Wednesday, October 13th, 2021

Bold Native

Published on July 19, 2010 by   ·   552 Comments Pin It

Merely calling Bold Native an animal-rights movie would be selling it short. Although the new feature film follows Charlie Cranehill, an animal liberator wanted by the United States government for domestic terrorism, the film could just as easily be about any fight for justice. At heart, it’s an adventure movie about life, love and freedom that is both inspirational and challenging. It doesn’t hurt that Charlie, the hero of the film, is easy on the eyes and his partner-in-crime Sonja is so funny.. you kinda wish she was your best friend.

Before setting out for the east coast premieres, Girlie Girl Army caught up with Denis Henry Hennelly, writer and director of Bold Native; Casey Suchan, producer and editor; and Joaquin Pastor who plays Charlie and scored the music for the film. They talked about veganism, growing up in the Midwest and working for (gasp) McDonald’s. Oh and they also discussed the film a little bit too.

Girlie Girl Army: Denis, what inspired the film and what is it about for you?

Denis Henry Hennelly: When we first started thinking about the script in 2001, the FBI had already identified the ALF and ELF as the number one domestic terrorists, which to us, was shocking. That sort of shock that a group of essentially nonviolent lawbreakers was considered the number one domestic terrorist threat was really the seed of the story.

Bold Native isn’t reflecting the animal liberation movement in a documentary way but it’s hopefully reflecting the feeling of it. Animal liberation in this film is used as a backdrop to talk about the philosophy of compassion and how a person puts compassion into action. This film is as much about any social movement as it is about animal liberation. I think people who are fighting for change in any way and take a look at this film will say, This relates to my movement.

GGA: Joaquin, what drew you to the role of Charlie and how did you get involved with making the soundtrack for the film?

Joaquin Pastor: The script drew me in. I read it and was totally mesmerized. The music thing didn’t come up until after well into the edit process. Denis already had a cut of the film and he was placing the music. They came to a show I organized as a fundraiser for Haiti. They were probably into the mood of the show more than anything but felt it was the right instinct for the score. Feeling under-qualified, I commissioned by friend Johann Carbajal to join with me. We holed up for 2 1/2 weeks in the studio, spending most waking moments there, and wrote the score. There were a few pieces that Johann and I had beforehand, but other than those, everything was made it that room.

GGA: What does scoring the music for a movie actually mean and what was the most challenging part of that?

Joaquin: Well, I had no idea. In figuring it out, I tried watching the movie and writing to it. I thought I was doing pretty well at that, but Denis just started placing music that we were writing for pieces elsewhere or in places that we hadn’t thought of originally. At a certain point, Denis encouraged us to stop scoring to picture and just over-produce. A few moments needed a specific emotional story, however, those could be challenging to get right. For the intro, a voiceover while Charlie is walking through Karl’s apartment, I was really pushing for something piano-based and something that was considerably darker than what Casey and Denis wanted. I started to work with this recurring melodic theme and was writing it into the rest of the film. I attached myself to it too much, I think. In the end I was convinced it was wrong and we scrapped it. So, the intro was difficult and Richard’s decision was as well. Coming off the boat, he decides to ditch his life to hunt for his son. It had to be as ambitious or exciting as it was contemplative, strange emotions to pair. The end echoed the intro, and was difficult to get right as well.

GGA: Can you talk about the atmosphere on set?

Denis: The film is about a heavy subject, but at the end of the day, the movie is about people who risk their freedom for life, and so I wanted them to be filled with life and the celebration of life. They are lively, happy, fun people, whether or not that is the way activists behave when doing an action. This is not supposed to be a documentary or a how-to guide on animal liberation. It’s a philosophical piece of artwork, and these characters are filled with life because they are fighting for life. We always tried to keep that in mind and tried to create that atmosphere on set as much as possible.

GGA: Joaquin, were Denis and Casey successful in creating that atmosphere?

Joaquin: Certainly. There were many occasions when Denis insisted on remembering the story is about life. That combined with a lot of moments where we had a camera on us all the time, and it became really easy to forget that you were making a movie.

GGA: Since the film is about something so close to the hearts of animal activists, I think that they understandably may feel anxiety before they see it. Did you think about that or expect it?

Denis: A lot of times when people are really close to the issue and have seen it misinterpreted willfully, they become suspicious of attempts to represent it. We didn’t worry about how animal rights activists would feel because our heart was with the movement. Our heart was based in telling a story about why people would risk their freedom for the lives of animals, and when your heart is in the right place you don’t worry about stuff like this. It was only later, once we finished, that we started to think about how this is a movement that has been misrepresented a lot in the media so there is a natural suspicion of any media trying to talk about it.

Casey: We were thinking more about how to present these ideas to the uninitiated in a way that communicates what is at the heart and soul of this movement, which is freedom, which is life, which is love. That’s whom we were thinking about.

GGA: Casey, what role does storytelling and particularly filmmaking play in advocating for issues?

Casey: When you approach things from an artistic point-of-view, people can engage in a story and with the characters They can think about issues in a way that is subtle and nonaggressive and also leaves them to draw their own conclusions. When you are entertaining someone, you disarm them, and when they are disarmed, they suspend their preconceived notions about something and you are able to communicate with them in a way that is emotional That is a really effective way to communicate any message.

GGA: Were you really working for fast food companies when you met Denis?

Casey: I was working in Chicago in independent film but I was making money working in commercials for McDonald’s and other fast food commercials. I was really broke and taking over the leftovers from catering, so when I met Denis I had a freezer full of leftover pork from a McDonald’s commercial. We started working together and Denis started talking to me about the issues. I wasn’t really listening, but at the same time I wasn’t eating much meat anymore. One day I finally picked up Diet for a New America, which Denis had been telling me to read forever. I was completely vegetarian for over 6 months when the animal issue really hit me. It was almost like I had to stop eating animals for long enough that I was able to let go of my guilt and denial.

GGA: Denis, how did growing up in the Midwest influence you as a filmmaker?

Denis: I grew up in a small town in Indiana and the only reason I’m interested in filmmaking is because one night in my room, I turned on Twin Peaks and I was blown away. For me, Twin Peaks reflected the feeling of my small town, which was that it all seemed really nice on the outside but there was something weird and disturbing going on underneath. I fell in love with film because of this. If I hadn’t grown up in a small town, I might not have ever gotten into movie-making really. For someone who felt kind of isolated where I was, it let me know that were other people in the world who saw things the way that I saw them. That is something we also hope to do with Bold Native, get it on to DVD as soon as possible and out to all these places where people who are thinking about these issues may feel isolated. Let them know that there are other people who care about these issues. That’s the great thing about film; it can create community beyond geographical boundaries.

Russell Simmons will host two screenings of Bold Native in NYC on Monday, July 26th at the Anthology Film Archives at 32 Second Avenue at 7:00 and 9:15 p.m. Advance tickets available online here:

If you are interested in setting up a screening in your town, please identify a theater and e-mail the filmmakers with that information at, they will take it from there!

Find out more about the film at

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