• Still from Up Heartbreak Hill

    Still from Up Heartbreak Hill

The Film

Up Heartbreak Hill chronicles the lives of Thomas, Tamara and Gabby — three Native American teenagers in Navajo, New Mexico — as they navigate their senior year at a reservation high school. As graduation nears, they must decide whether to stay in their community — a place inextricably woven into the fiber of their being — or leave in pursuit of opportunities elsewhere. Largely isolated from mainstream America, they hesitate to separate from their families and traditions, rooted to home in equal parts by love, obligation, and fear. Tribal elders urge members of the younger generation to leave — to acquire and education or learn a trade — and return home with the skills to help their people. But, with an unemployment rate near 58 percent and a per capita income under $4,600, Navajo offers few prospects.

As the three consider their options it becomes apparent how severely poverty has handicapped them. Drugs, alcohol abuse, and teen pregnancy have affected Thomas, Tamara, and Gabby in profound and personal ways. Each bears amazing strength and promise — but all are products of their environment, and it is the same community that has set before them so many challenges that now asks them to become the leaders who will reshape the Navajo Nation.

The Filmmakers

  1. Erica ScharfProducer/Director
  2. Christina KingProducer