Private Project

War Party

Twenty years after their brother was killed by police, two brothers and former “Rez Ball” legends try to heal their family’s wounds by starting the first all-Indigenous pro basketball league.

  • Michal Pietrzyk
    All On a Mardi Gras Day; Between the Rains (Executive Producer); Inside Russia's Toughest Prisons; Alaska State Troopers
  • Nils Cowan
    Evergreen: The Road to Legalization, Why We Serve: Native Americans in the US Armed Forces
  • Eleni Ledesma
    Why We Serve, Clearwater
  • Justin Deegan
    Totems, Nuuca, About That Life
  • Warlance Foster
    Key Cast
  • Mniluza Berg
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Feature
  • Genres:
    Family Drama, Sports
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 40 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    November 1, 2023
  • Production Budget:
    832,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    Canada, United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    RED, Blackmagic, Anamorphic
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Michal Pietrzyk, Nils Cowan

Big Sky alumni Michal Pietrzyk was born in Poland, and emigrated to the United States at age two after his father was imprisoned as a member of the anti-communist movement Solidarity. His upbringing as an immigrant navigating two cultures has shaped his worldview and filmmaking voice. Michal started his career as an assistant editor on documentary television projects for National Geographic Channel, graduating to editor, field producer/director, then executive producer. He has worked on over 100 hours of documentary television for networks like Nat Geo and Netflix, and continues working as a producer in his day job. His most recent film as director, All on a Mardi Gras Day, premiered in competition at Berlinale, and was named to Cinema Eye Honors Top 10 list of nonfiction shorts of 2020. Michal lives in Seattle with his wife Celeste and their 3-year old daughter Noémie.

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Director Statement

When Nils Cowan and I were conceptualizing War Party, it was going to be a straight sports doc set against a backdrop of racism against Native Americans in sport. It would be traditional in format, and focus on a plot-driven physical arc with Warlance and Luza as main characters.

But during our first shoot we explored Warlance and Luza's world, family lives, homes, intimate emotions; we discovered a bigger story, and are widening the aperture of our film. War Party will be a tender portrait of a Native American family dealing with personal and cultural trauma, and forging a path forward despite many uncertainties - both professional and personal. The visual style has evolved from a traditional, interview-driven follow-doc to a scene-based documentary that resembles a narrative film. This will allow for more emotion and exploration of War Party's broader themes: being an outsider in one’s own environment, struggling with one’s cultural identity, and feeling your dreams are limited by your cultural station.

I’m a first-generation immigrant and that experience, more than anything, has shaped my worldview and filmmaking voice. The themes we're exploring in War Party are ones I struggle with, and believe are part of the immigrant DNA. These themes are present in my last film, All on a Mardi Gras Day - which was set in the African American subculture known as Mardi Gras Indians - and are present in War Party. It’s not a coincidence; these are themes I am drawn to and want to help express through documentary film.