Mann v. Ford is to air Monday night on HBO; the documentary deals with the lawsuit filed by Northern New Jersey’s Ramapough Indians against the Environmental Protection Agency after their land’s superfund status (due to Ford Motor Company pollution) spread cancer. The film’s co-director, Micah Fink, said that the film came together with the help of a funder who encouraged the directors to find a subject regarding Native Americans and the environment.
Was this benefactor Native American? “No—it was just one of his passions.”
“I didn’t realize there was a Native American tribe that close to New York,” said Mr. Fink, “and as I began to look into it, it became more fascinating.”
The process of earning the trust of the Ramapough took years; referring to a shot in which one resident shows the camera his scars from cancer surgery, Mr. Fink said, “That was three years of relationship building.”
While Mr. Fink was responsible for the reporting of the documentary, Maro Chermayeff “was responsible for making it look as gorgeous as it looks—she was the image controller.”
Ms. Chermayeff and Mr. Fink spent most days for the six years of production commuting to the reservation. “We didn’t live there,” said Ms. Chermayeff. “It’s only 39 miles from where we live. Micah moved to NJ. Most days we’d get up really early and drive up.”
It’s beautiful country in Northern New Jersey, and Ms. Chermayeff was concerned with making the film easy to look at. “HBO and I talked about who the cinematographers were going to be, we knew we were doing a vérité, pure look, not reality TV. All of our camera guys worked within those confines. We would wait till the magic hour.”