Mother Jones, Wellworth Pictures Announce Project About Mysterious Death of Indigenous Teen, Vanishing Police Department in Montana

Mother Jones, Wellworth Pictures Announce Project About Mysterious Death of Indigenous Teen, Vanishing Police Department in Montana

Amid a growing national awareness of the crisis of mysterious deaths and disappearances affecting Indigenous people—heightened by Max’s limited series True Detective: Night Country and the film Killers of the Flower Moon—the news organization Mother Jones and Wellworth Pictures announced a deal for a project about the puzzling death of an Indigenous boy and a vanishing police department on the Crow reservation in Montana. The deal was negotiated by Creative Artists Agency, which represents both Mother Jones and Wellworth Pictures.

“This story is one more example in the generations-long struggle of Native people across the country who die and disappear under unusual circumstances, while law enforcement is often indifferent, incompetent, or even hostile to solving their cases,” said James West, Executive Editor of Mother Jones and a producer on the project. “We hope to draw more attention to this maddening reality, and in the process encourage federal government officials to properly invest in the well-being of Native and Indigenous people so they may feel safe no matter where they live.”

The project is based on a two-year investigation by reporter Samantha Michaels and filmmaker Mark Helenowski, which has culminated in a gripping and exhaustive story published today on Mother Jones’ website, and an episode of the podcast Reveal set to air April 20. The story uncovers what led to 17-year-old Braven Glenn’s harrowing death in 2020, when he passed a tribal police vehicle on the highway and a high-speed chase ensued. Within minutes, his car veered off the road and collided with a train, and he later died. Bystanders at the scene say Braven cried for help, but for about 30 minutes law enforcement did not offer him medical treatment.

“At Wellworth, our mission is to elevate the voices and stories that are all too often overlooked, so we have created a space where diverse talent can express themselves both in front of, and behind, the camera,” said Cristina Colissimo, the founder of Wellworth Pictures who is Executive Producing along with Emilce Elgarresta, Wellworth’s head of production. “This project is at the heart of our ethos, and we’re looking forward to telling it in a sensitive way that explores the conflicting story lines of police accountability, tribal sovereignty, and Blossom Old Bull’s right to know what happened to her son.”

What made the case so strange is that the police force that chased Braven was only five months old at the time, and it mysteriously closed down a few days later, offering no explanation to Braven’s family or the community. Braven’s case files later went missing after trespassers ransacked the abandoned police station, and his family spent years trying to learn what happened to him. Michaels and Helenowski spent considerable time on the reservation interviewing former tribal employees and Braven’s mother, Blossom Old Bull, who painstakingly continues to pursue accountability on behalf of her son.

The tribal police force that chased Braven was formed in response to the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous people, a crisis that is particularly severe in the Crow Nation. The federal government has not held up its promise to provide better resources for policing on tribal nations: Before the Crow police department launched, operating out of a former Subway restaurant, the reservation had only four police officers to patrol an area nearly half the size of New Jersey.

Mother Jones merged in February 2024 with another nonprofit news organization, the Center for Investigative Reporting. Collectively, they produce a bimonthly magazine; an online news site; the weekly investigative radio show and podcast Reveal; and a film production arm, CIR Studios, which produced the documentary Victim/Suspect on Netflix in 2023, and The Grab, which is scheduled to be released in theaters and on-demand in June 2024. Both films are based on investigations by Reveal reporters.

Wellworth Pictures recently produced and Colissimo directed The Wild, a four-part, true-crime series created and developed for Paramount+. It explores the life, crimes, and corruption of one of the world’s largest rhino horn kingpins, who, despite having been arrested 13 years ago, has yet to stand trial. Wellworth is currently filming The Gorilla Doctors, set in Rwanda’s Virunga Mountains, and is in development on multiple high-profile scripted and unscripted projects.