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University of Utah Health Celebrates Selection of Winding Path to 2024 Sundance Film Festival Competition

Media Contact:

Suzanne Winchester
Associate Director of Public Affairs, University of Utah Health

University of Utah Health is proud to announce that dêtetsi vo'i oninjakan Winding Path, a short documentary film deeply rooted in the themes of personal connection to tribal lands, social determinants of health, and an inspiring journey of Jenna Murray to become a physician/researcher, was selected for inclusion in the shorts category competition at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Out of an astounding 12,098 submissions, only 53 short films, including dêtetsi vo'i oninjakan Winding Path, were chosen for this prestigious competition. dêtetsi vo'i oninjakan Winding Path is the fourth film in U of U Health’s ‘New Narratives in Health’ series, and the first to be an official selection at Sundance.

dêtetsi vo'i oninjakan Winding Path is a powerful short film produced by Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Robin Honan and co-directed by acclaimed filmmakers Alexandra Lazarowich, winner of the Short Film Special Jury Award for Directing at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, and Academy Award winner Ross Kauffman, in collaboration with University of Utah Health and its Native American Summer Research Internship (NARI) program, made possible by a generous grant from the Kahlert Foundation. This partnership resulted in an emotionally resonant film that underscores U of U Health’s commitment to meaningful storytelling and community engagement in the arena of public health and health disparities.

Winding Path Film
Ross Kaufman and Alexandra Lazarowich on set with Wallita Ranger, NARI Program Coordinator

The film shares the story of Jenna Murray (Eastern Shoshone), who returns to the Wind River Reservation after her grandfather's passing, Murray embarks on a powerful journey to reconnect with tribal lands and her ancestral past on her path to becoming an MD-PhD student at the Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine at the University of Utah. Although Murray had always wanted to be a healer, mental health struggles after losing her grandfather threatened to interfere with her dream. Thanks to a Native therapist who suggested she integrate Indigenous cultural practices into her recovery, as well as her own personal strength and resilience, Murray is currently in the second year of her joint MD-PhD program.

Murray also credits her involvement with the NARI program as being pivotal to her journey. NARI supports the education, training, leadership development, and peer-to-peer mentorship of Native American students who are interested in careers in health care. A two-year participant of the NARI summer internship program, as well as a cultural mentor, Murray provides advice from her lived experience to other Indigenous students and shares what drives her to continue her path as a Native healer.

Murray articulates the profound impact of her journey: "Through dêtetsi vo'i oninjakan Winding Path, I hope to inspire other Native American students to see themselves in my story and believe in their ability to achieve their dreams in research and medicine, or wherever their own path may take them. Representation matters, and I am committed to fostering a future where cultural diversity is celebrated in the medical and research fields."

The production team films a NARI participant working in a lab
The production team films a NARI participant working in a lab

Co-director Alexandra Lazarowich says, “As an Indigenous Cree filmmaker, my work centers on debunking Native stereotypes. Collaborating with Ross to co-direct this short film helps showcase the Wind River Reservation in the beauty in its land, to champion stories like Jenna Murray and her accomplishments, and to spotlight the people of Wind River. I am proud to return to Sundance with dêtetsi vo'i oninjakan Winding Path and further uplift and inspire Native stories.”

About his fourth film with U of U Health, Ross Kauffman says, “In every collaboration I am inspired by the power of highlighting one person’s truth in storytelling. dêtetsi vo'i oninjakan Winding Path allowed us to explore themes of personal connection, health disparities, and the journey to become a healer in a way that is both authentic and relatable."

Producer Robin Honan adds, “With each of these New Narratives in Health films, we’ve had the incredible opportunity to collaborate with some of the best storytellers making films today: director Jeremiah Zagar on One in a Million, filmmaker André Robert Lee on Meet Me Where I Am, actor Dickie Hearts on The Language of Care. Now, with dêtetsi vo'i oninjakan Winding Path, three enormously talented Native female artists joined the team: co-director Alexandra Lazarowich (Cree), co-producer Charine Pilar Gonzales (San Ildefonso Pueblo), and composer Samantha Crain (Choctaw). Of course, we couldn’t have made this film without the generosity of Jenna and the entire Murray family. Being on the Murray’s Wind River Reservation ranch last July was a personal and professional highlight we will never forget. I’m so excited for the world to meet Jenna Murray and her remarkable family.”

As dêtetsi vo'i oninjakan Winding Path embarks on its journey to the 2024 Sundance Film Festival, we look forward to sharing this cinematic experience with both a local and global audience and celebrating the art of storytelling in all its forms.

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About Native American Summer Research Internship (NARI)

The Native American Summer Research Internship is a dynamic summer research opportunity for Native American undergraduate junior and senior students who are interested in health science research. The internship is located at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah. It is a 10-week, paid summer internship, funded by the National Institutes of Health.

About New Narratives in Health

We harnessed the power of science, art, and storytelling to center the health needs of historically marginalized patients. Thanks to support from the Kahlert Foundation, New Narratives in Health is designed to raise awareness, philanthropy, and impact policies that improve the quality of life for our communities. Based on the concept that scientists and artists need to work together to more broadly communicate advances in knowledge, New Narratives does just that. 

About University of Utah Health

University of Utah Health is proud to be Sundance Film Festival 2024’s Official Health & Wellness Sponsor. During the festival, we extend our community to include the 100,000+ artists, creatives, industry insiders, and film lovers from around the globe, as well as the thousands of staff and volunteers who work so hard to make the magic happen.

University of Utah Health is the state’s only academic health care system, providing leading-edge and compassionate care for a referral area that encompasses 10 percent of the U.S., including Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, and much of Nevada. A hub for health sciences research and education in the region, U of U Health has a $522 million research enterprise and trains the majority of Utah’s physicians, along with more than 1,670 scientists and 1,460 health care providers each year at its Colleges of Health, Nursing, and Pharmacy, School of Dentistry, and Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine. With more than 20,000 employees, the system includes 12 community clinics and five hospitals: University Hospital, Huntsman Mental Health Institute, Huntsman Cancer Institute, University Orthopaedic Center, and the Craig H. Neilsen Rehabilitation Hospital. For 14 straight years, U of U Health has ranked among the top 10 U.S. academic medical centers in the rigorous Vizient Quality and Accountability Study.

About the Kahlert Foundation

The Kahlert Foundation is a distinguished private family foundation with a philanthropic focus on the following: Medical, Youth, Education, Veterans, and Human Services. Our grants and initiatives seek to make a meaningful and lasting impact in the states of Maryland and Utah.

dêtetsi vo'i oninjakan Winding Path screening times can be found here:

  • Documentary Shorts Program | The Ray, Park City | Saturday, January 20, 2024 | 10:00 PM (In Person Premiere)

  • Documentary Shorts Program | Gateway 1/2/3, Salt Lake City |, Sunday, January 21, 2024 | 9:00 PM

  • Documentary Shorts Program | Holiday 1, Park City | Friday, January 26, 2024 | 7:30 PM

  • Documentary Shorts Program | Holiday 3, Park City | Saturday, January 27, 2024 | 10:30 AM