Into America

The Ancestors’ Land

  • 2013
  • Documentary Film
  • 84 min

The documentary film „Into America“ is a road movie of special nature. The scenery of the Wild West characterized by strong associations such as endless roads and vast landscapes undergoes a radical reinterpretation, triggered by the story of the main protagonists, members of the Navajo First Nation.



  • Genre:
    Documentary Film
  • Format:
  • Run-Time:
    84 min
  • Language:
    English, Navajo
  • Subtitles:
  • Audio:
  • Aspectratio:
    1:2,35 (Cinemascope)


“Into America – The Ancestors’ Land” is telling the story of an America unknown so far. Two closely related individuals are turning homeward to their tribal territories on an odyssey through the Western United States. Starting from the pulsating water city of Seattle they are heading to their ancestors’ lands, the Navajo reservation in the remote Southwest. The travellers are Angelo, a young academic who is commuting between these worlds since the beginning of his life, and his grandmother Helen, an impressive story teller who has evaded the English language and the Anglican lifestyle. Together they are navigating through the inconsistencies and contradictions of the today’s United States. Ancient stories praise the traditional life on the ancestors’ land and trace back the dramatic family history: a story of violence the end of which has not yet been written.

Narrative Style

The dramaturgy follows incidents and pit stops that randomly occurred during this 1300 miles long journey through the Western United States, thus contributing to the authenticity of the film. In parallel, the family history is told by Helen. The camera is taking the protagonists’ point of view when looking over their shoulders during the journey from the back seat of the car. Thus, the film is focusing on the unusual, indigenous perspective. As a consequence, it is not surprising that the protagonists are not leaving the highway for a pitstop at the well-known Pendleton Rodeo, but at the Tamastslikt Cultural Institute – a museum run by the First Nations living here and that make the violent assimilation of Native American children a subject of discussion. In addition, the film is an eye candy of American-landscape enthusiasts since the journey takes the viewer to three different cultural areas and numerous landscapes. Starting at the fertile Pacific coast, the journey leads through the green cascades, continues along Snake River, winds through the wasteland of Idaho and the wealthy city of the Mormons before running into Monument Valley via the Colorado Plateau.

Background Information

“Into America” was made in 2010 and 2011, equipped with a tiny budget, but still with the intention to create an alternative picture of America’s interior lands. Finally, this documentary is the result of my anthropological studies and of my collaboration with Native Americans in the last ten years. While grandmother and grandson navigate through the inconsistencies of this fascinating territories allowing participation to their view on unusual encounters along the roadside, the film deploys its full effect: it offers an alternative historiography, creates an image of the American society seldom heard today, and gives a voice to the oppressed indigenous population.

Movie Presentation

Filmfestival Main Selection:
Nordamerika Filmfestival, Stuttgart 2014
Rigoberta-Menchu Preis/ First Peoples' Festival, Montreal 2014
Special Mention at the Presence Autochtone Filmfestival, Montreal 2014
Göttingen Ethnographic Filmfestival, Göttingen, 2014
Cine Las Americas, Houston, 2014
American Indian Filmfestival, San Francisco, 2013
Biberacher Filmfestspiele, Biberach, 2013

Vision Du Reel, Nyon 2013

Cinemas / Institutes:
Kommunales Kino Freiburg, 2014
Haus des Dokumentarfilms, Stuttgart 2014
Amerika Haus, Tübingen 2014
Carl Schurz Haus, Freiburg 2014
Yale University, New Haven 2015
Antioch University, Seattle 2014
Wesleyan University, Connecticut 2014
Muckelshoot Tribal College, Auburn 2014
American Indian Workshop Frankfurt, 2015