In native Navajo land, there sits an ancient mountain overlooking the current generation of Navajo people. This sacred mountain shares in a harmonious relationship with the Navajo people; they care for it, and it prevents harm from falling upon them. But, it’s being drilled deep into its heart. And the coal mining industry is to blame, as the mountain holds one of the largest untapped coal reserves in the US.
However, this family and entire community rely on the coal industry as the sole economic pillar holding the foundation of their whole lives. This ironic relationship is the overlooking theme of a truth existing in our country. One community must survive in a parasitic relationship as the coal industry holds onto the heart of stolen land.
Following a father, Lawrence, and his daughter, Caitlyn, this riveting story unfolds slowly and methodically as we learn of the obstacles one broken family has endured. Spirituality pours from the screen as Lawrence’s unwavering prayers to the mountain sometimes seem unanswered. His long rituals of reverence are slow and meaningful scenes that would leave the documentary empty. Not to mention, the monologues of his past and struggles with parenting a daughter as well as he can, are captured so honestly, you’ll feel like you’re having a one on one. There are moments when you can’t help but just want to hug him and tell him he’s doing the best he can.
“One community must survive in a parasitic relationship as the coal industry holds onto the heart of stolen land…”
Caitlyn spared her words, but every second she graced the screen alone for an interview, it seems like you’re peeking directly into her heart. Her tears were light and never left room to feel sorry for herself. She’s gone through more than anyone her age ever could and continued her path to becoming a genuinely whole person.
Hunter Baker and Jordan Fein struck gold in their execution of keeping both Caitlyn and Lawrence purely themselves. Not only was this shot beautifully against the backdrop of the scenic mountain, but they left the mountain undisturbed in our interpretation and left in solely in the words of Lawrence. Doing this, the mountain became an ominous character in the story, all on its own. A daunting task, yes, but masterfully pulled off.
This is a story of resilience and perseverance, but ultimately a story of pain and loss of identity. It’s haunting and powerful, and a simply painful story.
The Blessing (2018) Directed by Hunter Baker, Jordan Fein.
8 out of 10