Films of Substance

John Hult

John Hult

Last week’s showing of Incident At Oglala in the South Dakota Art Museum kicked off the most directly issue-oriented season of the museum’s film series.

This semester, the films being shown focus on issues surrounding American Indians.

Two of the films?Incident At Oglala and Thunderheart?are Hollywood productions, while the second two films?The Doe Boy and the short film High Horse?were directed by American Indian filmmaker Randy Redroad.

Redroad is scheduled to speak following the screening of The Doe Boy.

The films are unique from those shown in a regular theater in several ways.

The series, orginally organized by a group called Reel Images, screens four films each semester in the newly remodeled auditorium in the basement of the South Dakota Art Museum.

Museum Director Lynn Verschoor said that the committee that chooses the films is a rotating group, and the members seek advice form other members of the community about what films ought ot be shown.

“It took the group quite awhile to find out what we wanted to focus on,” Verschoor said. “The main thing is to try and feature independent filmmakers. After that, we decided to focus on issues.”

One of the people involved indirectly in the selection of the films for this fall was Charles Woodard, a professor of English at SDSU.

“She asked for suggestions from several people, including me,” Woodard said.

Incident At Oglala is a documentary directed by Michael Apted that hits close to home with its story of Leonard Peltier, a man who is still behind bars for the murder of two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in the 1970s.

Verschoor said that the committee decided to begin with the documentary because of its significance to the region.

Verschoor calls Thunderheart, the second film in the series, “the Hollywood version of the story.”

Woodard led a discussion following the showing of Oglala.

The discussion groups that follow each film are another thing that makes the film series unique.

Woodard began the discussion by reading several pieces of information to bring the crowd up-to-date as to Peltier’s situation since 1992, the date the film was completed.

The first few minutes of the discussion offered the audience a chance to speak about the artistic aspects of the film

The audience then spoke back and forth for over an hour, asking questions that ranged from the injustice of Peltier’s imprisonment to Sept. 11 to the future of American Indians and prejudice of all sorts.

Some residents of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation were in attendance and answered questions about the situation now.

The second film in the series, Thunderheart, was also directed by Michael Apted.

The film, starring Val Kilmer, Graham Greene and Sam Shepard revolves around an inexperienced FBI agent who comes to the Pine Ridge reservation in the 1970s to investigate a series of murders. Kilmer’s character is one-quarter Sioux in the film and begins to suspect foul play amoungst his fellow officers.

Three of the actors in Thunderheart, John Trudell, Dennis Banks and Duane Brewer, were actual players on Pine Ridge in the 1970s. Trudell was an activist with the American Indian Movement, of which Leonard Peltier was a member.

Dennis Banks is the co-founder of the American Indian Movement, and plays himself in the film.

Brewer was an officer on the reservation and still lives there. Brewer is scheduled to speak at the museum after the showing of the film.

Verschoor says that they are happy to have Brewer do the speaking at the second show.

“He’s lived on Pine Ridge for a long time and he’s got some really incredible insight about the things that went on there,” Verschoor said.

The last two films in the series are the independents The Doe Boy and High Horse.

The Doe Boy won director Randy Redroad the Sundance/NHK International Filmmakers Award and best picture, best director, best actor (James Duval), best actress (Jeri Arredondo) and best supporting actress (Jade Herrera) at the American Indian Motion Picture Awards 2001.

The film centers on a mixed blood Cherokee teenager with hemophilia who accidentaly kills a doe instead of a buck while hunting. The main focus of the story is the relationship between the teen and his Indian grandfather, who teaches him about his culture and himself.

Randy Redroad also directed High Horse, a short film from 1995 that was also shown at the Sandance Film Festival.

Thunderheart plays this Thursday at 7:30 p.m. The Doe Boy and High Horse will show Nov. 7 and 8, respectively. Each showing costs $2 for SDSU students with ID, $3.50 for others.