THE UNKNOWN COUNTRY opens with young woman reeling from a devastating loss and embarking down an unknown road of discovery and renewal. Tana (Lily Gladstone) is pulled back into the world by an unexpected invitation to her cousin’s wedding. She packs up her late grandmother’s Cadillac and hits the open road, driving from her home in Minnesota to South Dakota. After reconnecting with her Oglala Lakota family, Tana sets off to retrace a surreal journey that her grandmother took decades ago, searching for the spot captured in an old family photograph. As she travels, Tana finds connection in the stories of everyday people who’ve settled down far off the main roads including Isaac (Raymond Lee), who provides a pivotal clue to understanding the lost location that could cultivate closure. A personal reverie summoned from a beguiling mix of fact and fiction, THE UNKNOWN COUNTRY is an arresting debut feature from Morrisa Maltz. Director / Producer / Writer Morrisa Maltz (Ingrid, Odyssea) joins us for a conversation on the long journey she took figuratively and literally in the making of The Unknown Country, her evolving collaboration with lead actor Lily Gladstone and film producer and actor Lainey Bearkiller, editor Vanara Taing and cinematographer Andrew Hajek, the incorporation of storylines that occurred during the cross country shoot and what it has taught her about trusting her instincts as a filmmaker.
About the filmmaker – Morrisa Maltz is an artist and filmmaker. She studied visual arts at Columbia University. Her art, film, and performance work have been shown at MOCA, Los Angeles, as well as at the MCA, Santa Barbara and galleries internationally. In 2012, she created Mofones, an art product for iPhone that was sold at Urban Outfitters, Nordstrom and Museum stores worldwide. Her first short film, The Caretaker, won best narrative short at LES Film Festival and in 2014 her short film, Odyssea, premiered at Slamdance film festival. Morrisa’s first feature documentary, Ingrid, was applauded as a “festival gem” on the 2018 festival circuit and won several awards. Ingrid screened on PBS in 2019 and is distributed by Ryan Krivoshey’s Grasshopper Films. Her first narrative feature, The Unknown Country, premiered at SXSW 2022. The film has been hailed by Indiewire as “a stunning spiritual companion to Terrence Malick and ‘Nomadland,” and was acquired by Music Box Films. She was recently nominated for Mill Valley Film Festival’s Mind The Gap 2022 Creation Prize and signed with UTA in all areas.
About the artist – Lily Gladstone – Born in Montana, Gladstone was raised on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation and later near Seattle, WA. She graduated with high honors from the University of Montana in 2008 with a BFA in Acting/Directing, and a minor in Native American Studies. Gladstone was introduced to audiences in Alex and Andrew Smith’s adaptation of Winter in the Blood, a NYT best seller and seminal novel by Blackfeet/Gros Ventre author James Welch. Her breakout role came in 2016 from Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women, a performance which earned her the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actress, Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress, as well as nominations for the Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Female and Gotham Independent Film Award for Breakthrough Actor. In 2017 Gladstone joined the Oregon Shakespeare Festival acting company, and in 2020 she stared in the Yale Repertory Theater production of Mary Kathryn Nagle’s Manahattan. In 2019 Gladstone reunited with Reichardt for First Cow. The film won Best Film at the 2020 New York Film Critics Circle Awards, and was named one of the ten best films of 2020 by the National Board of Review.
“Though every destination and person contains a beauty Maltz is delicately attuned to, it is Gladstone who emerges once more as a driving force like no other. She brings a grace to every frame, gently crafting an experience as eternal as it is magnificent.” – Chase Hutchinson, Collider
“A beautiful film with a thoughtfully profound journey that slowly reveals itself. As a Native American critic, it is also an admittedly terrifying film considering the plight of MMIW. Lily Gladstone does an exceptional.” – Vincent Schilling, Native Viewpoint