Film about the struggles to preserve the Nokota horse, ‘Vanishing Knowledge’, premieres in North Dakota – InForum
BISMARCK — Ejaz Khan has directed a feature film that he hopes will help save Nokota horses in North Dakota.
The film, “Vanishing Knowledge”, was born from an art photography project featuring horses.
Because most Nokotas are in a herd of about 300 owned by Frank Kuntz, a rancher near Linton, ND, Khan got to know Kuntz – and learned of the perils facing horses, who face a future uncertain once 70-old Kuntz is gone.
On his first day on set for the film, Khan asked Kuntz if he could be left alone with the horses on a secluded 6,000-acre pasture. Alone with the horses, Khan let out an anguished cry, expressing his frustration that his wife had not been able to make the trip for what was to be a once-in-a-lifetime celebration of her birthday.
Instead of stepping back in alarm, as he expected, the horses closed in and formed a circle around him. “They were kind of accepting me into the herd,” Khan said. “I sat down on a rock and they were all around me looking at me. Why did they do this? I do not know. But they knew I was not well.
That moment stuck with Khan and helped sustain a long project that required countless trips from New York City, where he lives and maintains his fashion photography studio, to the prairie in North Dakota.
After two years of filming, “Vanishing Knowledge” premieres in three screenings at Bismarck on January 28, 29 and 30. Admission is free, but Khan hopes those who attend will tell their friends and family. its mission extends.
The story is based on Kuntz’s struggles to maintain the herd. Kuntz battles cancer he attributes to his exposure to Agent Orange herbicide during military service during the Vietnam War and faces constant financial challenges.
Actors, including Kuntz, play themselves in the film, which can be rented for $9.99 or purchased for $19.99 on the Vimeo platform, with 49% of proceeds going to support the horses.
Khan, Kuntz and others in the film will be present at early screenings at the North Dakota Heritage Center and St. Mary’s High School and will answer questions from the audience after each screening.
Kuntz has yet to see the film. “I want to see it in a theater-like atmosphere for the first time,” with an audience, he says. “I am not an actor. I’m nervous about how I’ll meet, but I’m excited. I’m not sure I’m going to like seeing myself on a screen.
Along with his late brother, Leo, Kuntz has worked since the early 1980s to save the Nokota horses, which originate from the feral horses of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The non-profit organization Nokota Horse Conservancy is also working to save the breed.
Kuntz is eager to see what happens to horse awareness in the aftermath of “Vanishing Knowledge.”
Will this help? “I know it will help the horses.”
When he started the film, Khan’s goal was for someone with the financial means to support the horses to be moved by the story to come to their aid. He still hopes it will happen, but he also hopes that many who see it will be motivated to do what they can.
“If this prince does not show up, what can we do? ” he said. “Either would be fine.”
So far, pre-orders for the film have arrived from the United States as well as Germany, France, Norway, Canada, and Spain. “Our marketing has reached everywhere,” Khan said. “We did quite a bit of marketing.”
“Vanishing Knowledge” was chosen as the Best Narrative Feature in the Los Angeles Monthly Film Competition and is a 2022 Critical Selection for the Equus Film & Arts Fest. Khan tried unsuccessfully to stream the film on Netflix and Hulu.
The film will be available on Apple TV, Google Play and Amazon Prime, but this process will take at least four or five months. Khan hopes it will be available on those platforms in June or July.
The film’s tagline is “A True Story of Human Resilience”, which could apply to the production of the film as well.
“I don’t know how the movie was made,” Khan said. “I can’t believe the movie is finished. I enjoyed the project.
In fact, Khan is already gearing up to do another film in North Dakota. “Trapped” will be about sex trafficking, a story inspired by a conversation Khan had with a girl from North Dakota.
He plans to shoot the move in six weeks in December 2022 and January 2023, a time to enjoy North Dakota’s snowy winter landscapes.
This film will use professional actors, but Khan plans to cast Kuntz in a role.
“I’m not leaving North Dakota yet,” Khan said.
If you are going to:
- A screening will be held Friday at 6 p.m. at St. Mary’s Central High School, 5802 Ridgeland Drive, Bismarck.
- To reserve a spot at the Heritage Center, with screenings at 2 p.m. Saturday, January 29 and 2 p.m. Sunday, January 30, go online here. The Heritage Center is at 612 E. Boulevard Ave.