Monday, February 17, 2014

Reel Injun (2009)

Directors: Neil Diamond, Catherine Bainbridge, Jeremiah Hayes

Writers: Neil Diamond, Catherine Bainbridge, Jeremiah Hayes

Composers: Claude Castonguay, Mona Laviolette

Starring: Adam Beach, R. Michael David, Clint Eastwood, Chris Eyre, Charlie Hill, Jim Jarmusch, Sacheen Littefeather, Russel Means, Rod Rondeaux, John Trudell, Jesse Wente

More info: IMDb

Tagline: On the trail of the Hollywood Indian

Plot: A documentary about the evolution of the depiction of First Nations people in film, from the silent era to today. Featuring clips from hundreds of films, candid interviews with famous Native and non-Native directors, writers and actors, Reel Injun traces how the image of First Nations people in cinema have influenced the understanding and misunderstanding of their culture and history.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Nah.

I'm a sucker for documentaries about Hollywood and the Western is my favorite genre so there's no way I'm missing this.  When I was a kid I noticed that Hollywood movies were retarded by using whites to portray Indians.  Sometimes you get someone ethnic enough that you can better hide that (like Leonard Nimoy in that great episode of GUNSMOKE, or, please don't hurt me, Charles Bronson in a few pictures that he portrayed a half breed or a full blood Indian - hey, at least he didn't look as ridiculous as Chuck Connors in GERONIMO (1962)).  It bothered me to some extent then in the 1970s and it bothers me now, but then I'm white but had I been born a Native American, I would certainly have a stronger, deeper opinion about it.  This fascinating documentary chronicles the history of Indians in film from the silent days to last week and it also looks at the impact it had on the indigenous peoples of the United States.  There are a ton of clips from classic movies and interviews with some pivotal voices in the community and within Hollywood.  A minor criticism is how loud the music mix is sometimes which can be bothersome but who cares when you get a moment like finding out that there were instances where real Indians portraying Indians in Westerns, speaking in their native language were getting a little bit of revenge because the producers didn't bother translating what they were really saying.  Fucking classic!

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