Arts & Entertainment

Essex County Resident Corey Bobker Tells the Untold Story About the Ramapough Mountain Indians Through Award-Winning Documentary

Ramapough Chief Dwaine Perry Credits: Corey Bobker & Phydo
Corey Bobker gets "smudged" at the annual Ramapough Pow Wow in Ringwood, NJ Credits: Corey Bobker & Phydo
Official Ramapough Mountain Indians flag, taken at the Pow Wow in Ringwood all in 2013 Credits: Corey Bobker

LIVINGSTON, NJ — Livingston High School Class of ’92 graduate Corey Bobker has spent the last five years producing an award-winning documentary film that is soon to be released in theaters through Gathr Films, an on-demand theatrical-distribution crowdsourcing site. His film “American Native” tells the definitive story of the Jackson Whites, New Jersey's longest-running urban legend, with an underlying theme about race and identity that Bobker hopes will resonate with audiences across the country. 

Partnered with Gathr Films, Bobker’s production company Phydo Films has the opportunity to exihibit the film theatrically, but it is up to Bobker and his production team to do the marketing and put people in the seats. Even though Bobker said exposure through the New York Times and other avenues will help tremendously, the New Jersey native is reaching out to local movie-goers who want to support independent cinema or are interested in the Ramapough Mountain Indians’ story.

“Even if you don’t know who the Jackson White’s are, you might still enjoy this film shot in the Ramapo Mountains of Bergen County, which explores the universal theme about race and identity in America today,” said Bobker. “They are self-distributing the film in theaters, so any help will go a long way in helping support New Jersey filmmakers, local history and independent cinema.” 

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Beginning on Sept. 14, “American Native” will be showing in select theaters in the New York/New Jersey area, and Bobker is looking to get the word out to as many people as possible. Several screenings have already been set up: five of which are in New Jersey, one in Manhattan, three in DC and one in upstate New York. As requested, tickets are currently available for a screening on Wednesday, Sept. 16 at the Clairidge Cinema in Montclair, but Phydo’s deal with Gath Films requires a minimum of 50 guests in order for the film to air. 

“What’s cool about Gathr is that anybody who’s a fan of either documentaries, or of our story, can bring this movie to their hometown,” said Bobker. “It’s up to them and to us to work together and promote it, via press and other channels, but what’s cool is that anybody in America, essentially, can request their own screening and exhibit the film anywhere in the country.”

Thirty miles from New York City, tucked away in the Ramapo Mountains of New Jersey, lives a forgotten indigenous people shrouded in mystery and discrimination, fighting for acceptance as Native Americans. Bobker found the Jackson Whites through a friend and soon discovered hundreds-of-years’ worth of negative press about a group of people genuinely living their lives as Indians, fighting for recognition in the isolated mountains outside of New York City. His initial attraction to this misunderstood community of recluses evolved into a quintessentially American story examining the political, academic, and social definitions of the Native American people.

“It’s such a universal theme of race and identity in America today, that anybody can simply ask the question, ‘Who am I?’ and have an answer that means something to you,” said Bobker. “Therefore we feel that this film is relatable all over the world because it asks that question.”

“American Native” has been accepted into nine film festivals around the world, including the prestigious Manchester Film Festival, where it won the award for “Best Documentary.” According to Bobker, Manchester responded so well because it is a serious story about a modern-American, mix-raced, indigenous community from Bergen County, New Jersey, living lawlessly outside the city and fighting for recognition and respect as an Indian tribe.

According to Bobker, the language in which the tribe has been described for more than 300 years is so derogatory that it immediately attracts audiences to it. The harsh and altogether negative press has caused the Indian tribe to isolate themselves completely from society, living a life that Bobker and his team at Phydo Films documented for three years.

“It’s a serious film, so it’s a real honor to have won the Manchester Film Festival award because we know that the audiences are people who have a deep appreciation for film and a thirst for knowledge,” said Bobker. “Knowing that I am having a hand in telling this story that is so identifiably New Jersey is a special honor and a privilege for me because there’s nobody more proud to be a ‘New Jerseyite’ than myself.” 

Now a reality television producer in California, working on shows like “Celebrity Wife Swap,” “Millionaire Match Maker” and “The Bachelor,” Bobker left New Jersey knowing exactly what he wanted to do with his life. But even as he left Livingston to attend Syracuse University in ‘92, Bobker never lost sight of his New Jersey roots.

“American Native” is a special project for Bobker because not only is it Phydo’s first documentary to officially be released, but it is also a story that hits close to home in New Jersey. According to Bobker, having his own production company in addition to his day job as a reality TV producer has been a blessing because it is an opportunity to produce content that is personal and meaningful as opposed to telling someone else’s story.

“You live in this sort of bubble for so long with your film by yourself that it’s nice to finally get it out there and interact with people who see it and relate to it,” said Bobker. “It’s just a nice validation that your story that you’ve been living with for however long has relevance to other people out there.”

To support the LHS alum, enjoy independent cinema, or simply learn about New Jersey’s oldest urban legend, reserve a ticket for the Montclair showing by clicking HERE.

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