By Ashley MackinLa Jolla “filmmaker,” Kilma Lattin’s documentary, “Defending the Homeland: Native American Veterans in the United States Armed Forces,” has been nominated for a Regional Emmy by the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Pacific Southwest Chapter.
For Lattin, getting the story out was most important, which is why he chose to use a wide-reaching medium. However, he is not a career filmmaker, has never made a film before, and said he does not plan to make any films after this.
While serving on the tribal council for Pala Band of Mission Indians, Lattin said he had the chance to hear the story of a World War II veteran, who was also on the council. “He was the motivation for me because I realized these veterans won’t be alive forever and it was imperative we get their story out,” Lattin said. “Thinking about him, I realized we needed to do a film.”
With the help of two-time Emmy winner Craig Harris as producer and director, more than a dozen veterans from different reservations were interviewed about their experiences in the military and their reasons for joining.
“The common thread of why the different Native Americans joined the military is fulfillment of their warrior spirit,” Lattin said. “They had a calling inside of them to go out and meet adversity, and meet a challenge and protect their homeland. I’ve heard many times that we are (the) first Americans, but we are Americans first.”
Harris said due to the interviews, the documentary took on “a life of its own.”
“Each of the veterans had such a strong presence on camera and had such solid strong stories to tell that their stories ended up shaping the direction of the documentary and the subjects we covered,” he said. “Their stories contributed to how the documentary unfolded and how it was told.”
As the son and nephew of military veterans, Harris was interested in making a film about the military experience, but knew from his own family that the stories can be hard to tell. He said the veterans he interviewed were all very open. “That meant a lot to me because ... I know the experience that some of the vets have had can be hard to share (but) these vets that I interviewed all were really willing to open up about their lives and experiences and motivations for serving — they were a special group of people,” he said.
While there are several sub-categories of documentary, “Defending the Homeland” is the only film nominated in the military category. The Pacific Southwest Chapter of the Emmys will be held June 15 at the Red Rock Hotel in Las Vegas.
Want to Know More?■ Documentary film: ‘Defending the Homeland: Native American Veterans in the U.S. Armed Forces’
■ Directed by: Craig Harris and Kilma Lattin
■ Running time: 27 minutes
■ When to watch: PBS, check local listings for times