Tonight is the world premiere of the new film Road to Paloma at the Sarasota Film Festival and star Jason Momoa is in town. The movie marks Momoa’s directorial debut (apart from a well-received short in 2010 – Brown Bag Blues: Ridin’ the Blinds in B Minor) as well as the arrival of his first feature-length screenplay, which he wrote with filmmaker friends Robert Homer Mollohan and Jonathan Hirschbein. It’s a big night, no doubt, but Momoa isn’t nervous at all. He has the confidence of a creator who knows that he did what he set out to do.
“I’m excited for people to see it,” said Momoa. “You can’t really tell if people are going to like it or not, but you did what you did, you painted it and you can’t take it back now.”
Inspired by the true stories of unprosecuted abuses on tribal land, Road to Paloma is a tale of one man’s journey through revenge, redemption and the American West. After a brutal crime takes place on the reservation, Robert Wolf (Momoa) is forced to take the law into his own hands and ultimately flee into the desert. On the run and alone, Wolf is coming to terms with his new life when something grave calls him home. But although vengeance plays an important role, the film is not your standard revenge flick.
“I wanted to make a movie not about the revenge but about the redemption.” said Momoa. “And how life intervenes and who we affect and how the people who inspire you live within you.”
In preparation for the film, Momoa spent considerable time with the Aha Macav people to learn about life on the reservation, which included playing a rough sport called “Shinny” which he describes as “hockey without the pads” played in the sand with a tan ball no bigger than a golf ball. The name comes from the astounding frequency with which one will find themselves whacked in the shin with a big stick.
“Probably the greatest part for me was the composing,” he said, which included collaborating with several local LA bands and living in the basement of musician-friends Do Make Say Think for an extended period of time as they worked the sound for the entire film.
“This is all home-grown, man,” said Momoa. “This is a small tribe of people that made this movie come together.”
The challenges came once the shooting was done. Writing, shooting and editing was “an amazing experience”, but learning the business side of filmmaking and securing distribution is a different animal. An encounter with Sarasota Film Festival Director Tom Hall at Sundance led to the premier coming here tonight.
The actor/writer/director has a few upcoming films on his plate, but is already planning his next trip to the director’s chair – a period piece set in Hawaii which Momoa describes as “Last of the Mohicans meets Braveheart slash The Proposition.”
“I always wanted to be behind the camera, it was just a matter of time,” said Momoa. “I always wanted just to tell my own stories and I feel like I had some things I wanted to say. There’s no limitations to what I want to do.”
Road to Paloma screens tonight at 7:30pm in the Regal.