Young Lakota Premieres on Independent Lens on Monday, November 25, 2013, During Native American Heritage Month

A Battle for Reproductive Rights on the Reservation Sparks the Political Awakening of a Young Lakota Woman

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(San Francisco, CA) — Young Lakota follows the emotional journey of Sunny Clifford, a young Lakota woman who returns to the Pine Ridge Reservation with a dream to change the world around her. Her political awakening begins when the tribe’s first female president, Cecelia Fire Thunder, defies a South Dakota law banning abortion by threatening to build a women’s clinic on the reservation. Embroiled in a controversial political season that hinges on reproductive rights and tribal sovereignty, Sunny, her twin sister Serena, and their neighbor Brandon are drawn into a political firestorm that changes the course of their lives. Directed and produced by Marion Lipschutz and Rose Rosenblatt, Young Lakota premieres during Native American Heritage Month on Independent Lens on Monday, November 25, 2013, 10:00 to 11:00pm ET on PBS (check local listings). 

Sunny Clifford, just back on the reservation after two years away at college, works as a clerk at the Kyle grocery store, living with her twin sister, Serena. The twins — who have both dropped out of college — dream of finding a way to help make things better on the reservation, but they don't really know where to start. Their idealism is shared by Brandon Ferguson, who — like Serena — has young children. 

All three look up to Cecelia Fire Thunder, the first female president of their tribe, who challenges a South Dakota law criminalizing abortion, with no exceptions for rape or incest. The tribe is soon drawn into the divisive world of “abortion politics,” and Fire Thunder is impeached, setting off a chain reaction in the lives of Sunny, Serena, and Brandon. A tumultuous tribal election to replace Fire Thunder and a state vote that defeats the abortion ban opens a political rift between the friends. Ultimately it is the complex interplay of personal choice, cultural, economic and political circumstance that will define who they are and what kind of adults they will become. 

Visit the Young Lakota companion website ( which features information about the film, including an interview with the filmmaker and links and resources pertaining to the film’s subject matter. The site also features a Talkback section for viewers to share their ideas and opinions, preview clips of the film and more. 

About the Filmmakers

Marion Lipschutz (Co-Director/Producer) and Rose Rosenblatt (Co-Director/Producer) formed Incite Pictures and Cine Qua Non, a not-for-profit production company, after they met while working on The Human Language, a series about linguistics. Together they co-directed the award-winning The Education of Shelby Knox (POV 2005), which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival (2005). They produced and directed Live Free Or Die (POV 2000), Fatherhood USA, a 1998 PBS miniseries exploring contemporary fatherhood, and The Abortion Pill (PBS 1997). Lipschutz and Rosenblatt also produced four shows in a series about Charity Hospital in New Orleans, and The Trenchcoat Gang for truTV, about the two most successful bank robbers in U.S. history. 

Their films have won numerous awards including Best Cinematography at the Sundance Film Festival, the Audience Award at SXSW, the Emerging Picture Award at the Full Frame Film Festival, the Jury Prize for Best Documentary at the Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Best Documentary Feature at the Sonoma Festival, Best Documentary at the Smithsonian Native Cinema Arts Festival, Best Documentary at Cine Las Americas, and Best Documentary at Imagine Native Film Festival. They have also been awarded the Full Frame Women in Leadership Award, the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award, and a nomination for the British Index on Censorship’s Freedom of Expression Award. Though their topics have been specific to the United States, they have durable international appeal, showing in hundreds of festivals, including the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, Hot Docs, the Stockholm International Film Festival, the Seoul International Film Festival and the Festival de Rio de Janeiro. For further information, go to 

Heather Rae (Executive Producer), a Cherokee filmmaker who has worked as a producer and executive for more than twenty years, was recently named one of Variety’s “Ten Producers To Watch.” She produced Frozen River, which was nominated for two Academy Awards, won two Gotham Awards and was nominated for seven Spirit Awards. She produced Ibid, which premiered at South By Southwest and Munich International; The Dry Land; and Trudell, which premiered at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival and won numerous awards including a Special Jury Prize from the Seattle Film Festival. Rae produced and directed First Circle, a documentary about the foster care system, which premiered at the 2010 Woodstock International Film Festival and was acquired by Showtime. For six years Rae ran the Native Program at the Sundance Institute and was a programmer for the Sundance Film Festival. She now sits on the Board of Trustees. 

Producers / Directors: Marion Lipschutz & Rose Rosenblatt
Executive Producer: Heather Rae
Writer: Marion Lipschutz
Director of Photography: Gary Keith Griffin
Sound: Susan Bryant
Editors: Rose Rosenblatt, Jeremy Stulberg & Diego Siranga
Composer: Garth Stevenson 

About Independent Lens
Independent Lens is an Emmy® Award-winning weekly series airing on PBS. The acclaimed anthology series features documentaries united by the creative freedom, artistic achievement, and unflinching visions of independent filmmakers. Presented by Independent Television Service (ITVS), the series is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a private corporation funded by the American people, with additional funding from PBS and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The senior series producer is Lois Vossen. More information at Join Independent Lens on Facebook at

Posted on September 16, 2013