The Tonto Woman

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Original title The Tonto Woman
Country of production Great Britain
original language English
Publishing year 2007
length 35 minutes
Director Daniel Barber
script Joe Shrapnel
production Matthew Brown
Belinda Lewin
music Dan Jones
camera Ben Davis
cut Rick Russell

The Tonto Woman is a British short western directed by Daniel Barber from 2007.


The Mexican Ruben Vega appears seriously injured in a chapel where he is about to go to confession. He has not confessed his sins for 27 years and now confesses that since then he has slept with 200 women and stole numerous cattle. When the priest asks whether he has ever murdered anyone, Ruben Vega says no. He never killed a person to see him dead, only to save his own life. When the priest continues with questions, Ruben Vega drags himself out of the chapel.

A look back: Ruben Vega comes across the border from Mexico to steal part of his herd of cattle from rich Isham. On the way to his friend Tom Halloran, he passes a lonely hut where a young woman lives alone. He watches as she washes herself outdoors. When he visits her shortly afterwards, he realizes that she has a Mohave tattoo on her face , reminiscent of a goatee. She asks him to go. Tom Halloran later tells him that she is the Tonto wife Sarah, Isham's wife. Shortly after the marriage, she was abducted by the Tonto Apaches and sold to Mohave as a slave. After eleven years, Isham found her and brought her back. Because he cannot live with a woman who has spent eleven years with the Indians, he lets her live alone in a remote hut.

The next day, Ruben Vega returns to Sarah, but is soon disturbed by three of Isham's watchdogs. They want to hang him because he went to see Isham's wife, but Ruben and Sarah can drive the three off. Ruben has brought Sarah a dress and both go to bathe in a sulky and then to town. Here Ruben goes out to eat with Sarah. The guests stare at her, but Ruben encourages her. He also confesses his love to her. A short time later, Isham appears and tells Ruben to leave. He in turn offers Isham to sit with them. Sarah has gotten stronger, gets her husband to look at her at last, and makes it clear to him that she doesn't know if she wants to stay married to him because she has never actually met him. The cold between Isham and his wife is fading and Reuben leaves. Isham's men put him in front of the bar. Shots are fired as Sarah has just gently got her husband to touch her tattoo. Sarah stands up without a word and leaves. Shortly afterwards, Ruben Vega appears injured in the chapel.


The Tonto Woman is based on a short story by Elmore Leonard that first appeared in 1982. It was Daniel Barber's directorial debut. The film was shot in Almería , Spain . The costumes were created by Jane Field , the film construction was done by Johnny Green . The Tonto Woman ran at the Palm Springs International ShortFest in 2007 .


At the Palm Springs International ShortFest the film won the jury award in the short film over 15 minutes category. The Tonto Woman was nominated for an Oscar in the category Best Short Film in 2008.

Web links

Individual evidence

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