Independent Lens: Reel Injun

3 Nov

The past two weeks I have watched the new episodes of Independent Lens on PBS. Oh boy, this post might give a rather stark portrait of how dorky I am. Oh well, what’s done is done- and it’s worth it to share such a great program (there I go with some great public broadcasting jargon-‘program’- love it!). Moving on…

Independent Lens is really great. It’s a documentary film program which shows a different hour long film each week (Tuesday nights, rebroadcast Wednesday afternoons). The tagline is: a film festival in your living room. As Liz Lemon would say: I want to go to there. But wait, I’m already there! Excellent!

Last week’s Art and Copy was good (especially for Mad Men fans, as it examined the real story of American advertising)- but this week’s Reel Injun was great. Recently, I have been very interested in American indigenous studies, so the timing was perfect. The film (by Cree filmmaker Neil Diamond) deals with how Native Americans have been portrayed in Hollywood, from the very first  moving pictures to a current Renaissance in indigenous film (which is actually worldwide). From John Wayne movies to Rambo to Pocahontas, the movie follows the filmmaker as he investigates the way ‘Injuns’ have been portrayed on by Hollywood and the personalities that contributed to that history, for better or for worse.

Fun fact: When Marlon Brando was awarded an Oscar for his performance in The Godfather he refused the award in protest of Hollywood’s ignorant portrayal of indigenous peoples, having  Sacheen Littlefeather, a member of the Apache nation speak on his behalf. At the time, members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) were occupying the town of Wounded Knee, SD. Way to go Mr. Brando! Check out this beautifully delivered speech by Sacheen Littlefeather.:

Perhaps the most exciting part of the movie was the final segment about the indigenous film Renaissance that started in the late 1990s and continues to today worldwide. It mentions the film Whale Rider- about the indigenous populations in New Zealand, which I would highly suggest. The film also highlights Atanarjuat, which means The Fast Runner and is made by an Inuit filmmaker. It looks awesome!

A great documentary, on a great topic! Try to catch it on air or I think PBS will be posting a full episode online soon. Next week: The Longoria Affair. I’ll let you know what I think!


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