Frozen River

USA 2007, Feature film, 97' | Director, Screenplay Courtney Hunt | DoP Reed Morano | Editor Kate Williams | Sound Micah Bloomberg | Music Peter Golub, Shahad Ismaily, Keri Latimer | Cast Melissa Leo, Misty Upham, Michael O´Keefe, Mark Boone Junior, Charlie McDermott, Jay Klaitz and others | Production Sony Pictures Classics | Distribution Rezo Films

“It is a smuggling culture that has been around since prohibition. The commodity may change – it has been booze and cigarettes – now it's illegal immigrants, but it's also pantyhose sometimes. I learned that women were involved and I went and met some of them in the late 90s who were smuggling cigarettes at the time. They were really interesting. They happened to be Mohawk. That's how I came up with the idea.” Courtney Hunt

The St. Regis Mohawk Indian reserve is divided in two by the river St. Lawrence – one part lies in the USA, the other in Canada. The most important economic activities in the area are gambling and smuggling of all kinds. This is where the young Mohawk Indian Laila, who lives alone in a dilapidated caravan, and white woman Ray meet, whose gambling-addicted husband has just run away with the family's entire savings and left her and her two sons behind, totally destitute. Although neither of them trust the other one inch, they come together in a marriage of convenience in order just to survive. In the boot of Ray's car they ferry illegal immigrants across the frozen St. Lawrence into the USA – a very lucrative, but also very risky, business. The ice is getting thinner and thinner …

Frozen River is Courtney Hunt's first full-length feature film. This independent production not only offers an insight into the closed world of the Mohawk Indian reserve, but also highlights the fates of illegal immigrants before their paths are lost again somewhere in the unknown. The two main actresses Melissa Leo and Misty Upham very convincingly represent two strong women at the edge of society looking for an opportunity to escape poverty. The Museum of Modern Art selected Frozen River as the opening film for its festival New Directors / New Films. Courtney Hunt was nominated for her script, and Melissa Leo as best actress, for an Oscar.


Courtney Hunt was born in 1964 in Memphis. She studied Law at the Northeastern University in Boston and Film at the Columbia University's School of the Arts in New York. Her graduation film Althea Faught, a short film about the American Civil War, was screened at festivals worldwide. In 2004, she made a short film version of Frozen River. Hunt had already written two new film scripts. One of these – with the title Elfie Neary will soon go into production.

Courtney Hunt
Feature Film
Focus: Freedom