WHITERIVER — White Mountain Apache Ignacio “Nacio” Kenton, star of the independent feature film “Apache Leap” by Peridot Films, will be at Miami Junior Senior High School on Saturday, Nov. 20 to see the movie himself, for the first time.

Filmed two and a half years ago on the San Carlos Indian Reservation and the communities of Globe and Miami, “Apache Leap” had an advance screening in October at the University of Missouri School of Visual Studies, where its Director Christian Rozier is a professor. It was also featured in November at the 46th annual American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco, the Portland Film Festival and the Montreal Film Festival.

Kenton has only seen trailers of the movie, but not the movie itself.

As a first time actor in a leading role, Kenton said, “I am new to all of this. It is unbelievable but it is really happening. I see it on my phone; it is me.”

Kenton said he has received messages of congratulations and a lot of compliments from friends. He said some have watched the movie and he tells them, “Do not tell me, because I am waiting to watch the movie.”

Kenton grew up in Whiteriver, went to Blue Ridge for one semester and then to Riverside Indian School in Anadarko, Oklahoma.

Having been a skinny kid growing up, Kenton aspired to be a fitness model once he reached high school. When he was introduced to all the machines in the gym, he wanted to know what each one was and, with the help of a body builder, began working on building size and muscle.

In 2018 Kenton heard about “Apache Leap” and decided he would audition for a part.

“I put my hair in braids and went and I was super nervous, before and after, said Kenton. “I read a few scenes in the movie before the director said, Action.”

He read for the lead and after a review, he and another person were invited back for a second audition. Kenton, much to his surprise, was offered the leading role.

The only exposure to acting Kenton had before that was at Blue Ridge in a theater class. He said that a boy was acting the part of Mickey Mouse and another as Goofy. He said he told himself then, “I am not going to do that.”

Once filming began, Kenton said dressing for the role was like “putting on a Halloween costume” to become the character in the movie.

“The character himself wants to do something he wants to do, but the family wants him to do something else to put bread on the table. But, doing what he wants makes him at peace,” said Kenton.

Parallel to his own life with “everybody else wanting me to do what they wanted,” Kenton said he was able to infuse his own genuine emotions into that of the character.

One of the trailers for the movie portrayed his character as having a bad day. In order to evoke the emotion needed for that scene, Kenton said he drew on the painful energies he was experiencing from the recent loss of his grandfather.

“It was not different from my real life, except I am in a movie,” said Kenton. “The day before, I analyzed it and put myself into the character’s shoes.”

He used that same emotional energy for other scenes throughout the month. He said it helped him with stress relief, along with being comforted by others.

The filming lasted about a month and half and they filmed each day from 7 a.m. until 8 or 9 p.m.

“It was a weird opportunity for me,” said Kenton. “The more I did, the more I felt it.”

Kenton said the director has talked to some people in Hollywood and they told the director that they think he is a good actor. But, will that be his direction once he actually sees the movie?

For now Kenton says, “I think my role is that I want to be in an environment with love and happiness and be a role model for little children. I want to be a leader for others; if they do not have anyone to look up to, I would like to fill that role for them.”

Having grown up in a financially challenged environment with parents who drank during that time, Kenton said he wants to break the generation curse and to “balance the unbalanced.”

“The past three to four years I have been trying to find a way; to put White Mountain Apache Tribe on the map,” said Kenton. “Everyone has a way, for some it is sports. I am not doing this for myself, I am doing it for my brothers and sisters. It does not matter where you come from, you can do it. It is all for one and one for all.”

The entire cast and crew will be at the special Advance Community Screening on Nov. 20th at 2 p.m. in Miami which, according to Google, is only 98.7 miles from Whiteriver. A Q & A will follow the movie.

Trailers, as well as other information regarding the cast and crew, can be found at http://www.apacheleapfilm.com.

Reach the reporter at bbruce@wmicentral.com

Barbara Bruce is a reporter for the White Mountain Independent, covering arts and entertainment on the Mountain and the Pinetop-Lakeside town government.

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