Comanche Academy: A Healing Movement

The spirit of a community reclaiming its heritage

Project type: Nonfiction Feature
Project status: Development
Producer: Kathryn Boyd-Batstone
Director of Photography: Celine Layous
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Empowered educators at Comanche Academy lead a transformative journey, healing their community from the traumas of Indian Boarding School and instilling a linguistic and cultural revival in this poignant documentary.


The documentary Comanche Academy: A Healing Journey delves into the transformative journey of a community striving to heal from the profound trauma of Indian boarding schools. Through the lens of these female-led educators at Comanche Academy Indigenous Charter School in Lawton, Oklahoma, the film explores themes of resilience, cultural reclamation, and the power of education.

Oklahoma, once home to an astonishing seventy-nine Indian boarding schools, forced Native children from their homes and into federally funded institutions. Hair was cut, native languages silenced, and cultural practices condemned. Today, the impact reverberates through generations.

To combat this, in August of 2021, Comanche Academy Indigenous Charter School opened its doors in Lawton, Oklahoma, however, hope was scarce. With three superintendents in the inaugural year, Dava Fratello reluctantly assumed the mantle of leadership, driven by an unwavering commitment to the school’s profound ideals. Fast forward two years and the academy’s doors remain open, a testament to the resilience of Dava.

This documentary chronicles the empowered educators as they enter their third year as a profound transformation unfolds. Here, young boys proudly wear their hair in long braids, and students openly speak the Comanche language as they learn from Language teacher Starla Bilyeu, who learns from elders at the Immersion Department at The Comanche Nation. Last year, the PreK students swept first place at the Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair, a platform to showcase their linguistic prowess before thousands. They are attempting to defend their title again this year.

Through the tireless efforts of the devoted team, a brighter, more healed future for the Comanche people comes into view. “The trajectory for Comanche people is shifting,” says teacher Ms. Linette. “We didn’t feel any pride to be Comanche 17 years ago. Right now, you feel it. You want it.”

Meet the Filmmakers

Kathryn Boyd-Batstone – Producer
Kathryn Boyd-Batstone is an award-winning Director and Cinematographer of narrative and documentary films in the Los Angeles area. Most recently, she was Director of Photography for the 2023 Cannes Film Festival – Emerging Filmmaker short film Fathead and in 2021 DGA Student Film Gold Winner, Women’s Category for her film For Rosa, which premiered on HBO MAX May 2021. A USC School of Cinematic Arts MFA graduate with a master’s degree in cinematography and directing, she is dedicated to helping tell stories that make you feel and push for change.

Celine Layous- Director of Photography
Celine was born and raised in Lebanon. She has worked as a cinematographer and camera operator on various formats internationally. She is now based in Los Angeles, where she received her MFA in Cinematography from the American Film Institute Conservatory.

Celine’s visual style is brutally honest and doesn’t shy away from the obscure. She gravitates to stories that reflect the depths of everyday life and strives to achieve bold, dazzling and when appropriate, disorienting visuals.

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