Skydancer - a film by Katja Esson



The Brooklyn Bridge, the Empire State Building, the World Trade Center: for more than 120 years, Mohawk ironworkers have raised America’s modern cityscapes. They are called 'sky walkers' because they walk fearlessly atop steel beams just a foot wide, high above the city. Who are these Mohawk sky walkers? What is their secret for overcoming fear? Has
'sky walking' replaced an ancient rite of passage? Or is it the pure need to adapt in order to survive? And what is their life really like, when every Friday at quitting time, they jump in their cars and make the eight-hour drive up north to their families on the reservation?


SKYDANCER is a feature length documentary that takes a provocative look at Indian life in the 21st Century: from the fragile hierarchy on top of the breath-taking steel structures in New York City to life 'on the Rez' where problems like unemployment and crime make it hard to see the pristine beauty of the surrounding lands. The film allows exceptional access to the lives of these ironworkers and in the process offers an intriguingly different perspective on contemporary Native Americans.

75/56/45 min / 2011 / USA/Germany

SKYDANCER is produced in association with WDR and ARTE.
Supported by th
e Jerome Foundation. Fiscally sponsored by Women Make Movies.

SKYDANCER was in part edited at the Hall Center for the Humanities.
Esson was a 2007 fellow.


about the director

Nominated for an Academy Award® for her film FERRY TALES which turns the unlikely setting of the Staten Island Ferry women’s bathroom into a celebration of sisterhood, Esson’s recent film SKYDANCER is a provocative look at Indian life in the 21 Century. Her previous credits include VERTICAL TRAVELER which explores the pioneering spirit of New York City through the metaphoric story of the city’s unique relationship with elevators; HOLE IN THE SKY, is a portrait of New York, five years after 9/11; LATCHING ON about the politics of breastfeeding in America; HOOKER, HARLOT, WHORE tells the history of prostitution in Europe. Esson’s films have been shown at film festivals around the world and broadcast on HBO, PBS and ARTE among others. Esson lives in Brooklyn, New York and shares her time between Germany and the United States.

© 2011 Penelope Pictures. All rights reserved. Artwork © 2011 Verena Brandt