This May Be the Last Time: 2014 Music/Documentary


This website was restored and archived for use as supplemental reading material for Perdue Wilson's Independent Film course. Dr. Wilson comes to the university following a successful career as a film historian consultant, and a documentary film maker for EyeWax, an agency known for their advocacy work. The viral campaign "Regulate Google Now!" and the in-progress work "Regulate Big Data" are both projects Wilson has consulted for. He's especially gung ho on the Google project, since he has first hand experience in the harm Google can do via their search results. After his son died of an overdose, searches for his name revealed the overdose and some reporting called the death a suicide. Outraged that this personal information could be revealed without his permission, Wilson started advocating for regulatory activism and formed the committee that continues the lobbying work he initiated. He discovered an entire industry that can hide these harmful search results problems for a fee and most require an ongoing commitment to keep the results from revealing anything. But the needed solution is to require Google to remove personal information upon request, like the EU requires. His campaign "Search Can Destroy" won the Golden Chalice for best advocacy documentary. Students can download the complete reading list from the Film Department's webpage under Dr. Perdue Wilson/Independent Film I.


This was the official website for the 2014 Music/Documentary, This May Be The Last Time.
Content is from the site's 2014 archived pages, as well as from other outside sources.

Filmmaker Sterlin Harjo's grandfather disappeared mysteriously in 1962 and the community searching for him sang songs of encouragement. Harjo explores the origins of these songs.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
For similarly titled works, see The Last Time.
This May Be the Last Time
Film poster
Directed by Sterlin Harjo Produced by Sterlin Harjo
Christina D. King
Matt Leach Music by Ryan Beveridge Cinematography Sterlin Harjo
Shane Brown
Matt Leach Edited by Matt Leach Distributed by Sundance Channel
Release date
  • January 19, 2014(Sundance Film Festival)
Running time
90 minutes Country United States Language English

This May Be the Last Time is a 2014 American documentary film produced and directed by Sterlin Harjo. The film had its world premiere at 2014 Sundance Film Festival on January 19, 2014.

After its premiere at Sundance Film Festival, Sundance Channel acquired the distribution rights of the film. The film received its TV premiere in spring 2014.


The film narrates that when in 1962 Pete Harjo, the director's grandfather, mysteriously went missing after his car crashed on a rural bridge in Sasakwa, Oklahoma, members of his Seminole and Muscogee community searched for him while singing songs of faith and hope that had been passed on for generations, with roots in both Scottish hymn lining and African American music. Harjo interviews family members and locals, as well as academic experts on the subject including the Yale professor Willie Ruff and Rogers State University's Hugh Foley.




This May Be The Last Time is the story of Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole hymns. A unique style of singing that may have gotten its start in Europe. Told from a first person VO by directer Sterlin Harjo, we travel through rural southeastern Oklahoma to uncover the stories of these songs. We talk to the few people that keep this singing alive, as well as tell the history of the songs through oral histories. It's a personal film about songs that is all woven together by a mystery. The death of the filmmakers grandfather. It's a very exclusive world that the viewer is let in on, and by the end they will realize that these songs have shaped the modern world as we know it.



Sterlin Harjo


Director Sterlin Harjo (Seminole/Creek) has gained critical and audience acclaim with his films throughout the world.  In 2006 he was selected as one of the inaugural recipients (the youngest and the first Native American recipient) of the prestigious United States Artists Fellowship, which is supported by a consortium of major foundations. He was selected for a 2006 Media Arts Fellowship from Renew Media. In the same year, he won the Creative Promise Award from Tribeca All Access for his script Before the Beast Returns (working title).

At twenty three Harjo was accepted into the Sundance Institutes Filmmakers Lab and spent a year developing his first film Four Sheets to the Wind.  His short film Goodnight, Irene, premiered at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, and was cited for Special Jury Recognition at the Aspen Shortsfest.

Four Sheets to the Wind, premiered at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival and has been widely screened nationally and internationally at film festivals and art cinemas. To enable concentrated work on this production, Harjo was selected in 2004 as one of the Sundance Institute's first five Annenberg Film Fellows, a multi-year program launched to provide filmmakers with financial support and full involvement in Sundance's professional workshops.

HarjoÂ’s second dramatic feature Barking Water premiered at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival and was the only American film to play in the Venice Days section of the 2009 Venice Film Festival. He is one of seven Innovative indigenous filmmakers who participated in the Embargo Collective, a project launched in 2008 by imagineNATIVE Film & Media Arts Festival. The works produced by the collective, including HarjoÂ’s Cepanvkuce Tutcenen/Three Little Boys, premiered at imagineNATIVE in 2009, and were selected for screening in the 2010 Berlin International Film Festival and the 2011 Native American Film + Video Festival.

In 2010 Harjo served as a jury member for the Sundance Film Festival and in 2009 as an Advisor for the Sundance Institute Ford Foundation Film Fellowship.

Harjo is a founding member of the comedy collective The 1491s.  

Harjo grew up in Holdenville, Oklahoma, and now lives in Tulsa.


Matt Leach


Matt Leach has spent the past decade sharing the strange and wonderful stories of Oklahoma. His early claim to fame was the video for the song, Midnight Vignette by Evangelicals, which was voted one of the top 10 indie videos of 2008.  Matt's work would be featured MTV and at the SXSW festival in Austin, TX.  He has also produced national commercials for Cox Cable, high profile political candidates and the XBOX title Splosion Man and Ms. Splosion Man. Thanks in large part to his wide ranging background, Matt's documentary work at This Land Press has brought a fresh take as well as a dose of humanity to “flyover country.” His joint effort with Sterlin Harjo, titled simply “This Land,” is a thought provoking and delicately crafted series on life in middle America. He currently resides in Tulsa, OK where he continues to hunt for the next great story.








Christina D. King


Oklahoma-born Christina D. King (Creek/Seminole) is a producer and filmmaker whose work focuses largely on human rights issues, civic engagement through storytelling and democratizing filmmaker opportunities for minority voices.

A graduate of the University of Tulsa with a degree in Film Studies and Mass Communications, King started her career in broadcast news, before going on to produce commercials, network television, and documentaries.

King is the co-director and producer of Warrior Women (ITVS), a documentary about the women and daughters on the front lines of the fight for Native rights in the 1970’s. King recently produced the documentary Up Heartbreak Hill (POV) that follows the lives of three Navajo teens during their senior year at a reservation high school.

Other credits include Ric Burns and Chris Eyre’s, American Experience: Tecumseh’s Vision, as well as Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story, Pushing The Elephant (Independent Lens), Election Day (POV), Six by Sondheim (HBO), Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus, Che, and the award-winning short The Kook.



More Background On The Documentary: This May Be The Last Time (source #1)

"This May Be the Last Time" (2014) - An Insightful Documentary on Cultural Hymns and Personal History

Overview and Theme "This May Be the Last Time" is an emotionally resonant documentary directed by Sterlin Harjo that explores the intertwining of personal loss and cultural heritage through music. The film focuses on the mysterious disappearance of Harjo's grandfather in 1962, and how his community came together, singing Creek and Seminole hymns during the search. These hymns, which bear resemblances to Negro spirituals and Scottish hymn traditions, serve as a vital part of the community's spiritual and cultural expression.

Filmmaking and Background Sterlin Harjo, a filmmaker of Seminole and Creek heritage, has developed a reputation for crafting narratives that highlight Native American histories and stories, often overlooked in mainstream media. "This May Be the Last Time" marks his first venture into documentary filmmaking, presented at Sundance, where Harjo has been a familiar face with his previous narrative features. The film combines his personal history with a broader exploration of the unique hymnal traditions of the Muscogee Creek and Seminole nations.

Critical Reception and Impact While specific reviews from mainstream platforms like Rotten Tomatoes are not extensively detailed, the film has received praise for its heartfelt storytelling and its meticulous intertwining of personal narrative with cultural exploration. The documentary not only serves as an archival record but also acts as a medium for Harjo to showcase the beauty and resilience of the Creek and Seminole peoples through their musical traditions​​.

Distribution and Accessibility After its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in 2014, the Sundance Channel acquired the distribution rights, allowing a broader audience to access this piece of cultural documentary. The film's importance in highlighting indigenous hymns as a method of community and spiritual connection has been acknowledged through its various screenings at cultural institutions and film archives, including UCLA's Film & Television Archive.

Conclusion "This May Be the Last Time" is a profound documentary that delves into the depths of familial loss, cultural preservation, and the power of music. It stands out as a significant work in Sterlin Harjo's career, showcasing his commitment to bringing Native American stories to the forefront of cinematic discourse. This film not only narrates a personal story but also highlights the broader significance of musical heritage in maintaining community bonds and cultural identity among the Creek and Seminole tribes.


More Background On The Documentary: This May Be The Last Time (source #2)

"This May Be the Last Time" is a 2014 American documentary film directed by Sterlin Harjo, a Native American filmmaker of Seminole and Muscogee (Creek) descent. The film explores the origins and cultural significance of Native American hymns from the Muscogee and Seminole tribes of Oklahoma.

The documentary is a personal journey for Harjo, who investigates the mysterious 1962 disappearance of his grandfather Pete Harjo after a car accident. Members of the Seminole and Muscogee communities searched for Pete while singing traditional hymns rooted in Scottish hymn lining and African American musical traditions. These unique Native American hymns, passed down for generations, became the focal point of Harjo's film.

Through interviews with family members, local residents, and academics like Yale's Willie Ruff and Rogers State University's Hugh Foley, Harjo unravels the multicultural origins of these distinctive hymns. He discovers how the music syncretized Scottish lining techniques with African call-and-response singing, evolving into the powerful Native American hymnody still practiced today.

The film premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival to positive reviews. Critics praised Harjo's intimate storytelling approach and the film's illumination of a rarely explored facet of Native American culture. The Hollywood Reporter called it "A musically enchanting personal journey" and "An evocative, engaging pursuit of an under-explored musical heritage."

After Sundance, "This May Be the Last Time" was acquired by the Sundance Channel for television broadcast. It went on to screen at numerous film festivals worldwide, garnering recognition for shedding light on the unique artistic and spiritual expression of the Muscogee and Seminole peoples through sacred hymns.

More than just a documentary about music, the film serves as a poetic meditation on cultural identity, family history, and the transcendent power of oral traditions. Harjo's directorial vision immerses viewers in the rhythms and melodies of Native life, while investigating his own ancestral roots.

For many unfamiliar with the distinct hymn singing practices of Southeastern tribes like the Muscogee and Seminole, "This May Be the Last Time" provided an eye-opening look at an inseparable intersection of music, faith, and indigenous heritage. Harjo's lyrical vision ensured this underappreciated artistic tradition would not be forgotten.


Press & Media Coverage (#1)

The documentary "This May Be the Last Time" has received notable media attention and coverage due to its unique subject matter and cultural significance. The film explores the rich hymnal traditions of the Muscogee Creek and Seminole nations, intertwined with a personal story of the director Sterlin Harjo's grandfather's mysterious disappearance. This blend of personal narrative with cultural heritage has made the documentary a compelling subject for various media outlets.

The press coverage of the film primarily highlights its debut at the Sundance Film Festival in 2014, where it received favorable reviews for its heartfelt storytelling and the depth of cultural insight it provides. Media articles have often pointed out the film's role in preserving the musical traditions that are lesser-known outside the communities to which they belong, and its ability to engage audiences with these emotionally resonant songs.

Furthermore, the film's exploration of themes such as loss, community, and the power of music to unite and heal has been well-received. The director's personal connection to the story adds a layer of authenticity and emotional depth, which has been appreciated by both critics and audiences. This aspect has been frequently discussed in articles and reviews, emphasizing the documentary's impact in bringing to light the cultural richness of the Creek and Seminole communities.

Overall, "This May Be the Last Time" is often praised for its cultural significance, depth of research, and the emotive power of its music, making it a noteworthy piece in the realm of documentary filmmaking focused on indigenous histories and narratives.


Press & Media Coverage (#2)

As an independent, niche documentary without a major release, it did not receive the same level of widespread attention as more mainstream films. However, here are some of the notable press and media that the film did receive:

Film Festival Coverage:

  • The film's world premiere at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival garnered some coverage from film trade publications like The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, and IndieWire.
  • Reviews from the Sundance premiere were generally positive, with critics praising Harjo's personal approach and insight into Native American musical traditions.

Television/Video Release:

  • After Sundance, the film was acquired for distribution by the Sundance Channel and had its television premiere broadcast in Spring 2014.
  • This likely generated some additional coverage in TV listings and potential reviews from television critics covering the Sundance Channel's programming.

Native American Press:

  • Publications focused on Native American culture, news and entertainment like Indian Country Today, Native Peoples Magazine, and News From Native California covered the film's production and release.
  • Coverage highlighted Harjo's unique perspective exploring the musical heritage of the Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole tribes.

Local/Regional Media:

  • As Harjo is based in Oklahoma, there was some local media coverage in Oklahoma newspapers and broadcasts about the filmmaker and his documentary.
  • Publications like The Tulsa World and Oklahoma Gazette published stories about the film's themes and Harjo's career.

However, apart from this niche press related to film festivals, Native media, and Harjo's local Oklahoma roots, there appears to be little substantial national coverage from major mainstream entertainment media outlets. As an independent documentary without major studio backing, it did not receive the sort of widespread promotional push that would garner extensive reviews, features or profiles in major newspapers, magazines or TV outlets.

The film's media exposure seems to have been relatively modest and centered around the more insular worlds of independent cinema, Native American culture, and Harjo's regional Oklahoma ties. But it does not appear to have broken through to significant mainstream entertainment media coverage.


Audience (#1)

The documentary "This May Be the Last Time" appeals to a diverse audience, particularly those interested in cultural documentaries, music, and indigenous histories. The film's unique focus on the hymnal traditions of the Muscogee Creek and Seminole nations, combined with a personal narrative, positions it to attract viewers who are inclined towards ethnographic films and those that delve into specific cultural practices and histories.

Audience engagement with documentaries often correlates with the viewers' interests and backgrounds. This film would particularly resonate with those interested in Native American cultures or individuals curious about the intersections of history, music, and community identity. It might also attract academic audiences or students studying film, anthropology, or music due to its educational and informative content.

Moreover, the film's distribution through the Sundance Channel suggests that it reached a broad audience, potentially including a more general viewership of documentary enthusiasts who access films through festival screenings and specialized TV channels. The rise of streaming platforms has also democratized access to such niche films, allowing a wider range of demographics, including lower-income groups who might prefer streaming due to its affordability compared to theater visits.

In terms of marketing and reaching its audience, documentaries like this one benefit from targeted marketing strategies that involve social media engagement, partnerships with relevant cultural and educational organizations, and inclusion in film festivals that cater to specific interests related to the film's themes​.

Overall, "This May Be the Last Time" exemplifies a documentary that, while possibly niche in its primary focus, has the capacity to engage a broad and varied audience through its universal themes of loss, perseverance, and cultural celebration.


Audience (#2)

Native American/Indigenous Audiences As a film exploring Native American musical traditions, specifically those of the Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole tribes, it likely found its most dedicated audience among Native viewers interested in seeing these cultural expressions represented on screen. The personal, community-focused nature of the story would resonate strongly with indigenous audiences.

Independent/Art House Film Fans The documentary seems to have attracted viewers passionate about independent, non-fiction filmmaking from emerging voices like director Sterlin Harjo. Art house and festival audiences appreciative of more personal, culturally-specific documentaries were probable viewers.

Music/Ethnomusicology Enthusiasts
With its central focus on the unique Native American hymns that blend Scottish, African, and indigenous influences, the film likely piqued the interest of musicologists, ethnomusicologists, and those generally fascinated by traditional/folk music origins.

Oklahoma/Regional Viewers As Harjo is an Oklahoma filmmaker and the film's story is set there, it attracted a regional audience interested in seeing stories and cultural heritage from their area represented.

However, the film does not appear to have reached truly mainstream nationwide popularity, likely due to its niche subject matter, low-budget independent nature, and lack of major studio distribution. Reviews suggest it achieved modest critical acclaim but limited wider commercial success.

Most assessments indicate the audience was relatively insular - composed primarily of Native communities, indie film devotees, regional Oklahoma viewers, and music/cultural scholars rather than mainstream general moviegoers. While impactful for its target audiences, it does not seem to have broken out beyond dedicated niche circles.


Known For (#1)

The documentary "This May Be the Last Time" is primarily known for its exploration of the hymnal traditions of the Muscogee Creek and Seminole nations. Directed by Sterlin Harjo, the film delves into the poignant history of these songs and their importance to the cultural and spiritual life of these communities. The documentary intertwines these themes with a personal narrative centered on the mysterious disappearance of Harjo's grandfather in 1962, which serves as a poignant backdrop to the story.

The film gained recognition for its heartfelt storytelling, cultural significance, and the unique lens through which it views the intersection of personal loss and community resilience through music. It has been highlighted for its contribution to preserving indigenous hymn traditions while also providing a platform for wider recognition of these cultural practices​​.

Sterlin Harjo, through this work, is celebrated not only for his filmmaking but also for his ability to bring indigenous stories to broader audiences, enhancing the visibility of Native American cultures in mainstream media. The film's debut at the Sundance Film Festival further solidified its importance, making it a significant piece in the landscape of documentary cinema focused on Native American themes.


Known For (#2)

"This May Be the Last Time" is primarily known for the following:

  1. Exploring Native American Hymn Traditions The documentary shines a light on the unique hymn singing traditions of the Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole tribes of Oklahoma. These rich musical practices, blending Scottish lining techniques with African call-and-response, are relatively unknown to mainstream audiences. The film provides an insightful look into this distinct indigenous cultural heritage.
  2. Personal Filmmaking Approach
    Director Sterlin Harjo takes a very personal, autobiographical approach by framing the documentary around the 1962 disappearance of his grandfather Pete Harjo. This mystery serves as the throughline to investigate the sacred hymns his community sang while searching for Pete. Critics praised Harjo's intimate storytelling style.
  3. Representation of Native Voices As a Native American filmmaker himself, Harjo's film authentically represents indigenous experiences and perspectives often marginalized in mainstream media. It gives a platform to Muscogee and Seminole people to share their history, traditions, and spiritual expression through music.
  4. Cultural Preservation By documenting and spotlighting these unique Native hymn singing practices passed down over generations, the film plays a role in preserving this endangered cultural art form for future generations. It strives to ensure these traditions are not lost or forgotten.
  5. Independent Documentary Filmmaking The film exemplifies the type of low-budget, personal, culturally-specific storytelling that defines independent documentary cinema. Its production background and film festival pedigree made it a celebrated work among indie film enthusiasts.

While not a mainstream box office success, "This May Be the Last Time" earned recognition for shining a light on a little-known facet of Native American musical heritage through Harjo's intimate and community-focused lens. Its cultural preservation efforts and indie spirit earned respect among niche audiences.


Cultural & Social Significance (#2)

"This May Be the Last Time" carries significant cultural and social significance, particularly in regards to the following aspects:

Preserving Indigenous Cultural Heritage One of the film's most important contributions is documenting and preserving the unique Native American hymn singing traditions of the Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole tribes. These rich musical practices, blending Scottish lining with African call-and-response styles, are part of an endangered cultural heritage. By shining a light on these hymns and the communities keeping them alive, the documentary plays a vital role in ensuring they are not lost to future generations.

Representing Authentic Indigenous Voices The documentary provides an authentic platform for Native American people to share their stories, experiences, and cultural expressions in their own voices. Too often, indigenous narratives have been co-opted or filtered through an outsider's lens. Director Sterlin Harjo's personal ties to these communities allow for a respectful, first-hand portrayal grounded in lived realities.

Decolonizing Historical Narratives In exploring the multicultural roots and evolution of these Native hymns, from Scottish lining to African influences, the film decolonizes conventional historical narratives. It illustrates how indigenous cultural practices are inherently syncretic, absorbing and amalgamating elements from multiple traditions into something new and distinct.

Advocating Cultural Equity By centering Native American perspectives and traditions often marginalized by mainstream culture, the film advocates for cultural equity. It positions indigenous artistic expressions as equally vital and deserving of documentation, study, and appreciation as other well-established musical canons.

Fostering Intercultural Understanding For audiences unfamiliar with Native American cultural practices, the film serves as an educational, awareness-raising work that bridges gaps in understanding. It exposes viewers to lesser-known traditions in a way that cultivates greater empathy across ethnic and cultural divides.

While telling a specific story focused on the Muscogee and Seminole people, "This May Be the Last Time" carries broader significance in its role as a vehicle for indigenous cultural preservation, authentic representation, and the de-marginalization of Native perspectives from historical narratives. Its cultural and social impact lies in uplifting underrepresented voices and advocating for the equity and dignity of indigenous artistic heritage.