"This is a eye-opening film about a tragic disease and the effects of faith and community through a family’s hardship"
This blog is written on behalf of the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival and will serve as an honest, unbiased review of a few films that will be screening this year. Hopefully, these reviews will inspire conversation and discussion amongst other viewers and encourage the over all appreciation and dissection of this art we call film.
"Sun Kissed" is a heartbreaking and touching story about the strength of family and faith through hard times. This documentary tells the story of a Navajo family affected by the disease XP, a rare disorder contracted in children. XP causes children to develop skin blisters and skin cancer at the slightest amount of sun exposure. XP also leads to impairment of the nervous system, causing intellectual impairment and spastic muscles, among other things.
Yolanda, the mother of Leanndra, a child suffering from this disease, is tirelessly searching for answers as to how her children (her son died from the disease in 2005 at the age of 11) contracted this disease throughout this film. Yolanda looks at the Navajo faith that she has always known while also seeking information from doctors and historians.
While on her quest for information, Yolanda comes across other families in the Navajo nation that have children suffering from XP. As XP is estimated to occur in out out of 1,000,000 individuals in the U.S., the likelihood of finding other families within the same area is extremely rare. When she interviews these families, she discovers that they, including her own, were told by medicine men in their nation that their children have this disease because they burned and killed fire ants during their childhood.
While faith plays a large role in the explanation for her children’s illness, Yolanda also seeks the opinion of a genetic pediatrician and a historian. What she learns from them is that XP could be attributed to the Long Walk, the Navajo holocaust in which the Navajo people were forced to walk 450 miles to an internment camp. Many people died on this walk and this decreased the genetic pool, which according to the genetic pediatrician could explain why there are more cases of XP in the Navajo nation.
This film also explores the effect of the Navajo traditions on the family’s life. On both ends of the spectrum, they are a comfort mechanism and they also cause the family to question beliefs and why they were punished this way. This is a eye-opening film about a tragic disease and the effects of faith and community through a family’s hardship.
Selah Kahrmann is a sophomore at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design in the Moving Image Arts Department. She is focused on screenwriting and has always had a passion for writing, which she hopes to have a career in after graduation.