Synopsis: ’Strong Hearts’, a short film by actor, writer and director Gary “Litefoot” Davis, overflows with a father’s wisdom and indigenous world view, poetically expressed as a love letter to his three sons. Through its raw and vulnerable narration, a message of strength, beauty and power is conveyed to the young men, imploring them to live a life of purpose. Shot on location at actual sites of decisive Indigenous victories over the U.S. military, historical happenings become teaching moments and majestic natural landscapes provide an epic visual backdrop for delivering a message meant to give the boys the impetus to reclaim their Native American narrative.
Gary "Litefoot" Davis
My goal with ‘Strong Hearts’ as a writer was to be as open, raw and vulnerable as possible in communicating to my sons the thoughts that were on my heart as their father. I asked myself, if I only had a few moments left on this earth to share with them, what would I say? What life experiences of mine would I share with them as young men? What lessons would they benefit from?
The answer was simply to communicate to them that they are loved. Subsequently, the film starts with the words, “I love you” and it ends with those same words. For me there is nothing as parents that we can give our children that is more important than love.
And in that love, they come to know that they are never alone. That the Creator has a purpose for their life. That they come from a beautiful culture that has been torn apart for reasons that are not rational and will never make any sense to them. But despite all the false narrative that is spun, they must always remember their truth as Indigenous people. That they come from strength and resiliency and the blood that runs through their veins is full of honor and tradition. That they have ancestors who fought and resisted, who died so that they might live and bear fruit with their lives. That lateral oppression is real, and it is an ill that has plagued indigenous people due to the extreme amount of systematic oppression we have experienced. To love their mother. To love their wives. To treat people with respect and to be kind and humble. To be fierce, focused, and intentional and always seek the Creator’s path over anything else.
Part of my vision as the director, was to film all the visuals on battlefields where our Native warriors were victorious over the U.S. Army. Crazy Horse is the lone indigenous leader and chief that I focus on in the film and I use happenings in his life to impart knowledge and wisdom to my sons. So, I wanted to go back to those key battlefields that he fought on, and that is what we did. The epic panoramas are a major cast member of the film. We were so blessed to be able to have the overcast lighting conditions that we had, which became our own natural “special effect” throughout the film. We filmed in Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska over two days and though we travelled across those various states – the lighting never changed.
A key scene in the film comes from a dream I had years ago at the beginning of my journey. In that dream I saw myself in a field sitting below a hill and as I was looking up, I saw a person start coming over the hill. The more the person came over the hill, it looked like me. I then saw that he was holding the hand of a child, one on each side of him. I would have never known it at the time, but now I believe who I saw in my dream was my eldest son holding the hands of each of my younger sons. And that is what we shot. So, when the camera comes from behind and then over me in that field revealing my sons walking over the hill, it symbolizes to me the time that comes for a parent wherein you have taught your children as much as you can, and they then must walk their path. After that scene the focus shifts entirely to my sons for the remainder of the film.
To me this scene symbolizes the journey all fathers have in imparting as much knowledge and information to our children, knowing that we will never be able to always be there and that one day we will leave this earth. We never know when. So, every day we do our best, knowing a day will come when our children must take what we have shared with them and walk their own path.
Gary “Litefoot” Davis (Cherokee Nation) is an accomplished film & television actor with lead roles in such films as, “The Indian in The Cupboard” and “Mortal Kombat”.
Mr. Davis recently began IndigiStudios, an indigenous film and production company, focused on a slate of theatrical, episodic, and documentary projects all centered around the company’s mission of reclaiming the indigenous narrative in film and television. The first project released by IndigiStudios is the documentary short film, Strong Hearts: An Indigenous Love Letter To My Sons, and will be followed by several other projects Mr. Davis intends to either write, direct or produce.
Later this year, Davis will lend his voice acting talents to various roles in an upcoming animated cartoon series for a major streaming platform.
In addition to his pursuits in the arts, Mr. Davis has served as the chief executive officer at prominent national tribal economic development organizations, is a member of the Forbes Finance Council and is a seasoned entrepreneur. Mr. Davis started his very first business in 1992. In 2007, his ascension in national tribal economic development began when he became Vice-President of U.S. Native Affairs for the Triple Five Group (owners of the Mall of America) and co-chair of the National Indian Gaming Association’s, American Indian Business Network. He has since helmed the largest annual gathering of tribal and indigenous entrepreneurs, operated multiple federal programs, and led initiatives related to business and entrepreneurship across Indian Country.
He has twice testified before the U.S. Senate and is astute at policy matters related to Indian Country. He is a relentless advocate for tribal sovereignty and has considerable experience building bridges on Capitol Hill. His effectiveness in working with federal agencies to advance business in Indian Country has been substantiated by his twice being appointed an ambassador for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Minorities in Energy (2015) and Equity in Energy (2020) initiatives as well as his appointment to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Council on Underserved Communities (2016).
He is an accomplished international public speaker having delivered the featured keynote speech at the World Indigenous Business Forum in Guatemala City, Guatemala and remarks at Hannover Messe, the world’s largest trade fair for industrial technology, in Hannover, Germany.
Mr. Davis is a recipient of the prestigious Sevenstar Award from the Cherokee Nation Historical Society and received the Department of Commerce Minority Business Development Agency National Director Special Recognition Award in 2015. Mr. Davis was also recognized by Scholastic Books in their publication “Native American Heroes” in 2019.