Filmmaker Hugo Perez Recounts Unlikely Collaboration

Posted on October 30, 2009

SUMMER SUN WINTER MOON, airing in November on public television, tells the story of the unlikely collaboration between a Blackfeet poet and an unconventional classical composer, which resulted in a provocative symphony about the Lewis and Clark expedition from the perspective of American Indians today. Filmmaker Hugo Perez recounts the adventurous story of how the collaboration occurred and how he and composer Rob Kapilow were accidentally mistaken as federal agents.

Stanley and Livingston. Holmes and Watson. Calvin and Hobbes. Who can forget the first time they encountered these dynamic duos? As the director of SUMMER SUN WINTER MOON, I had the fortune to be present for the first fateful meeting of Rob Kapilow and Darrell Kipp––the subjects of my documentary. I had begun my film journey following the story of maverick (have we rehabilitated that term yet?) composer Rob Kapilow on his quest to compose a symphony inspired by the Lewis and Clark expedition. Where else could this lead us but to the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Commission Convention in Great Falls, Montana where a certain Blackfeet writer and educator named Darrell Kipp was the keynote speaker? 

I have to admit that the groggy encounter between Darrell and Rob by the indoor pool at the Best Western––where we were all staying––lacked a certain electricity. However, it ended with an invitation from Darrell to come and visit him on the Blackfeet reservation. And we did come back to Montana and had a wonderful visit with Darrell at the Nizipuhwasin Blackfeet Language Immersion School.

That second trip to Montana resulted in a murky understanding that Darrell would collaborate with Rob on a libretto for his symphony and another invitation for us to visit him at his cabin in St. Mary’s, Montana on the Blackfeet Reservation. Darrell was expecting us but had neglected to email his exact address in St. Mary’s. Although, he kept saying that anyone we asked would be able to point us in the right direction. Rob and I flew back to Great Falls, and made the scenic drive up to the edge of Glacier National Park to the village of St.Mary’s and proceeded to ask anyone we could pull over where Darrell Kipp lived. No one seemed to know, and everyone refused to acknowledge that anyone named Darrell Kipp even existed. 

Eventually we stopped in at a diner, and one of the waitresses took pity on us and revealed how to find Darrell’s cabin just a half-mile down the road. We rolled into the driveway of the cabin, walked up to the porch and knocked on the front door. A loud groaning sound could be heard inside, and few moments later Darrell Kipp opened the door in his boxers. That moment was truly where it all began, the beginning of a great collaboration and a great friendship which plays out in SUMMER SUN WINTER MOON. Darrell told us later that he had been alerted to our presence earlier by neighbors concerned that some men who looked like federal agents were asking how to find him. 

On that trip we spent four days sitting with Darrell on his porch and visiting with his friends and learning about his family history and Blackfeet history. Rob and I, neophytes from the East Coast, realized how little we knew or understood about American Indian culture, and the seeds for what would become the libretto for Rob’s symphony were planted. I guess the lesson to be learned is that sometimes you have to make the extra effort to find who you are looking for even when people think you are federal agents and won’t tell you how to find the person you are looking for. 

- Hugo Perez Filmmaker, SUMMER SUN WINTER MOON


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