A documentary about the way in which Native Americans have been portrayed in the movies, Reel Injun makes its local premiere tonight at 5:15 and 7 p.m. at the Cleveland Museum of Art Lecture Hall. Here's our review of the film.
(Canada, 2009) “The only thing more pathetic than Indians on TV is Indians watching Indians on TV,” a character tells his Native American friends in a clip from 1998’s Smoke Signals
at the start of this documentary, which covers 100 years of Native Americans in movies. Cree filmmaker Neil Diamond begins his trek in the Black Hills, where he attempts to debunk myths about Crazy Horse, an icon who allegedly killed General Custer. He visits his descendents, who live on one of the poorest reservations in the country, and he goes to the old building where Crazy Horse was imprisoned and stops at a summer camp for suburban kids where Native American rituals are reenacted. Diamond then explores the transformation from “noble Injun” to “brutal savage.” He visits Navajos who were extras on old John Wayne movies and translates their lines for the very first time, discovering that they often improvised and added insults directed at their white co-stars. There’s a happy ending, however, as actors like Will Sampson (Chief Bromden in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
) reclaim stereotyped Native American characters, triggering yet another shift in Hollywood. ***