Indigenous Movies on the Move
- Indian Comics Irregular #158
Last year's Australian movie "Ten Canoes" finally made it to West and East Coast theaters. There the major newspapers took note of it. The Washington Post (6/8/07) called it "a buoyant Aboriginal original" and added:
Unlike the 1980 comedy "The Gods Must Be Crazy," in which natives
of the Kalahari desert were exploited for visual slapstick, "Ten
Canoes" presents its characters as members of a complex society
where the rule of law is paramount; they are not God's naked brown
children, painted and nose-pierced for our superior delectation.
And as we watch how they solve problems--not with ooga-booga
mysticism but time-honored rules and regulations learned from the
bounties, secrets and wisdom of nature, we realize that "Ten
Canoes" is more than a charming, mythical story about Aborigines.
It's about civilization.
In March I finally saw "End of the Spear," the 2006 movie about Waodani Indians clashing with missionaries in Ecuador. My conclusion: It was an artful work of fiction, with emphasis on the word "fiction." As I wrote in my review:
Although I enjoyed the movie itself, it has a huge flaw that
renders it unpersuasive as a piece of Native history. Namely, what
was the nature of the Waodani? Were they really as warlike, as
needful of salvation, as "End of the Spear" portrayed them?
Clearly, the filmmakers would like us to think so. Since I don't
know the historical record, they may even be right. But the
evidence in the movie is all over the map. It's so contradictory
and unreliable that you don't know whether it's true or not.
Read my full analysis of "End of the Spear" at http://www.bluecorncomics.com/endspear.htm .
First Americans in the Arts
In April I attended the 15th annual awards ceremony of the First Americans in the Arts (FAITA). As usual, I took pictures and notes so I could report on the event. Among the evening's highlights:
* Joe Garcia, chairman of the National Congress of the American Indian, spoke passionately about the importance of Indians in American life.
* On his way to the stage to present an award, Mel Gibson passed by close enough for me to trip him.
* Comanche chairman Wallace Coffey dismissed allegations that actor Rudy Youngblood ("Apocalypto") isn't an Indian.
* Floyd Westerman accepted an award for lifetime achievement in music, then gave it to activist Dennis Banks.
Youngblood has been the butt of charges by alleged Comanche David Yeagley, the right-wing extremist who thinks he's the last true Indian. At first Youngblood refused to respond to the attacks, which only fueled the flames. Now the controversy seems to have ended.
You can learn more about FAITA at http://www.bluecorncomics.com/faita.htm and the Yeagley/Youngblood conflict at http://www.bluecorncomics.com/apclypto.htm .
Natives Up North
In July I saw "Brother Bear 2," the direct-to-video sequel of the Disney hit. It was about the way critics described it: not as good as the original, but not bad. At least it had fewer cultural flaws than its predecessor.
I also saw "The Simpsons Movie," the big-screen debut of Springfield's favorite family. Curiously, it features an Alaskan "medicine woman" in a key role. Although the film jumbles the Inuit and Native Alaskan cultures, it does a decent job of using an indigenous character.
For more on these and other Native-themed movies, go to http://www.bluecorncomics.com/namovies.htm .
Blue Corn Comics