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The Daily Wildcat


    UA grad’s new film ‘Reagan’ to premiere at Toronto’s imagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival


    (Courtesy Christopher Cegielski) A promotional still from the movie Reagan.

    A sad truth impacting society today is the tragic nature of many foster homes, with young women in these homes often turning to prostitution because they see it as their only means of escape. UA alum Christopher Nataanii Cegielski tackles this issue in his new short film, “Reagan.”

    “What we wanted to show is that this thing happens all the time; it’s very prevalent in today’s society,” Cegielski said. “We wanted people to understand that this is a problem and we wanted to get a conversation started.”

    Cegielski directed “Reagan” through a fellowship with an artist development program called Film Independent. Cegielski participated in Project Involve, a program through Film Independent that brings together artists with various talents.

    “I really liked the intentions of this film and what the script was doing, and I guess from a technical standpoint, it was far different from anything I had previously done, so artistically it would break me out of my comfort zone,” Cegielski said.

    RELATED: Local industry keeps Tucson film community alive

    Cegielski graduated from the UA’s film program in 2014 and now lives and works in Los Angeles. He has received widespread recognition for his senior thesis firm, “Bloodlines” which he wrote and directed while at the UA. The short film went on to screen at various film festivals.

    “’Bloodlines’ opened up a lot of doors for me,” Cegielski said. “It allowed me to get into the festival circuit and allowed me to meet, travel and connect with people, which helped me build my network and grow my ideas artistically. It showed that I wanted to take filmmaking seriously, and that I just wanted to keep on telling stories.”

    “Reagan” will premiere Sunday Oct. 23 at the imagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival in Toronto, the largest Indigenous film festival in the world. “Bloodlines” also screened at this festival, and the festival aims to highlight the works of indigenous filmmakers.

    Cegielski recalled the experience of attending the festival when “Bloodlines” premiered.

    “They did a great job at creating an atmosphere where you felt proud of your work and you got to see that there are other artists just like you out there,” Cegielski said. “It was probably the best experience I could have had as a young filmmaker.”

    RELATED: UA alums screen their work at Bisbee Film Fest to bring social issues to light

    Although Cegielski graduated from film school with a widely acclaimed film to show for it, there are still things he wishes he knew back when he was in school.

    “Don’t take any opportunity that you have for granted,” Cegielski said. “Take every opportunity you have and do it the best that you can. College is a golden opportunity to make something great. You have to try to figure out what kind of artist you want to be and what you want your work to say about you.”

    “Reagan” and “Bloodlines” differ vastly in subject matter. While one is about foster homes and prostitution, the other is about two young Native American brothers who set out to kill a wolf in order to earn the respect of their father.

    Cegielski is of Navajo descent, which qualified “Reagan” to still screen at imagineNATIVE, despite the fact that the film has a primarily black cast.

    Cegielski grew up in Flagstaff, which he said shielded him from the world’s biases until he came to college.

    “I grew up with friends of all different ethnicities and traditions so I learned to treat everyone equally and I didn’t really experience anything other than that until I got to college,” Cegielski said. “I didn’t really feel any prejudice or discrimination or really feel like people think of each other differently until that point.”

    Cegielski is optimistic for the future — he has some projects currently in development — but he has also done some production assistant and assistant camera work for various projects since graduating from college.

    “Basically, I do anything that will allow me to pay the bills and continue my work so I can grow as an artist,” Cegielski said.

    For a filmmaker like Cegielski, the process for making each film is different because each one has a different story to tell. However, certain elements are always there when he makes a film.

    “As a filmmaker, you always want people to watch your films, and like them, for lack of a better term,” Cegielski said. “You want people to be entertained and go with you on whatever journey you are taking. I want people to watch one of my films and then take that journey with me.”

    Cegielski enjoys both writing and directing for the different opportunities they provide, and he especially enjoys the collaborative aspect that comes with filmmaking.

    “I really like the personal connection of working with people and discussing how you want to tell a story,” Cegielski said. “The best part, though, is watching it when it’s finished with the people you made it with, and seeing it all come together.”

    RELATED: Local industry keeps Tucson film community alive

    Follow Alec Kuehnle on Twitter.

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