Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby, Graham Greene and Gil Birmingham
at the premiere of Te Ata. (photo courtesy Chickasaw Nation
/ Jacquelyn Sparks)
The worlds of Hollywood and the Chickasaw blended on September
13, when Chickasaw Nation Productions movie Te Ata premiered.
Showing at the Art Deco-styled Warren Theater in Moore, Okla.,
over six screens were used to accommodate over 700 invited guests.
Te Ata Premiere at the Warren Marquis - Photo: Brian DaffronThe
Te Ata Premiere at the Warren Marquis - Photo: Brian Daffron
Ata Cast and Chickasaw elected officials at the movie premiere.
- Photo: Brian Daffron
Present at the premiere were most of the main actors
from the movie: Graham Greene, Gil Birmingham, Cindy Pickett, Mackenzie
Astin and Brigid Brannagh. Other notables in attendance included
Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby, as well as Oklahoma elected
officials such as Gov. Mary Fallin and former Gov. Frank Keating.
The movie centers on the life of Chickasaw Nation
tribal member Mary Frances Te Ata Thompson Fisher, played
by Qorianka Kilcher. In the 1920s, after training in
theaterand being the first Native American student to enrollat
the Oklahoma College for Women, she found success on Broadway. However,
she found no personal fulfillment. After drawing upon her Chickasaw
roots, she gained worldwide fame as a traditional storyteller, and
one of her biggest fans was First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.
Greenes role in the film is Chickasaw Nation
Governor Douglas H. Johnston, Te Atas uncle. Greene says working
with the Chickasaw Nation was a highly positive experience, and
he was sold on the project after reading the script.
It was one of those scripts where you just
keep flipping the pages, he said. You cant put
The premiere was the first chance for Greene to
see the entire film. He said the chemistry between Kilcher as Te
Ata and the portrayal of Te Atas parents by Birmingham and
Brannagh is highly convincing.
It melded together like they have always
been a family, Greene said. There wasnt anything
that didnt say they werent a family, to me, in that
Pickett, who is known to many for her iconic role
as Ferris Buellers mother, portrayed Miss Davis, Te Atas
To me, [Te Ata] is a tale of never giving
up, of finding mentors who will teach you and guide you into the
right path, and be proud of your gifts, she said.
According to Gov. Anoatubby, Te Ata was an important
figure in Chickasaw history who worked to maintain the culture of
the Chickasaw Nation as well as the other tribes in the country.
Anoatubby also credits Te Ata as influencing the
Franklin Delano Roosevelt administration to change federal policy
such as signing the Indian Reorganization Act.
Te Ata is the second full-length production for
Chickasaw Nation, with the first being Pearl, the life story of
the Chickasaw aviation pioneer Pearl Carter Scott. When the Chickasaw
Nation hired its producer, Paul Sirmons, the Chickasaw Nation
made it clear that they wanted to shoot it in Oklahoma, he
said. Through locations that included the Oklahoma Railway Museum,
downtown Guthrie, Okla. and the Guthrie Masonic Temple, as well
as historic buildings within the Chickasaw Nation tribal jurisdictions,
the use of all-Oklahoma locations was possible.
Anoatubby said Te Ata will screen cities within
Chickasaw Nation such as Ada, Ardmore and Tishomingo, as well as
Tulsa, before returning to the Warren Theater location in Moore.
Future projects for Chickasaw Nation Productions include a movie
on the Chickasaw in the 1700s, as well as a project known
tentatively as Chickasaw Rancher.
This is one of the most important things
we can do is to capture and preserve this story about Te Ata,