Are you familiar with the story of Wilma Mankiller? She is an American legend who overcame rampant sexism and personal challenges to emerge as the Cherokee Nation’s first woman Principal Chief in 1985, and Gale Anne Hurd’s latest film tells the story of the journey Wilma took to create change, fight injustice and give a voice to the voiceless.
“I think her story is really important in light of what is going on in our country right now,” Hurd commented. “For two reasons really, the first being the divisive nature of politics. She was someone who reached across the aisle, and in fact the other aisle reached across to her, and proved that bipartisanship can succeed. That, in fact, it is the only way to ensure success. She was asked to run as Deputy Chief by Ross Swimmer, who was running for Principal Chief, and he was a very conservative Republican – and she was a very liberal Democrat. When she asked him why he was reaching out to her, he said, “because not only are you best person for the job, you get things done, and I work with people who have a proven track record of success, and I think we’ll work together well.” And they did. So I think that’s lesson one.
“The second is we are in a time when a lot of women were hoping to see Hillary Clinton elected the first woman President of the United States, and to know that a woman successfully navigated those political waters and became the Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation – I think it is the kind of story we need to hear. She fought against rampant sexism and many, many difficulties that she had to overcome in her life, and the last time she ran, she was re-elected with 83% of the vote.”
Mankiller received its initial funding through Vision Maker Media, which is the funding arm of The Corporation for Public Broadcasting and PBS, but it wasn’t enough to make the kind of documentary that director/producer Valerie Red-Horse Mohl and Hurd wanted to make. They wanted a sweeping documentary that told not only Wilma’s story, but also the context of her story within that of the Cherokee Nation. With the suggestion from a friend who had successfully crowdfunded a film, Hurd realized that Walking Dead fanbase would be interested in this type of story as well, and having been an executive producer on that series along with Fear the Walking Dead and Talking Dead – it all made sense.
“It’s essentially a story of a scrappy underdog, an everywoman, very much like the characters on ‘The Walking Dead’. Someone who starts out as an ordinary person who overcomes remarkable odds to succeed. And sure enough, not only did we successfully crowdfund, but we exceeded our target goal, and the cast and the crew of The Walking Dead really stepped up to help with the rewards,” Hurd explained. “We had cookies with Carol, which Melissa McBride volunteered. We had spaghetti with Hershel, Scott Wilson, who played the late Hershel Green, and shooting with Merle. As it turns out, Michael Rooker co-owns a gun range in the Los Angeles area. So there’s a little bit of everything from some actors who are still with us and actors who are no longer on the show but whose careers continue to thrive.”
Take a look at the trailer for Mankiller below.
The film is screening in Atlanta, Georgia on September 28, 2017 at 7pm (doors open at 6:30pm) at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum with a Q/A to follow with Executive Producer Gale Anne Hurd and Director/Producer Valerie Red-horse Mohl.
If you can’t make the screening, you can check MankillerDoc.com for additional events and screening information! And if you do attend the screening – let us know your thoughts in the comment section below – we’d love to here what you thought! And be sure to check out Women’s Business Daily early next week for a feature on Gale Anne Hurd!