of three days: “Each of those three days was a grueling 10 hours. This was a very complicated and technical script. Sometimes, I feel like I’m a tyrant on set, but everyone around me says I’m not. I’m very specific when it comes to composition, set design, lighting, and camera movements, and you’ll see that in the film.”
After filming wrapped up in March, Greyhorse spent 21 weeks editing the footage and even scored the film themselves. They learned about the specific trials and tribulations that production brings and how at times, he had to be his own cheerleader. Though there were also moments when experienced actors and team members were impressed at his efficiency and method, despite being a newcomer, which helped him throughout the process.
In the end, Greyhorse left us with a sentiment that he hopes those who see his film can also walk away with: “Sometimes I feel like my dreams are too big when it comes to the film world and what I want to do with my life, but my mom is living proof that no dream is too big, and that is what this film is about.”
“Can I Love You” will be premiering on Saturday, October 22nd, as part of the Santa Fe International Film Festival at 9 PM MST. There will also be a second showing of the film the following day, October 23rd, and 7:30 PM. You can learn more about the event and purchase tickets here. You can also follow Kymon and their film on Instagram at @cilyfilm and @kymongreyhorse.