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CoastLine: Filmmaker Montana Cypress on growing up in the Florida Everglades and Miccosukee alligator "wrestling"

Tough Skin, a film by Montana Cypress, explores the Miccosukee Tribe's relationship with alligators. The film will screen at the 2023 Lumbee Film Festival.
Montana Cypress
Tough Skin, a film by Montana Cypress, explores the Miccosukee Tribe's relationship with alligators. The film will screen at the 2023 Lumbee Film Festival.

When most Americans see a large alligator, they see a menace.  When filmmaker Montana Cypress sees one, he respects the potential danger.  But he grew up seeing his fellow Miccosukee Tribe members work with alligators in front of audiences in the Florida Everglades.  Tourists call it wrestling, but Montana sees a profound connection between human and animal. 

The Florida Everglades – replete with alligators, snakes, and stunning natural beauty, served as the first film set for Montana Cypress. Growing up on the Miccosukee reservation between Naples and Miami, the budding filmmaker started by imitating films such as Lord of the Rings and Gladiator with his brother.

He’s gone on to produce more than seven movies – acting in most of them.

About his films, The Seminole Tribute writes, “they are not centered on Native American topics; rather they are stories that involve Native Americans.”

Most of his work is fictional: dramas, comedy, even horror. His most recent, though, is a documentary which explores the Miccosukee Tribe’s relationship with the alligators of the Everglades. Tough Skin is a close and sometimes harrowing look at what tourists initially dubbed “alligator wrestling”.

But is it really an accurate label? That’s one of the questions the film raises as it offers real footage of people putting themselves into dangerous and potentially fatal situations with these wild animals.

Montana joined us from NPR member station KCLU in Thousand Oaks, California.
His documentary,Tough Skin, is part of the Lumbee Film Festival July 6 to July 8th in Pembroke, NC during Lumbee Homecoming.

Montana Cypress: IMDB

https://www.montanacypress.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cypress.montana/?hl=en

Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 4 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.