Local student featured in Sundance film ‘Winding Path’ during next week’s festival

Jan 11, 2024, 7:14 PM | Updated: Jan 12, 2024, 7:17 am

SALT LAKE CITY — The Sundance Film Festival is around the corner and with it, the opportunity to watch the inspiring story of University of Utah medical school student Jenna Murray.

Murray’s story, as depicted in the short documentary “Dêtetsi vo’i oninjakan Winding Path,” is one of only 53 films selected from more than 12,000 submissions for the short films category. It plays with the documentary short film program.

Jenna Murray appears in Winding Path by Alexandra Lazarowich and Ross Kauffman, an official selection of the U.S. Shorts Program at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. (Courtesy of Sundance Institute. Photo by Ed David)

“Winding Path” follows Murray’s journey to becoming a doctor, inspired by her Eastern Shoshone roots on the Wind River Reservation.

Murray spends most days at the University of Utah’s medical school as a second-year student.

“It’s never too late to decide what you want to do,” Murray said of her decision to attend medical school. She is speaking from experience; her path to attending medical school had some unexpected turns.

A lifelong struggle with anxiety and depression led Murray to substance abuse. It was a connection to her Eastern Shoshone roots that helped her recovery.

“I keep thinking back to when I was struggling with substance use and wishing that I could talk to people who were more similar to me,” Murray said.

“Winding Path” follows Murray to Wyoming’s Wind River Reservation, where she mourns the untimely loss of her grandfather which helps inspire her career as a healer. Murray is also pursuing a doctorate degree.

A week before Sundance begins in Park City and Salt Lake, individual tickets now on sale

“That’s been a really big motivator for me and my interest in tribal and rural health,” Murray said.

“Every native person has at least one if not more stories of family members either foregoing health care or just not having enough access this film highlights that through my story and I hope people see that and start thinking about these issues.”

Murray hopes her story can raise awareness about health concerns Native American communities face and inspire others to follow their dreams.

“The whole reason I even agreed to do this is that if I can reach one person,” Murray said. “I hope that they can see this and know that no matter what they’ve been through, you can always pick yourself up and keep pushing and it’s OK to rely on your community and your family to get through hard things.”

“Winding Path” is part of the “New Narratives in Health” series created by the University of Utah.

The short film was produced by Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Robin Honan and co-directed by acclaimed filmmakers Alexandra Lazarowich, winner of the Short Film Special Jury Award for Directing at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, and Academy Award winner Ross Kauffman, in collaboration with University of Utah Health and its Native American Summer Research Internship program, made possible by a generous grant from the Kahlert Foundation.

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Local student featured in Sundance film ‘Winding Path’ during next week’s festival