Heartbreak Hill

New documentary to share life's adventures of two Navajo youths

By Shondiin Silversmith
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, July 19, 2012

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I t is not always easy to grow up on the Navajo Nation, a lot of today's youth are faced with numerous challenges that leave them questioning their futures.

In fact that is the emphasis of a new Native American documentary called "Up Heartbreak Hill." This is a growing up story based on two young Navajos from Navajo, N.M. and the journey they take to achieve their dreams.

"Up Heartbreak Hill," leads the viewers through an inspirational journey based on the daily lives of two high school seniors from Navajo Pine High School whose cultural background and surrounding could determine who they are in the future.

This film follows Thomas Martinez and Tamara Hardy throughout their senior year in 2009 as they overcome different challenges to keep their dreams of a brighter future alive.

Both teenagers go through challenges not every average teen faces.

"Sometimes not all of us are given the same opportunities," Hardy, 21, said about what she hopes the audience gets out of the film. "We don't have it easy." Hardy is Bitter Water born for Water Edge clan.

The documentary was directed by Erica Scharf from New York. "The film is really intimate and personal," she said. "It was really important to me that the film be as honest as possible."

Scharf said that the reason why she wanted to create a documentary like this was because she grew up in a suburban area in New York where the amount of Native American knowledge she was exposed to was basically written in history books.

"It was all very much in the context of the past," Scharf said about what she learned of Native American people and their communities. "I didn't really know anything about modern Native culture."

With the intention of gaining more knowledge about modern Native culture, Scharf went on a scouting trip across the Navajo Nation in search of an interesting story. She said the response was "overwhelming" when she announced to different communities that she would be out there in search of a story.


"I went to four or five different communities," Scharf said before she ended up in Navajo. "It was everything about Navajo, it was so beautiful. It was breathtaking."

Scharf met Thomas and Tamara through the scouting trip at a track meet in Gallup. She said after she interviewed them that she realized she wanted to tell their story.

"Thomas was really compelling and really willing to share his story. Tamara was very well spoken and intelligent," Scharf said about the stars of her documentary. "They were great kids."

Hardy said that it felt good being able to share her life story. The filming of "Up Heartbreak Hill" was done from August 2008 to May 2009.

Scharf said she spent six months out of the nine-month filming period on the Navajo Nation. "I loved being on the Navajo Nation, the community was really welcoming. It is an incredibly beautiful place."

"Both of these kids really felt the importance of being leaders in their community," Scharf said about the determination she saw in Thomas and Tamara throughout the filming process. "They took that to heart.

"Their story is definitely universal," she said. "It will give audiences a glimpse of contemporary Native life."

"Up Heartbreak Hill," is set to premiere as part of a PBS documentary series called Point of View (POV), the air date is set for New Mexico PBS on Thursday, July 26 at 9 p.m. MST.

Prior to the premiere there will be two free screenings of the movie in the local region.

The film will be screened at the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock on Sunday, July 25, at 7 p.m. It will also be shown on the same Sunday at the KiMo Theater in Albuquerque at 423 Central Avenue NW at 9 p.m.

For more information about "Up Heartbreak Hill" go online and visit www.upheartbreakhill.com.