The Road Through South Pass

The Road Through South Pass 

Trailer for The Road Through South Pass — Experimental Dance Film

30 min // 2018 // Marie Hinson //

The Road Through South Pass is a dreamy reimagining of the mountain landscapes of western Wyoming. Moving between documentary, dance, and scenic photography, seven short film poems wind their way through expansive sage-brush plains, picture perfect snow-capped peaks, and clean-lined frontier architecture. 

Despite an appearance of openness, this part of Wyoming is tightly boundaried as it quickly becomes one of the most expensive and exclusive landscapes in the world. The film dwells on the lines both visible and invisible that we write into the land and through the land into our bodies.

Exploring western Wyoming was a way to move beyond my roots in the landscapes of Appalachia and the urban east coast. I grew up in the mountains of rural eastern Appalachia where I was raised in a white, evangelical homeschool community. I was taught to believe and act as if I were indigenous to the place. My family, as they would say, was “as old as the hills” here. But as an artist and a person of trans experience, leaving was a matter of survival.

These films are part of my ongoing to work to heal and reimagine my relationships to my body, land, community and place. They are an opportunity for reconsidering and coming to terms with the stories my people have written into the land about how we got there, who belongs in it and its separateness from our selves.

In The Road Through South Pass, I wanted to meet the land with two voices, through the body in four short dance sequences, and through the camera in three observational sequences.  The latter moves cautious: reflexively framing a window on the Teton mountainscape from a wildlife photographer’s home; gazing out in pleasure on expanses of warm color and light from a butte above a cowboy town; and tending gently to the gestures and emotions of tourists taking photos of a canyon in Yellowstone National Park.

The dance sequences open up a site of permeability between body and land. 

Choreographed on the open plains of South Pass, the immense path of migration for people and animals across the continental divide, it channels a restless energy counter to the stoic lines of the dance of sequences. Filmed in collaboration with Babs Case, Luke Zender, and Michaela Ellingson of Contemporary Dance Wyoming, the movement shifts between improvisation, joyful play, and poised gesture. At its site it also engages the historic Oregon trail route from which my white ancestors took over possession of the land and wrote a new set of lines and words into it. 

The intervening poetry between these sequences leads the way, a road through this search for rootedness, place, and a way home. I think a lot about one of my favorite filmmakers Beatriz Santiago Muñoz, from her book A Universe of Fragile Mirrors:

“The law says that space is organized in blocks of time. The law is organized in leagues, in miles, in systems, in keys, in meters, in bodies of water, and in lines.

The women say that you have to wake at dawn with the carrion birds and tear to pieces the word and the law in order to make the place a thing again.” 

I am interested in a new kind of placemaking — bodily, impermanent, fluid. These films remember the movement that brought us here, while giving form to the action of the lines that work on the land and our bodies to hold, erase, reframe, or rewrite.