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"Dreamkeeper" Keeps the Faith

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  • Rob
    Indian Comics Irregular #106 Dreamkeeper, an ABC mini-series about the power of Native storytelling, premiered Dec. 28-29. Interweaving myth and reality,
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 27, 2004
      Indian Comics Irregular #106

      "Dreamkeeper," an ABC mini-series about the power of Native
      storytelling, premiered Dec. 28-29. Interweaving myth and "reality,"
      the Hallmark production recounted the life-changing journey of an
      angry Lakota youth and his grandfather. The reviews were mixed, but
      I'd say it acquitted itself reasonably well.

      Curiously, the responses split along ethnic lines. Natives viewed
      "Dreamkeeper" much more favorably than non-Natives did. Some
      examples:

      In the Indian world, the past, present and future all exist as one.
      Unlike the European and Middle Eastern worldview, the spiritual and
      physical world[s] occupy the same space. Beyond being just a
      stunning achievement, the ABC television mini-series "Dreamkeeper"
      is also a success in incorporating an Indian worldview. (James
      May, Indian Country Today)

      Solid acting, great special effects and a well-written script are
      just part of the reason the show works. Some of Indian country's
      most talented and beautiful cast has been assembled for this
      production. (Louis Gray, Native American Times)

      The story is actually several stories within a story. It has all
      of the elements our old legends have. There are moral lessons,
      stories of unrequited love, tragedy, humor, courage, and
      redemption. Modern-day life of Indians living on a reservation is
      depicted with honesty and respect. (Michelle Gray, Native American
      Times)

      Films such as this are a good way to break stereotypes and bring
      understanding in a painless way. (Dorreen Yellowbird, Grand Forks
      Herald)

      [Delanna] Studi, a niece of actor Wes Studi, says she hopes
      viewers glean "the fact that Native Americans are a living people,
      a modern people, and we have such complex and interesting stories.
      We are not all the same." (Jacqueline Cutler, Tribune Media
      Services)

      The Critics Strike Back

      Perhaps because they were less famil-iar with Native history and
      culture, or less awed by it, non-Native critics were less wowed by
      "Dreamkeeper." Some of their opinions:

      [It's] a sprawling, four-hour cavalcade of Native American
      legends-come-to-life...sympathetic, sincere, scrupulously
      researched and sumptuously mounted, but also sentimental,
      simplistic and over-long. (Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times)

      "Dreamkeeper" takes legends from Native American culture and
      dilutes them with shoddy special effects, subpar acting and no
      sense of excitement or urgency. (David Bianculli, New York Daily
      News)

      There's a lot at stake in whether a Lakota youth will open up to
      his grandfather's stories. But by presenting these stories with
      mind-numbing excess, the mini-series defeats its own message.
      Perhaps with a few million dollars less, the filmmakers might have
      done "Dreamkeeper" justice. (Matthew Gilbert, Boston Globe)

      My views fall somewhere in the middle. I admired "Dreamkeeper" for
      the same reasons the Natives did--especially for its
      stereotype-busting ways. But several problems kept me from judging it
      a superior work of art. Among them were the preponderance of Plains
      Indian stories, the sometimes hamfisted messages, and the too-pat
      resolution of the conflicts.

      At the 12th annual First Americans in the Arts awards ceremony, held
      March 20 in Los Angeles, "Dreamkeeper" was the big winner. Eddie
      Spears (Shane), Delanna Studi (Talks a Lot), and Teneil Whiskey Jack
      (Quillwork Girl) all earned awards for their acting. Hallmark
      Entertainment and ABC received Trustee Awards for making and airing
      the mini-series.

      As for me, I give "Dreamkeeper" a 7.5 of 10. For more comments, visit
      http://www.bluecorncomics.com/drmkeepr.htm.

      Rob Schmidt
      Blue Corn Comics
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