The Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art at the College of Charleston School of the Arts, with support from the Jane Smith Turner Foundation and South Arts, is pleased to present the independent film, 'Sahkanaga.'
This will be the last of the six films in the Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers 2011-2012 series and will be screened on Friday, April 6, at 8 p.m. in the Recital Hall of the Simons Center for the Arts on the College of Charleston campus. Following the screening, the film’s Writer/Producer/Director John Henry Summerour and the audience will engage in a discussion about the film and his work as a filmmaker. The film will be followed by a reception with coffee and conversation. The screening and reception are free and the public is encouraged to attend.
In the winter of 2002, over 300 bodies in various stages of decay were discovered strewn about the property of the Tri-State Crematory in Noble, Georgia. Sahkanaga imagines this horrific event from the perspective of a teenager who finds the first body. Filmed on location in the lush wooded lands of Walker County, GA, with a cast of non-professional actors, some of whom had direct connections to the real-life scandal, the film observes a tight-knit community on the brink of a tragedy and their efforts to make sense of the unknowable. Sahkanaga, a blend of a coming-of-age story and a real life scandal, is seen through the eyes of the local funeral home owner’s teenage son. The film studies the complex reactions of this community to the shocking news that the local crematorium owner was no longer cremating bodies, but dumping them in the woods.
Ten years ago, an anonymous tip led the Environmental Protection Agency to Tri-State Crematory outside Noble, GA, where more than 300 bodies scheduled for cremation had instead been left to rot in and around the property. Why the crematory’s owner Brent Marsh chose to provide fake cremated remains while leaving actual cadavers exposed to the elements has never been clarified. Marsh's on-screen equivalent, Chris, is a peripheral figure in the film as it focuses instead on the teenager, Paul, that discovered the first body. When the truth come out, Paul and his family find themselves pariahs in the small community despite the father's declarations that he didn’t know about the crematorium’s unethical behavior. Paul does not immediately report his discovery to the police because it has the potential to ruin his family’s business, his chances at love and disturb the whole community. Though the story entails a gruesome true-life tragedy, its cinematography, acting and direction make it a captivating film.
Sahkanaga has won numerous awards since its release including the Excellence in Georgia Cinema Award from the Georgia Film Critics Association; a Jury Award for Best Narrative Feature at the Rome International Film Festival; the Koroni Film Award at the 2011 Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival; and the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature at the 2011 Atlanta Film Festival.