AT JUST 23, Kymon Greyhorse (Diné/Tongan) has already made waves in the movie world. Months after graduating from the University of New Mexico with degrees in film and digital arts, the director, editor, and screenwriter premiered his short film I Am Home at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.
A Two-Spirit creative, Greyhorse harnesses his unique cultural identity like a superpower, infusing his films with visuals that feel simultaneously brand new and nostalgically familiar. He creates work that is authentic to his Indigenous experience while articulating universal truths.
Created in 2021 during the height of the pandemic, I Am Home makes its New Mexico debut as part of the Indigenous Shorts 1 program on October 22 at the Santa Fe International Film Festival, October 18–22. The two-minute, 41-second movie opens on a view of a traditional hogan set against a cerulean sky as the whistling wind sings in the background.
Tiara Folsom, a friend of Greyhorse, appears in traditional regalia and jewelry. Later, she walks in front of a modern hogan, dressed in jeans and a white tee, while a poem Greyhorse wrote is voiced in the background.
New Mexico Magazine: How did you find your calling in making movies?
Kymon Greyhorse: I’ve always been attached to films. I grew up in the era of Blockbuster and Hollywood Video. Every weekend, my dad took me and we chose a film to watch with the family. Film was my compass when it came to understanding who I am and understanding that the world is so much bigger than whatever is present and what I am going through.
I got my first video recorder when I was nine years old. I would run around with my cousins and we would shoot horror films and action films. I mimicked what I saw in movies. I didn’t have access to editing software, so I had to edit in camera. That made me be really creative. I learned to shoot from one angle and another angle and make sure it was seamless when it was played back. I was so drawn to how film made me feel.
NMM: What do you feel your Two-Spirit identity brings to your work?
KG: I didn’t hear about those traditional Two-Spirit teachings until I was 17. That was when I heard about the Two-Spirit relatives who were always intertwined within our communities and helped heal people and carried different energies.
Ever since I was a kid, I battled with being more feminine, having more of a feminine energy in my soul and how it walks the earth. But at the same time, I am very masculine and male-presenting. That came with a lot of challenges in finding my identity. It’s been rough. But having these two energies in my soul has impacted my art and what I have to say.
I appreciate my family teaching me that even though I was different, it is accepted and has always been there within our communities. It’s just remembering and decolonizing our way of thinking.
NMM: What inspired you to make I Am Home?
KG:I wrote I Am Home in the middle of the pandemic. It was 2021, a time of loneliness and isolation. I was away from family and friends; I was in a dark place. When you’re alone in a room with your thoughts, you start to question your purpose.
I dove deep into my family, who I am, and the people who raised me to love everything about me and where I come from.
I wrote I Am Home to honor the matriarchal figures in my life—my mom, my grandma, and my auntie. They are so strong. They have so much resilience in their daily lives.
NMM: What guided the substance of the film?
KG:I wanted to speak on colonization in a subtle way—in talking about time and the shifting of time and how we adapt and change. I wanted to focus on the traditional Navajo architecture, the hogan, made of earth and wood and hard work.
Now a lot of our hogans are made from more modern materials. But they still serve the same purpose in ceremony. That’s a parallel to Indigenous people in general now. We don’t all look like each other, we don’t all wear traditional clothing. That’s what I wanted to speak on with this little poetic piece.
NMM: Can you tell me about the foundation for I Am Home?
KG: I started with this poem I wrote. It sat there for a couple of weeks, and I thought it would be so cool to add a visual to it. When I was writing, all these visuals came to mind, and I made notes. At the time, I hadn’t done anything creative in over a year. Everything was online, and I was building up the courage to go out into the world, even though it was a scary time.
NMM: How did you find the location?
KG: I was looking everywhere for a traditional-style hogan. I was calling friends and calling family, and nobody knew. I finally called a friend at the Navajo chapter house who pointed me to the Navajo Nation Zoo [in Window Rock, Arizona]. We shot it in one day. I had some visual notes, and that was all we went off. It allowed me to dive deep into letting go and just shooting what I was inspired by in the moment.
NMM: How was this moviemaking experience healing?
KG: I was able to start feeling creative again; I rediscovered my motivation. I remembered this is what I want to do. The actual healing started when it went into the festival circuit. I had no intention of this short being seen by anyone but my family and Tiara. It was a personal project. But being invited to these festivals, being taken care of by the programmers and the film community, being able to sit with the audience and watch work that I made—that felt a little too personal for everyone to see—is when I started healing. During the Q&As, or when people came up to me in the lobby and explained how much they appreciated it, that’s when the healing started. I thought, Wow, I am not alone. The trauma the pandemic caused for everyone, there are aftereffects of something like that. The universal message of I Am Home was able to resonate with these audiences, and it made me feel like this is what I am supposed to do.
Now, working on my next projects, when I think about how personal I want to be, I look to I Am Home, and it makes me less afraid to go there.