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Shunned by 19th century society, a man with a disability finds love and acceptance with the Seneca Nation.
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Rochester, New York
United States
3 Team Members

The Story

It is 1875.  John, a young man with Down syndrome, is being taken to an institution.  His well-to-do father is ashamed of him and wants to send him away to a place called the "Asylum for Idiots" in Syracuse NY.  But John is an active, inquisitive young man and runs away.   He finds acceptance and a new life with the Seneca Indian Nation who live at the Tonawanda Indian Reservation.

The story tells us about the culture and beliefs of the Seneca Nation and also about their views about people with disabilities.  They saw them as being gifted and treated them with kindness and respect.  Individuals with developmental disabilities were not shunned or put away in their society.

This is a story that enlightens us about the positive effects of love and respect and educates us about historical stereotypes that were challenged by a culture thought to be primitive and savage.

About Us

Adrian Esposito, writer, producer and editor of "Bury My Heart With Tonawanda" has a developmental disability himself.   Diagnosed as Autistic when he was young, his condition gradually improved and he now carries a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome.  Adrian is an energetic, creative and prolific 22 year old filmmaker who already has four feature documentaries to his credit.  One of his documentaries,  "We Can Shine: From Institutions to Independence" has won awards as Best Documentary in two film festivals and he was named as best young documentary filmmaker by the Breaking Down Barriers Disability Film Festival in Russia.  He is also currently working on another documentary about Native American Indian medicine men and healers called "Inner Healing--Journey with Native Trees of Knowledge." Bury My Heart is his first narrative film.

Gary Sundown, director, is a Seneca Indian from the Tonawanda Reservation.  He has acted in several films, including Terrence Malick’s The New World, Washington: Man of Decision, The Cherry Hill Massacre and also in many television films such as The War that Made America (PBS).  He is very enthusiastic about directing this film as it presents the Seneca Nation positively and accurately.  He is casting all of the Native American actors and has secured the rights to film at the Tonawanda Reservation.

Kristina Nomeika, producer, functions as Espocinema's business administrator. A retired rehabilitation counselor, she opened the business to support the creative efforts of her son, Adrian.

Steve Blum, an actor with Down syndrome, is an advocate for people with disabilities.  He is currently a member of the ARC of Monroe Self Advocacy Alliance and Friends Helping Friends LDA Life and Learning Services, agencies that provide services to the developmentally disabled.  He served on the board of the Flower City Down Syndrome Association and has represented people with disabilities in numerous local TV appearances.

Eric Neatrour is an actor with Down syndrome who is a student of Cobblestone Arts Center and participates in their numerous productions both as an actor and dancer.

Christine Kurvits, an actress with Down syndrome, is a student at Cobblestone Arts Center in Farmington N.Y.  She acts in the featured promo of Bury My Heart With Tonawanda.

Personal Message from Producer Adrian Esposito

This story is close to my heart.  I am an advocate for people with disabilities.  In producing this film, I want to make sure that people with disabilities have meaningful roles in the film.  I want to make sure that an actor with Down syndrome plays the lead role as written in the script.

This script draws on two subjects that I am passionate about: Native American Indian History and the history of people with developmental disabilities.  In our past, both were misunderstood and treated badly.   Historically, people with disabilities were put away into institutions where they were progressively abused more and more as time went on. Native Indian children were forcibly removed from their families and sent to boarding schools.  There they were forbidden to speak in their own language or show any hint of their native cultural beliefs or customs.  Many children died in these boarding schools, both in the United States and Canada.  The scars of this experience rebound for generations for Native American and First Nations Indians.

Supporting this film will show that you believe a person with a disability can be an actor, writer, or producer and that they can see their dreams come true.  It also helps bring attention to some different facts about Native American Culture such as their acceptance of people with disabilities and their beliefs in human equality.  They were way ahead of us in this respect.

So please help us to bring this film to life!

Without your help it will be hard for us to pay for the things we absolutely need but we are determined to forge ahead and bring this wonderful film to the public.

We will keep you updated on the progress of the film on the Espocinema website; we also plan to document the making of "Bury My Heart With Tonawanda" as well present other related and interesting interviews on Youtube.

What We Need and What You Get

Our costs associated with this film are broken down into two parts: production and post-production costs.  We are trying to be as cost-effective as possible and save money wherever we can.  So far, we have secured almost all of our locations free of charge.  We still need to pay for rental of a horse and wagon, period costumes for actors, crew salaries, food for cast and crew, cast fees, and some equipment rentals.  For post-production, our money will go towards paying for festival submission fees and DVD duplications of the final completed film.

raised by 68 people in 4 months
101% funded
No time left
$15,000 USD goal
Flexible Funding This campaign has ended and will receive all funds raised.
Campaign Closed
This campaign ended on March 14, 2012
Select a Perk
  • $10USD
    Film Buddy

    Adrian, Kristina and Gary will be eternally Grateful to you for making this film possible! We will send you a personal thank-you note.

    6 claimed
  • $25USD
    Film Supporter

    You will be given a "Special Thanks" in the film’s credits and a copy of the DVD of the film.

    14 claimed
  • $50USD
    Film Sponsor

    You will receive a "Special Thanks" in the film’s credits, a DVD of the film and a DVD copy of producer Adrian Esposito’s award winning film, "We Can Shine-From Institutions to Independence." This is a $50.00 value just for the films alone.

    6 claimed
  • $75USD
    Film Benefactor

    You will receive a “Special Thanks” in the film credits, and signed DVD copies of "Bury My Heart With Tonawanda," as well as "We Can Shine–From Institutions to Independence," and "Liberation Unit," Adrian Esposito’s latest documentary about the liberating US soldiers and survivors of Gunskirchen Lager camp during World War II. By donating at this level, you receive a $75.00 value just for the DVDs.

    15 claimed
  • $100USD
    Special Benefactor

    All of the above plus, 1 free ticket to the premiere of the film (travel costs not covered).

    13 claimed
  • $500USD
    Super Benefactor

    All of the above, plus signed copies of any or all of producer’s available films, including a signed copy of the DVD of Bury MY Heart film. You will also receive 2 reserved tickets for premiere of the film (travel not included).

    4 claimed
  • $1,000USD
    Executive Benefactor

    All of the above, plus an “Executive Producer” credit in the film and our most heartfelt thanks. Anyone donating at this level will be our guest for dinner or lunch during the week of the film’s premiere showing.

    8 claimed
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