Film » Film Features

Mixed Messages

Older Than America explores issues of displacement

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Part of the Cleveland Museum of Art's American Indian film series, 2008's Older Than America tells the story of Rain (Georgina Lightning), a Native-American woman who suffers horrible nightmares. We see one in the film's opening sequence, when a tribesman is mysteriously killed. Rain wakes up and steps outside for some fresh air, and eventually falls back to sleep with her significant other Johnny (Adam Beach) at her side.

It turns out that Rain is a visionary of sorts. She soon starts seeing the people from her dreams in her waking life. The larger issue, however, concerns Native-American displacement; local politicians hold heated debates about whether or not to build a casino on sacred lands. Rain's mental health is questioned when she's in a car accident after swerving to avoid what she thinks is a group of children.

Affirming her visions, geologist Luke (Bradley Cooper) shows up to investigate an earthquake that registered at a spot on the reservation where tribe members tell him "there are nothing but ghosts." Even he starts seeing ghosts after he visits an old school where Native-American children were tortured, and Rain soon finds herself immersed in a conspiracy of sorts.

While the film's message about Native-American displacement is effectively delivered (historically, Native-American children were abused at many boarding schools), its clunky dialogue ("some stories never make the history books"), pedestrian cinematography and poor acting prevent it from becoming more than a message movie.

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