You have to respect an artist for taking bold steps. That’s what we do. We’re here to capture the harsh realities and interpret those realities for purposes of entertainment, as well as processing tools for deep intellectual thinking. When I cross artists who are willing to truly reach deep inside themselves to find an honest portrayal of the world, I immediately recognize game. These are the real ones. The ones envied by the weak, the unwilling, the carcasses of outdated memories.
When I heard Kholan Garrett Studie starred in a short film titled “The Dark Valley,” it immediately peeked my interest. The landscape is set in Los Angles, and the film style is a hyper blend, and it’s bold. I’d call it Film Noir meets French New Wave and Dogme 95. It’s unflinching. Bitter sweet and succinct.
As you already know, Kholan Studie is the son of the Academy Honorary Award winning Cherokee actor, Wes Studi, and he also happens to be the grandson of Jack Albertson, who won an Academy Award, and was forever remembered for his role on the 1970’s hit television series “Chico and the Man.”
I was approached by the film’s director, TJ Morehouse, who is originally from Pryor, Oklahoma before he transplanted into the film industry, traversing on both the east and west coast. He is a 27 year veteran in entertainment and has served in many roles. He sent me a private link to the “The Dark Valley,” and I felt lucky to have an opportunity to view this film. It will be shown for audiences for the first time on September 11, 2021 at the Burbank Film Festival.
During an interview with the Tulsa World, Morehouse said, “We have won or placed in all film festivals that have accepted us and we have applied to almost 70 festivals in total including Sundance, Slamdance, SXSW, Austin film fest and Writers Conference, which we almost won in 2018 with the screenplay ‘June in California,’ and other prestigious festivals.”
“The Dark Valley” captures perfectly a contrast to human idealism, where we must examine the darker parts of our perpetual slumber, where we jolt out of the most beautiful dream to wake in horror at the truth of our surroundings. Kholan Studie’s character must come to terms with the underbelly of Los Angeles and his own psyche living within such sharp contrast between dark and light.
Morehouse uses voice-over along with black-and-white cinematography to create the noir feel for the film. It immediately sets the dark tone and keeps the audience guessing. In fact, it’s the blend between the mundane and the subtly disturbing that makes the ending of the film both perfect and shocking. It all makes sense, but it’ll catch you by surprise. Morehouse does a beautiful job of distracting and enticing the audience along.
Between Kholan Studie’s acting and TJ Morehouse’s directing, “The Dark Valley” is sure to continue to win awards. I sing praises for the film and admire the bold and striking artistic style. And it seems fitting to be making the rounds at film festivals as the new FX/Hulu series “Reservation Dogs” delights audiences with dark comedy. Not only does the short film star a Native actor, it also dares to be original, and dares to provoke the soft underbelly of the American Dream.