MUSTANG. Derived from the Spanish mestengo—stray, wild, having no master, and from mostrenco—“obscure.”
And so, out of the darkness, comes a herd of masterless strays, brought by the colonizers, left like a papertrail of conquest:
500 years of these living symbols, these galloping canvases, pacing over the plains and mountains, upon which Americans, indigenous and non-, have scribed their mythologies of the western pioneer, the warrior, the cowboy, the poet.
Some contemporary land managers and agronomists would prefer to look past the symbolic aura of the mustang and see them as pests—as a non-native, invasive population. Currently 60,000 of these mustangs are held in permanent holding facilities by the Bureau of Land Management, and thousands continue to be rounded up and captured every year.
In learning about this population we didn’t expect to find that their fate would so directly intersect with the fate of another population, a human one, that the state is also actively trying to “manage.”
2.2 million people are incarcerated in the U.S. and 6.9 million are under some sort of correctional supervision. With only 4.4 percent of the world’s population, the U.S. nonetheless holds 22 percent of the world’s total incarcerated people.
Mass incarceration has become a particularly American story. Some American writers and thinkers have theorized this national penchant for imprisonment as the dark evolution of a country born out of colonization, genocide, and slavery.
Meanwhile a popular mythology about America as a land of freedom persists, sustained in part by enduring symbols like the mustang and its wild frontier. To come to the grounds of the Florence, AZ Prison Complex and see real breathing creatures emerge out of the haze of the mythos we have woven around them, while simultaneously seeing real human men, with names and histories, emerge as individuals out of the dizzying but impersonal statistics around mass incarceration, and for both to meet there on those grounds, within that prison, was an experience we could never have imagined.
The Deep Place
The Deep Place
Thousands of children between the ages of 6 and 18 live in slavery on Lake Volta, working up to 18 hours a day in the fishing industry. For these young children, the only way out of slavery is to drown or be rescued. Children just like Foli.* Visit ijm.org/foli to send rescue today.
This story is a reenactment of the real life events of one young boy. All the names and locations have been changed to protect his real identity.
Directed by Lindsay Branham and Andrew Michael Ellis
Edited by Ben Stamper
Cinematography by Andrew Ellis and Ben Stamper
Original Music by Aled Roberts
Casting by Mawuko Kuadzi
Field Producer Greg Justice, Amy Justice
Script Supervisor Bethany Williams
Production Sound: Greg Justice
Stunt supervision by Hayford Agbedor
Visual Effects by Perry Kroll
Color Correction by Alter Ego
The Fate of the Wild
The Fate of the Wild
While making a documentary about inmates that work with wild horses, I e-mailed Laura Leigh, a wild horse expert, asking for advice on how to film a helicopter roundup. She said if I wanted to film a roundup this year, I’d better come to Nevada in two days because that’s the last chance I’ll have. I was on a plane the next day, but I didn't expect that Laura's personal story would captivate me so deeply. Today “The Fate of the Wild", a film I made about her life is finished, and you can find it on The New Yorker, along with a companion article by Carolyn Kormann.
Lieutenenant of the Alt Right
How an Alt-Right Leader Used a Lie to Climb the Ranks | Times Documentaries
A New York Times Documentary
Producer: Emma Cott
Original Score: Aled Roberts
JONAH - an interview with a former African American slave accompanies a powerful dance vignette of an urban man in extremis. The juxtaposition of past and present raises questions about inherited trauma and the possibility of regeneration.
A HELIX PRODUCTION
Directed by Andrew Michael Ellis Performed by Ernest Felton Baker Cinematography by Andrew Michael Ellis and Ben Stamper Edited by Ben Stamper Additional Cinematography by Sasha Aryutunova Special Thanks to Jonathan Seale
Winner San Francisco Dance Film Festival Best Short Film
Vimeo Staff Pick
Leeds International Film Festival Dance on Camera Festival at Lincoln Center Telluride MountainFilm Festival Bucharest International Dance Film Festival Topanga Film Festival San Francisco Black Film Festival Pan African Film Festival Tiny Dance Film Festival Harlem International Film Festival San Francisco Short Dance Film Festival New Voices in Black Cinema at BAM Black International Film Festival Big Sky Documentary Film Festival Krakow Film Festival Tampere Film Festival Nashville Film Festival Dance Camera West LA Film Festival Savannah Film Festival San Francisco Dance Film Festival Port Townsend Film Festival
Andrew Ellis 2017 Director Reel
The Weight (trailer)
The Weight (trailer)
Zo Kwe Zo
ZO KWE ZO (ALL ARE HUMAN) TEASER
The lives of a Christian rebel solider, a rebel’s wife, and a Muslim doctor intertwine in a true story of violence and redemption.
Created through Search for Common Ground and NOVO Media, Zo Kwe Zo was created to challenge harmful ideologies towards the marginalized Muslim community, and create inroads for interreligious dialogue in Central African Republic.
The film has been shown in 48 communities and over 14,000 people in screenings across Central African Republic.
Directed by Lindsay Branham and Andrew Ellis
Sound Recording and Score by Jonathan Seale
Fight Hate with Love
Fight Hate With Love - Theatrical Trailer
Fight Hate with Love is a feature length documentary about one man's fight to change the world while struggling to change himself.
Small family farmers like Jesus Ramos are in trouble. And when the farmers are in trouble, the country is in trouble.
Role: Director + Cinematographer + Editor
Production Company : MediaStorm
In January of 2011, I set out to make a short film which could shed light on our country’s job crisis through the story of an ex-convict searching for a job. I was introduced to Pedro through a friend who worked as a fatherhood counselor for ex-convicts in Harlem. Pedro was 49, looking for a job in construction, and willing to share his story with me. With multiple assaults, drug offenses, and two homicides on his record, it wasn’t likely that the outcome of my film was going to be positive, but I knew beneath his hardships his charisma and heart would reach people.
We met for the first time on a snowy day in Harlem. Sitting face to face in a Jamaican restaurant on 125th street, Pedro pointed a chicken wing at me and repeated, “God will hold your hand, but the devil is waiting for you to fall”. This was the first time I’d heard his mantra, and I thought he was talking about his job search.
We became friends over the following weeks through long walks and boxing lessons. In that time he didn’t make it to one job interview given all the complications of transferring medicaid, welfare, and job transcripts from his halfway house to his three quarter house. I wasn’t sure what aspect of his story I could actually convey on film until the day we took a trip to where he grew up, the projects of Hoboken. It was there that I met Tony, his twenty one year old son. I did the math on the back of my PATH train ticket home to realize that Pedro had only been out of jail for four years of Tony’s entire life. It hit me that while this man was in need of a job, his desire to become a father to his son was far more important to both of us.
Over the following months I filmed them box, Tony feeling grateful for the time with his father, Pedro feeling excited that his son might become a professional boxer. All the while I spent time with each of them individually, digging up repressed memories in their relationship, and hitting walls where certain memories had been permanently blocked out. Pedro was severely abused as a child, and raised by the streets. Tony’s father was never there, and also raised by the streets. Coming from a home with two loving parents I proceeded into this foreign territory with caution and sympathy.
Tony became a father during the course of shooting and the training sessions ceased. They stopped spending as much time together, and Pedro refocused on getting a job. This film is a window into a brief moment in their lives in which a new chapter in fatherhood began. Since the completion of the film I connected Pedro with a former prison chaplain who counsels at a church near his home in Harlem. He is still jobless but is on good terms with his son. Tony still lives in Hoboken and his baby girl is nearly six months old.
Eleanor Ambos Interiors
As a celebrated interior designer loses her eyesight to macular degeneration, she begins to see her life’s work in a new light. This eccentric renegade topples ageist stereotypes and captures our hearts as she grapples with the terms of her aging body.
View the full film here
Eleanor Ambos Interiors
They Came at Night
They Came at Night
In a desperate attempt to return home, an abducted child soldier risks his life to flee from Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) deep in central Africa after years of being forced to fight. When capture appears imminent, he encounters a stranger who must decide whether to help him – risking his own life, and the respect of his community.
Story by: The men, women and children in DR Congo, Central African Republic and South Sudan who shared their experiences of loss and survival. Their unified desire for peace inspired this story. Created by: Lindsay Branham Directed by: Andrew Ellis
Co-Director: Alex Mallis Producer: Lindsay Branham Writer: Michael Koehler