Skydancer Film to Preview in Akwesasne

May 23, 2011

Honoring Mohawk Ironworkers

The Brooklyn Bridge, the Empire State Building, the World Trade Center: for more than 120 years, Mohawk ironworkers have raised America’s modern cityscapes. They are called “sky walkers” because they walk fearlessly atop steel beams just a foot wide, high above the city. Who are these Mohawk sky walkers? What is their secret for overcoming fear? Has 'sky walking' replaced an ancient rite of passage? Or is it the pure need to adapt in order to survive? And what is their life really like, when every Friday at quitting time, they jump in their cars and make the eight-hour drive up north to their families on the reservation?

Skydancer, a film by Katja Esson, is a feature-length documentary about work, masculinity, and what it means to be Native American in the 21st century. The film takes us into the breathtaking and dangerous world of Mohawk “Sky walkers.” For six generations, these specialized ironworkers have raised America’s cityscapes from The Brooklyn Bridge to the World Trade Center and the new Yankee Stadium, building highways over boroughs, and weaving carpets of steel across rivers. They are famous for being able to walk—and work—on steel beams just a foot wide, at spectacular heights above the city. Are Native Americans somehow specially gifted with this ability?

The film follows two legendary sky walkers, now in their forties, over what turns out to be a pivotal year in their lives, experiencing the real complexities of their lives. From the fragile hierarchy atop high steel in New York City to life “On the Rez” atop New York State on the Canadian border, the film gives a fresh perspective on Native Americans as working Americans. Jerry Mc Donald Thundercloud and Sky Fox struggle with the same issues as other blue-collar men today. But they have “extra twists”— the unique challenges and gifts of being Mohawk today, and the special stresses of working on the high steel. Over the course of filming, Jerry and Sky both separately end up taking the radical step of quitting ironworking, stepping out into the unknown and courting new risks, leaving their lives up in the air in a whole new sense.

The documentary will preview at the Senior’s Center in Akwesasne at 1:00 pm on Thursday, May 26, 2011. Director Katja Essen was nominated for an Academy Award®for her film Ferry Tales. Skydancer was accepted to the Brooklyn Film Festival in New York City and will premiere there in June.

For more information contact David T. Stadddon, Director of Public Information at 518-358-2272 ext. 286.