Sun Kissed

Oct 31st, 2013 | By | Category: 25-2: Tribal and Behavioral Health, Media Reviews

SUN KISSEDDirected by Maya Stark and Adi Lavy
Bullfrog Films (2012)
85 minutes (54 minutes, abridged)

Review by Bradley Shreve

In this powerful documentary film, directors Maya Stark and Adi Lavy investigate how and why a rare genetic disorder known as xeroderma pigmentosum (XP) occurs at a disproportionate rate among the Diné. Those diagnosed with XP are unable to withstand direct sunlight and must spend their lives sheltered in darkness. It is a degenerative disease that results in neurological impairment and ultimately death before age 20. In the wider population, XP occurs at a rate of 1 per 1,000,000, but in Navajoland its incidence is closer to 1 per 30,000.

The film focuses on one couple, Dorey and Yolanda Nez, and their two children—both of whom have XP. We are taken into their home to witness the agony that this disease has wrought and the love that Dorey and Yolanda give to their dying daughter. We are left wondering as the parents struggle to understand why their children have been inflicted with this horrible disorder.

For three years, Dorey and Yolanda travel about the Southwest in search of answers. Their odyssey takes them back in time to 1864, when the Diné were forcibly uprooted from their homeland and marched 500 miles to an internment camp at Bosque Redondo in eastern New Mexico. But how could this episode, known as the Long Walk, cause XP nearly 150 years later? The film concludes in Shiprock, New Mexico, where on one dark night, the secret is revealed.

Sun Kissed is not for the faint of heart. It is a soul-rattling film that will elicit a cascade of emotions. But it is ultimately one of the most important historical documentaries of the year and has been nominated for numerous awards. The feature- length film clocks in at 85 minutes, but fortunately for educators the directors have included an abridged version of 54 minutes. Do not miss this one.

Bradley Shreve, Ph.D., is managing editor of TCJ.

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