Visit The official site for Bury My Heart With Tonawanda for the latest news about the film.
Bury My Heart With Tonawanda tells the story of John Harrison, a developmentally disabled boy who is rejected by his own family, but accepted and nurtured into adulthood by the Tonawanda Seneca Nation.
The film teaches us about Seneca culture, beliefs, and myths. The Seneca believe that children like John, who has Downs Syndrome, are sent to us as messengers and teachers, and therefore treat him with compassion.
Above all, the story reveals the positive effects of love and respect and challenges our historical stereotypes about Native Americans.
The film is endorsed by and stars many from the Tonawanda Indian Reservation including their tribal elders. For this reason, the film becomes a piece of living history–a testament to the past but also depicting a nation intent on preserving its culture, traditions and language for the future.
The film is written, produced and edited by Adrian Esposito, who himself has a developmental disability — Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of Autism. Only 24 years old, he has already made four feature documentaries.
Director Gary Sundown is a Seneca Indian from the Tonawanda Reservation. He has acted in several film and television productions, including Terrence Malick’s The New World, Washington: Man of Decision, The Cherry Hill Massacre and The War that Made America (PBS). He was enthusiastic about directing the film as it presents the Seneca Nation positively and accurately.
Kristina Nomeika, executive producer, is Adrian’s mother and a retired rehabilitation counselor. She took on this project primarily to support her son’s creative efforts and to honor the Seneca Nation. She saw the enthusiasm of everyone involved and knew that the film and its message needed to be heard. She also endorsed the project because she knew that it would give many participants a creative opportunity for personal growth.
Bury My Heart With Tonawanda has been screened at many festivals and has won several awards. The film is currently being submitted to other festivals.
Our Rochester, NY, premiere on June 27th 2013 was a huge success! We screened to a sold out crowd at the Memorial Art Gallery. We were very sorry to see people turned away, but it gives us encouragement that there is an interested audience for the film. Many thanks to the people of Ganondagan and the MAG who made this event possible.