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My name is Hungry Buffalo (2017)

The series of photographs by Roman Franc captures moments in New Mexico (USA) during the production of the feature documentary MY NAME IS HUNGRY BUFFALO. The film is primarily set in a Navajo reservation in New Mexico and narrates the story of Hungry Buffalo, a man born unable to see, whose hearing is deteriorating. He leaves Moravia to visit Blackhorse, a Navajo medicine man, and undergo a healing ritual. His journey is full of remarkable meetings, and his life passion is disarming. The series of thirteen photographs is an integral part of the publication bearing the same title.

The fictional narrative penned by director Pavel Jurda tells the story with divergent motifs not depicted in the film. In Roman Franc’s color photographs, the protagonist, Hungry Buffalo, wanders through the landscapes of the Navajo reservation, exploring the deserts of New Mexico and Arizona.

The book stands as an independent author’s project, available in both Czech and English. In 2017, the publication was listed for The Most Beautiful Book of the Year competition organized by the Ministry of Culture and the Museum of Czech Literature.

“A wind came up. Sand scratched Buffalo in his blind eyes, and dismembered prickly bushes in the shape of a ball – tumbleweed – started rolling across the desert. The sun was painting the surrounding plains ginger. “I’ll go to the mountain top, alone. To the top! On foot!” Buffalo already knew the way, and because the sky was clear he could determine the direction according to the sun. He took off as fast as possible, the wind at his back. The path edge was so well cut into the landscape, he could follow it. His head was full of thoughts. Fragments of Blackhorse’s sentences gradually transformed into a belief that everything would be different now. Buffalo thought of the figures in the ritual sand pattern. Four traveling Indians. Tall as the sky. He thought of Thomas, Blackhorse’s neighbor, who urged him to learn English and study at the Indian university in Santa Fe. He thought of Thomas’s shy dogs he threw bones to. He thought about how Blackhorse said we should pray for our hands that serve us so well. He thought of the girl who told him he had a beautiful smile and soul.
The world seemed to have clearer shapes but Buffalo needed to touch the rock. He needed to sing a song at the summit. “To let everyone know who the chief of his fucking life is here!”
Buffalo was a small figure in the landscape, slowly approaching the mountain. It took several hours before the terrain started to elevate. Buffalo stopped to drink several times but otherwise he didn’t slow down, quite the opposite. Based on the increasing amount of stones and gravel that started to slide under his feet, he was sure he was near. Now he had to climb over boulders on all fours. His foot got stuck in a cleft for a while. He touched a bunch of plants on the eroded rock and he could smell it was snake grass. Then the amount of grass started to decrease and in the end, there was only the bare rock. “He’ll explore the stones of the night and darkness to the furthest frontier,” sounded in his head. He could hear his breath more and more clearly. He went to the mountain that was so big that he started to slide. He couldn’t go any further, this was his mountain top. The huge, five-hundred-meter-tall rock towered above him.
Somewhere below Buffalo, there was a shelter and there was life in it. The creatures from the bowels of the cave have no pigment and they are blind. They don’t go out into the sun and hunt unseen. They have feelers branching down, very softly touching the world with them, feeling so little. Almost no one knows about them, including the blind man who sometimes unknowingly taps one of them with his cane. What can we see?”