LCC alum Jesse Edwards debuts movie - The Lookout - LCC's Independent Student Newspaper Since 1959
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LCC alum Jesse Edwards debuts movie

LCC filmmaker

Jesse Edwards (center) and the cast of "The Stolen Valley" are pictured at the Nashville Film Festival.  Courtesy photo

Mallory Stiles

By Mallory Stiles and Kaitlyn Delaney
Editor in Chief and Associate Editor

“The Stolen Valley,” a five-time award winning action western, is being released in Lansing’s Celebration Cinema starting March 1, and in 28 other states today (Feb. 23).

In this action-packed movie, Lupe Reyes, a Mexican Navajo mechanic, finds herself traversing across the desert to escape criminals with an outlaw cowgirl, all in an attempt to save her mother.

What makes this film significant to Lansing is that LCC alum Jesse Edwards recently wrote, directed and produced it.

Although the film is being screened all over the country, Edwards said his film making it to theaters wasn’t originally in the cards.

“The plan was for this to go straight to a streamer,” he said. “There has been a huge positive response.”

Secret ValleyShown is a behind-the-scenes look at the filming of "The Stolen Valley."  Courtesy photo

Edwards said he has been more surprised than anyone by the film’s success. He described it as being a movie about restoration.

“’Stolen Valley’ is a film about redemption and I am really passionate about telling stories that take something broken and show how it can be made whole again,” Edwards said. “I think that’s what redemption is; it’s the renewal of something that’s lost or dead.

“It’s set in south Utah. What it’s really about is, ‘How can we redeem the American settlers and the Native Americans of the southwest?’”

It is also a tri-lingual film, including the endangered native language of the Navajo tribe, diné. To preserve the cultural integrity of the story, per request of the director, every role of an indigenous character was portrayed by an indigenous person.

While the plot of “The Stolen Valley” is incredibly relevant to the struggles of today’s society, Edwards said this was actually the third script he had put together in an attempt to accomplish his lifelong dream of making a movie by age 30.

“The script was put together very quickly,” he said. “Once I knew I could pull it off in South Utah, I started researching the area. I started writing in July of 2020 and by the end of that year, we were casting.”

Despite the success of his 16-year career in the film industry, Edwards admitted music was his first love. He said it was music that actually brought him to LCC in the first place.

“I started LCC in 2007 and it took me two and a half years to get my associate’s degree,” he said. “I went to study music as a commercial music major with an emphasis on performance and composition. I was a drummer.”

He said none of his college years were easy, but they were all worth it. He remembers walking to class, applying for grants and trying to balance his studies with his day job at his brother’s small production company.

After finishing his time at LCC, his daytime job turned into his full-time job, moving him, his brother and their business ideas to Chicago.

“I moved to Chicago to start a business with him once I finished my degree, but I studied music while working in film,” he said. “So, I would go and do music, play and study and do all that, and then I would basically spend every night doing editing.”

Now a married father of four who has made a home in Nashville, Tenn., Edwards still remembers having his first camcorder at 11. He said he couldn’t be happier with where it led him.

He said he wanted to make this project something entertaining and informative, while also shedding light on a really important topic.

“I hope that, at base level, there is an increase in empathy toward people who are different than you,” Edwards said.

For more information, find Jesse Edwards on Facebook and Instagram, or visit The Stolen Valley Instagram and website.

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