First-Place Winner, November 2005 – April 2006 Screenplay Contest – Teleplay/Short Series
“Arrow To The Moon”
Written by Amardeep Singh Kaleka
A Cherokee princess longs to become Chief despite her gender set back.
In 1838, Otakhi, the young daughter of Chief Haan De of the Cherokee nation, wants to defiantly take part in the warrior’s right of passage. This difficult task of surviving alone in the forest is reserved for only boys becoming men. Her father loses in his attempt to dissuade her partially because after the death of his eldest son, she is the only child he has left. Thus, he finally gives in to what seems to be her foolish desire. However, in the end, Otakhi’s wish is not foolish at all; but instead, her destiny.
Since she is away from her village for a full month, she gains strength, intelligence, and courage through trials in the forest. After her first pipe and offering of her first kill, she has visions brought on the wings of the silver Eagle: she sees destruction of her home and the death of her people. Otakhi immediately returns home to find it destroyed and her people long gone on what will become labeled ‘The Trail of Tears’. And as her visions revealed, she becomes the only female Chief in the history of the Cherokee nation as her father was brutally murdered. At the end, she picks up his headdress and with a tear in her eyes, places it rightfully so on her own head.
SCRIPT NOTE: ALL DIALOGUE IS A TRANSLATION OF THE CHEROKEE LANGUAGE PUT FORTH BY SEQUOYAH GUESS IN THE EARLY 1800S.
EXT. FOREST - DAY - MORNING - 1838
In the first light of the sun, a four point buck nibbles on grass that shoulders a slim creek.
The white man leaves his bible out
in the rain and wind. Soon the
paper is destroyed and the words
Otahki (14), a young and very androgenous Cherokee girl, moves stealthily closer to the deer. If you hadn’t been told she was a young woman, you would have never known.
Our bible is the rain and wind.
The wind howls as she moves closer to a better vantage point behind several shrubs. Otahki steps on a twig and the deer perks his head... they both freeze.
The buck returns to the grass. Otahki remains still, her tense muscles quiver: she’s gotten as close as she’s going to get. The deer looks up again.
Otahki closes her striking eyes, and then starts to lift her bow and arrow to the ready position.
Before she can get it half way up, another twig snaps... and the deer, without hesitation, disappears into the morning mist.
She throws her weapon on the ground and pouts. It is here that we can see her true age: fourteen.
QAUTIE (PRE LAP V.O.)
Women do not hunt, Otahki. Those
are things for men, not you. Why
do I have to keep explaining
EXT. CHEROKEE VILLAGE - DAY - FLASHBACK
QAUTIE (30), Otahki’s strong faced mother, wicker basket in hand, walks away from her daughter. Otahki is looking toward a rolling open field, letting her imagination run wild. Her mother picks berries from a nearby shrub.
Are you listening to me?
Otahki runs over to help her mother.
(she’s heard this before)
Yes mother. Men can hunt because
they are stronger, faster.
Women pick the berries because they
She goes about picking the berries with her mother. Qautie smiles at her daughter.
One day you will understand more
than I can tell you. And that day
is coming soon, I fear.
Otahki smiles at her mother: that day is here.
EXT. FOREST - DAY
Under the blazing sun, all alone, Otahki picks berries from shrubs. She is meticulous about which berries she chooses, knowing if she picks the wrong one, she will earn a stomach ache.
As it gets warm, she wipes off sweat and takes off her heavy, outermost layer of fabric. Underneath, she is wearing a piece of white cloth that sticks to her skin.
This is the first time we can tell she is a young lady as her callow breasts push on the front of her garment. She continues to pick the berries.
EXT. CHEROKEE TEEPEE - DAY – FLASHBACK
Otahki with the same garment on and her outer most fabric slung over her shoulder approaches her home.
She walks with SAJNA, a shirtless Cherokee boy that is equal to her in height, weight, and age. They are counterparts to say the least.
He pushes her playfully and then runs away. She is about to run after him when she is stopped:
Otahki! Come here.
Otahki stops dead in her tracks. Without turning around, she quickly puts her outer garment back on as if she was doing something wrong.
HAAN DE (41), Otahki’s menacing father, stands six foot five inches tall in front of the teepee. He is the village chief as we can tell by his headdress. It is a colorful blend of feathers and beads.
INT. OTAHKI’S TEE PEE - MOMENTS LATER
Otahki walks in with her head down, Haan De follows her in and closes the flap. She sits down in the pouting position. Haan De stands.
I know. I know father.
Haan De sits down. He says nothing through his bold face. Otahki looks up at him and then back down.
I’m sorry. I should never show
myself like that again. It is
improper for a girl.
She looks back up, trying to squeeze some sympathy out of the hard man. Nothing comes of it.
You are the Chief of our village
and when your daughter runs around
with her clothes off, I embarrass
She looks up again, maybe she got the right answer this time. Haan De’s face softens and a small smile cracks the stone wall.
Otahki. The problem is not with my
(takes off his headdress)
I am not ashamed of you. I will
never be ashamed of you.
Then how come the young boys walk around
with no shirts, bare back, in the
hot sun. And me. When I get hot...?
Then, you should come inside in the
shade with your mother.
Father! I want to play outside. I
want to hunt. I want to fight. I
want to someday... I want to
someday take your place.
Haan De smiles. He motions for Otahki to come sit on his lap. She does.
Your spirit is bigger than your
body can possibly grow.
Since your older brother died, I
knew you would be this way.
He takes a moment to think and reflect.
No, you aren’t. And you will never
be. Don’t be ashamed of what you
If you want to someday be Chief,
(he picks up his headdress)
You have to pass through the first
She looks at him in shock that he just said this.
You mean...the first... rite.
Do you think you can make it?
Otahki locks eyes with her father and smiles. Of course she can.
EXT. FOREST - DAY – SUNSET
As the sun slips under the sky, Otahki is trudging almost endlessly through a broad field. In her hand is the makeshift basket with the berries in it.
EXT. OTAHKI’S CAMPGROUND - LATER
The sun is gone and the night sky brings a brisk breeze. Otahki sits down with her berries.
As she ravages the berries, her hunger overbearing, we can feel the cold moving in. Her face and hands are dirty, her nose is running from the cold. Simply said, she is a mess.
Her teeth chatter as she finishes off the berries. She looks around for dry twigs and branches. She gets up to gather some.
EXT. OTAHKI’S CAMPGROUND - MOMENTS LATER
Otahki has gathered a pile of dry leaves, twigs and branches. She quickly cuts a notch out of a larger piece of wood. Then, she puts a string onto a curved branch, now resembling a small bow.
She moves quickly, wrapping the string around another sharpened stake. Her whole body is now shivering as she puts her hands together on the stake. She rubs her hands together, spinning the stake into the notch of the larger piece of wood: the tight string enhancing the friction.
Nothing happens as she tries harder and harder. The cold is still apparent in her breath. She stops, maybe a little frazzled by the whole experience.
She looks up and then tries again.
We see the friction of the sticks in the notched hole.
MATCH CUT TO:
EXT. FIELD - DAY – FLASHBACK
The sticks are making friction in the notched hole. We see Sajna standing behind Otahki as she rubs harder and harder. Still nothing happening.
Faster. Come on.
Sajna, this is fast.
If that’s the fastest you can go,
then forget the first rite. You
won’t survive one night in the
My hands are starting to hurt.
Don’t be such a woman!
What did you say?
Don’t be weak. Give me those. I’ll
He tries to grab the sticks, but she will not give them up.
If I’m so weak, then take them from
Otahki smiles and Sajna smiles back, they both know what is going to happen:
Sajna launches himself at Otahki. She defends herself and they wrestle and tumble over and over.
For a moment, Sajna gets on top of her and seemingly pins her down.
I win again. Now give me the
You never realized...?
Otahki reaches down and grabs his foot. She twists the ankle and flips him over like the rag doll he is.
... That I always let you win.
Otahki and Sajna are breathing heavy. Both their faces grow serious as she is on top of him with her a mess.
She dims her eyes and Sajna’s face tightens. Otahki starts to bend down into a romantic kiss, when all of the sudden... Sajna pushes her off and gets up. She remains on the ground as he stands over her.
You let me win!
Otahki, in shock over the turn of events, remains quiet.
Sajna picks up the sticks, his pride is hurt.
If you’re so strong, then learn it
He throws the sticks closer to where Otahki lay on the ground and walks away angry.
Otahki picks up the sticks.
EXT. OTAHKI’S CAMPGROUND - NIGHT
Otahki is rubbing the sticks together and her face grows more and more serious. This is a matter of life and death.
She keeps rubbing and beads of sweat form on her brow. And then it happens: smoke starts to rise from the sticks. She digs deeper and keeps rubbing. Finally, a spark forms and a little piece of fire ignites in the notch.
She carefully puts it closer to the dry leaves and sticks. Little by little, the pile catches fire as she blows onto it. Otahki, with beads of sweat glistening on her brow, lets a relaxed smile wash over her face.
Close up on the fire burning. A drum beats in the distance.
MATCH CUT TO:
EXT. SHAMAN TEE PEE - DAY - SUNSET - FLASHBACK
Otahki is seated cross-legged with her parents behind her. In front of them is a fire; and on the other side, the SHAMAN Priest is standing. He takes his seat.
This is the ceremony of the first
rite. You must be blessed by our
hands, our eyes, and our spirits in
order to survive one full moon in
the black forest alone only with
the wise eagle that watches over
you. This is the first rite of
passing into manhood...hmm, hmm.
Otahki looks up at the Shaman who has his eyes closed. She turns to look at her parents. Qautie has her head down and seems to be making her own prayer. Haan De looks up at his daughter and nods with pride.
EXT. RIVER - DAY - MONTAGE
Otahki is bathing in the river. Her body is a black silhouette against the intense sunlight that shimmers off each ripple in the clear water.
It is in this forest that you will
find a cleansing beyond all
cleansings. It is in this forest
you will find an independence
beyond all independence. It is in
this forest, you will find your
EXT. FOREST - DAY - MONTAGE
Otahki is putting together a trap for small game in the middle of the forest floor. She uses the berries she picked earlier for bait.
HAAN DE (V.O.)
One trap will never be enough.
Patience is your only friend.
EXT. VILLAGE - DAY - FLASHBACK
Haan De shows his daughter how to build the same trap. She does her best to copy and learn his manner. He doesn’t touch one stick with his hands, only cloth, and he covers his mouth with a scarf.
Don’t come too close to the trap,
the smell of a human will force all
the animals away. Once the trap is
set, do not come back to it for at
least one full day.
She smiles at him.
EXT. FOREST - DAY - MONTAGE
Otahki is checking multiple traps on the ground: nothing. She covers her mouth with a cloth and uses a large leaf to check the traps. She continues walking and checking.
Finally, she comes to one and smiles. Inside is a trapped rabbit.
EXT. OTAHKI’S CAMPGROUND - DAY - MONTAGE
Otahki puts together a shelter area under an already existing tree. She uses large branches, leaves, and mud to make the basic structure.
You can only use this type of
branch and leaf.
EXT. VILLAGE - DAY - FLASHBACK
Qautie shows her daughter how to build the shelter area with attention to careful detail. Otahki watches and learns intently.
We use these branches because
insects do not like it’s sap.
The leaves are bitter to the taste
of any animal.
Otahki nods her head.
EXT. OTAHKI’S CAMPGROUND - NIGHT - MONTAGE
Otahki lays underneath the finished shelter area. Outside is a rain storm. She wraps herself with a blanket made of new rabbit hides. She is weaving together a ‘dreamcatcher’.
This is the most important thing
for you to make.
INT. OTAHKI’S TEE PEE - NIGHT
Qautie is showing her daughter how to put the dreamcatcher together. Otahki watches intently.
This will protect you from evil
dreams, only allowing healthy ones
into your head.
EXT. OTAHKI’S CAMPGROUND - NIGHT - MONTAGE
Drops of rain water travel down multiple long sticks and land in a wooden cup that sits just outside the shelter. Otahki puts her dreamcather above her new home and then reaches for the wooden cup.
Otahki drinks the refreshing rain water.