directed by Noel Bass
USA / 2021 / 40 mins
Followed by an important conversation with members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe
The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation (in South Dakota) declares a State of Emergency when youth suicide rates reach the highest levels in the country. A respected female elder leads the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s only suicide prevention team, while mentoring a group of suicide-survivor teenagers to find their voice, encouraging them to bring hope and awareness to the reservation.
Director Noel Bass is a mixed race Latino American artist, son of an immigrant with Indigenous roots. Noel spent 15 years in Los Angeles as a professional photographer before turning toward documentary filmmaking.
Since 2012, Noel has been active in learning about the modern day struggles of youth suicide on The Pine Ridge Reservation, living on the reservation while documenting the incredible first responders during the declared State of Emergency. Throughout the years, Noel has formed strong familial relationships with the leaders fighting the suicide crisis and began documenting their heroic efforts in 2015. The Bears on Pine Ridge is Noel’s debut effort as a filmmaker.
This documentary is something very important to me. Many of the people in this film are family. This film is a collaboration effort with these individuals, who have been hoping to spread awareness about the youth suicide crisis for over a decade. This project provides an intimate on-the-ground perspective into their efforts and struggles with suicide prevention over the years, in a place with perhaps the most challenging living conditions in the US. The Pine Ridge Reservation is a community that has persevered through unbelievable challenges, because of leaders like the ones you will meet in this documentary. We bring to light the hope and spirit of these heroic individuals, telling the story from their POV. I hope this film delivers the urgency of the situation, while also showcasing the amazing strength, positivity, and resilience within the community, that has inspired me for years. This is a story of hope and resilience.