Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

August 30, 2011

The story of Bell

A new movie will highlight a waterline project spurred by the late former Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Wilma Mankiller.

TAHLEQUAH — Water is essential to all forms of life. The planet is two-thirds water, and the human body contains 55 to 78 percent water.

Imagine, then, living in a community in the 1980s with no inside running water – no faucets, no showers, no toilets.

This was the reality for the 400 members of the Bell community, in Adair County, until they joined together to change their fate.

The late Wilma Mankiller, former principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, and her husband, Charlie Soap, believe people who come together can overcome any obstacle. And with that in mind, they rallied the people of Bell and installed a waterline, which drew national attention.

The project has since become the subject of a feature film, “The Cherokee Word for Water,” which is currently being cast and will be filmed on-site in September.

Paul Heller, producer of the Academy Award-winning “My Left Foot,” and cinematographer Chuck Minsky of “Pretty Woman” and “The Producers,” have joined with Soap to create the film, which demonstrates the traditional Native values of reciprocity and interdependence in rebuilding a community.

“Ever since the Bell Water Project happened, Kristina Kiehl, one of Wilma’s closest friends, wanted to tell the story,” said Heller. “She’s been trying for a number of years to find a way to tell that story. I’m the one who had made movies before; they call me the ‘adult adviser,’ so that’s how I came to be involved.”

Heller believes the story will be moving to a wide audience.

“It’s such a great story,” said Heller. “Wilma was a great woman, and Charlie is an amazing man. All of us got caught up in the dream of telling this story, and now it’s happening.”

In video clips made shortly after the Bell project was complete, both Soap and Mankiller talk about how the spirit of native communities can be used for the greater good.

“I feel that not just Cherokee people, but poor people in general, have a much greater capacity for leadership and for solving their own problems than they’re given credit for,” said Mankiller in one of the clips. “I just felt that given the chance, the people in the Bell community could control their own future.”

Soap said the residents of Bell relied upon each other, and found strength in numbers.

“It might not look like it to people coming into our communities, with the poor housing and all this stuff, but behind the scenes, we help each other,” said Soap. “We don’t go out and flaunt it; we don’t publicize it, but it’s there, it’s our way of life.”

Claudette Silver, co-producer, and Heller, stressed the film is not a documentary, but a feature film.

“It’s not a literal re-enactment, but a story based on the events,” said Heller. “Aside from a few white faces, the whole push and direction of the project is inherently native, including the cast, crew and those working behind the scenes.”

The movie is being filmed on location in Bell, and is set to begin Sept. 26. Filming will continue for four weeks.

“And it will be a grueling schedule,” said Heller. “We’ll work six days per week for four weeks.”

Silver said funding for the project was surprising, in that it came from so many areas.

“We had a vast number of resources, many of whom knew Wilma,” said Silver. “We had help from not only the Cherokee Nation, but the Creeks, Choctaws and Chickasaws, along with several other tribes. Many foundations, including the Ford Foundation, came in to help make this possible.”

Heller said they also received support from the Oklahoma Film Commission.

“And the tax rebate program is what finally helped pull it all together,” said Heller.

Heller and Silver said they have employed approximately 20 mentees of Native American descent, who are being paid and gain valuable experience working on the film.

“We’re using them in all aspects of the film,” said Heller. “From camera work, to lighting, to publicity to sound and hair and makeup. It’s a marvelous experience for young people and we’re paying them, albeit not much, but the experience is priceless.”

Silver said Oklahoma has a database for the film industry, and once the mentees complete the project, they qualify to post resumes for future work.

Andrea Walkingstick, 22, joined the team early on, and serves as an office intern.

“It’s really exciting,” said Walkingstick. “I want to go to school to be a script writer, and this will help. It’s really been a lot of fun working with these people.”

Silver said they put out a casting call Friday for the roles of Felicia and Gina Olaya, Wilma’s daughters, and by Saturday morning, they had 40 applicants.

A second, open casting call is set for this evening at 7 p.m., for actors ages 20-60. Officials will be casting principal roles, supporting roles, featured extras and extras, and all body types and looks are requested.

Those interested in participating should bring a monologue of choice to 227 N. Water St. at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 30. The film is an American Indian/tribal preference Screen Actors Guild production.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • ts honor flight 1.tif Flight of honor

    World War II veteran Charles Harra flew missions for the Army Air Corps, and if you ask him which flight was his most memorable, he’ll say it was his 35th mission.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Man charged after leading authorities on wild chase

    Prosecutors have formally charged a man who allegedly led authorities on a wild high-speed pursuit across Cherokee County in late March.

    April 17, 2014

  • Sex offender bonds out after failing to register

    A Cherokee County man is out on bond after being arrested last week for failing to register as a sex offender.

    April 17, 2014

  • jn radiator shop.jpg ‘Greenbelt’ progressing

    Crews this week began to demolish an abandoned radiator shop at the corner of South Street and Guinn Avenue.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • ts slut walk.tif SlutWalk shines spotlight on crime

    “Two, four, six, eight, stop the violence, stop the rape; slut, slut, ho, ho, yes means yes and no means no!”
    This was the battle cry across the campus of Northeastern State University, as the student branch of the American Association of University Women held its third annual SlutWalk Wednesday.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • SR-TonsOffTahl-A.jpg Tribes, city, NSU launch Tons Off Tahlequah campaign

    When studies are conducted about whether Americans are living healthy lifestyles, Oklahoma often ranks poorly among the states.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • ts-Trail-show-1.jpg Jackson takes prize

    Cherokee Heritage Center Museum Curator Mickel Yantz kicked off his 10th anniversary at the venue with the opening of the 43rd annual Trail of Tears Art Show this past Friday.
    “The Trail of Tears show was my first exhibit opening when I arrived 10 years ago,” said Yantz. “Since that time, the show has changed so dramatically; we’ve added so many new artists, and the art work has excelled over time. It’s like Christmas for me.”
    Yantz said he was exceptionally pleased with the opening reception.
    “We had a fantastic turnout,” said Yantz. “We had a lot of fun and sold some artwork, which is great for opening night.”
    The exhibit is on display at the Cherokee Heritage Center through May 26. This year’s show features 130 pieces of art spanning eight different categories, including basketry, graphics, jewelry, miniature, painting, pottery and sculpture.

    April 16, 2014 2 Photos

  • churchguy.jpg Some NSU students find Church of Monett offensive

    They turn heads every time they show up on campus, and some students at Northeastern State University are offended by their presence.
    The Church of Monett, Mo., has made periodic trips to Tahlequah to stage quiet demonstrations in public campus spaces in recent years. They carry signs that read, “Wives, Obey your Husbands,”; “To be Married to the divorced is Adultery”; and “Don’t be deceived: fornicators homosexuals idolaters adulterers thieves drunkards - shall not inherit God’s Kingdom.”

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Teen sent to hospital after being struck by tractor-trailer

    An 18-year-old Tahlequah man was struck by a tractor-trailer early Tuesday morning on the State Highway 51 bypass near Mimosa Lane.
    Tahlequah Police Capt. Tom Jones said officers responded to the scene at about 5:40 a.m., when Sage Sohns was found injured and lying in the road. A medical helicopter responded to the scene to transport Sohns to a Tulsa hospital, where he was being treated for a closed-head injury, police said.

    April 16, 2014

  • TPS board hears architect presentations for cafeteria

    Members of the Tahlequah Public Schools Board of Education heard from four architectural firms seeking a contract for construction at Cherokee Elementary School.
    TPS plans to build a cafeteria-auditorium and a music room with a stage, which may also serve as a safe room during storms.

    April 16, 2014

Poll

What to you think of a state Legislature proposal to forbid cities from raising the minimum wage? Choose the closest to your opinion.

The federal government should set the minimum wage across the board.
States should be allowed to raise their minimum wages, but not cities.
Both states and cities should be allowed to raise their minimum wages.
Cities should be allowed to raise their mimum wages, but not states.
There should be no minimum wage at all.
Undecided.
     View Results
Tahlequah Daily Press Twitter
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Obama Hopeful on Ukraine, Will Watch Russians Flamingo Frenzy Ahead of Zoo Construction Crew Criticized Over Handling of Ferry Disaster Agreement Reached to Calm Ukraine Tensions Raw: Pope Francis Performs Pre-easter Ritual Raw: Bulgarian Monastery Dyes 5000 Easter Eggs Diplomats Reach Deal to Ease Tensions in Ukraine U.S. Sending Nonlethal Aid to Ukraine Military Holder: Americans Stand With KC Mourners Obama Greets Wounded Warriors Malaysia Plane: Ocean Floor Images 'Very Clear' Sparks Fly With Derulo and Jordin on New Album Franco Leads Star-studded Broadway Cast Raw: Two Lucky Kids Get Ride in Popemobile Boston Bombing Survivors One Year Later Sister of Slain MIT Officer Reflects on Bombing
Stocks