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A film by Katja Esson
US, 2011, 75 minutes, Color, DVD, English, Subtitled
Order No. W121062
Renowned for their balance and skill, six generations of Mohawk men have been leaving their families behind on the reservation to travel to New York City, to work on some of the biggest construction jobs in the world. Jerry McDonald Thundercloud and his colleague Sky shuttle between the hard drinking Brooklyn lodging houses they call home during the week and their rural reservation, a gruelling drive six hours north, where a family weekend awaits. Their wives are only too familiar with the sacrifices that their jobs have upon family life. While the men are away working, the women often struggle to keep their children away from the illegal temptations of this economically deprived area. Through archival documents and interviews, Academy Award®-nominated director Katja Esson (FERRY TALES, LATCHING ON) explores the colorful and at times tragic history of the Mohawk skywalkers, bringing us a nuanced portrait of modern Native American life and a visually stunning story of double lives.


  • ReFrame Peterborough International Film Festival
  • Salem Film Festival
  • Arlington International Film Festival
  • Margaret Mead Film Festival, New York
  • Big Sky Documentary Festival, Missoula
  • Hot Springs Film Festival
  • Salem Film Festival * Nomination EDA Award
  • One World Film Festival, Prague
  • Environmental Film Festival, Smithsonian Washington DC
  • Shanghai Television and Film Festival * Magnolia Award Nomination for ‘Best Documentary, Best Director, Best Camera’
  • Brooklyn Film Festival

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    “Paints a fine portrait of the courage and conflicts of both the men who travel far from home to build skyscrapers in the bustling city, and of their families back on the Reservation who deal with their absences. This is a poignant and subtle film that shines a tender light upon contemporary Akwesasne Mohawk life…”
    Peter M. Whiteley, Ph.D.
    Curator of North American Ethnology, American Museum of Natural History

    "Insightful, retrospective, and balanced. A strong account of the Mohawk who SKYWALK and the personal toll on their family and community. Highly recommended."
    -Michael Smith (Sioux)
    Founder/Director American Indian Film Festival

    "Skydancer is a poignant film that captures the grit, pride, and sacrifice associated with a profession that has become a time-honored tradition for many Iroquois. … By revealing, in full context, the lives of those who have pursued this work, and in the process built America, the filmmakers have revealed the full skill and courage of Mohawk ironworkers."
    Tim Johnson (Mohwak), Assoc. Director
    National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution

    Highly Recommended... a harrowing documentary about Native American Iron Workers who tempt fate every time a high rise is being built in New York City... The film does a superb job of telling the history of Mohawk stereotypes when America was being founded…”
    Educational Media Reviews Online

    "3 stars! Esson captures the interesting lives of these Mohawk skywalkers."
    Video Librarian

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    Skydancer is included in the following Special Collections.
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WMM offers film collections on a variety of specific subject areas, including the collections VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN: Ending the Silence, BODY IMAGE, and AFRICAN-AMERICAN: Celebrate the Lives of African-American Women.

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Women Make Movies is a multicultural, multiracial, non-profit media arts organization which facilitiates the production, promotion, distribution, and exhibition of independent films and videotapes by and about women. contact us