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Whiteclay documentary debuts Wednesday

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  • Robert Schmidt
    http://journalstar.com/articles/2008/06/25/news/nebraska/doc486277c1eb57868 2330871.txt Whiteclay documentary debuts Wednesday By JOHN QUINLAN / Sioux City
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 26, 2008
      http://journalstar.com/articles/2008/06/25/news/nebraska/doc486277c1eb57868
      2330871.txt

      Whiteclay documentary debuts Wednesday

      By JOHN QUINLAN / Sioux City Journal
      Wednesday, Jun 25, 2008 - 01:44:27 pm CDT

      The controversy over the sale of alcohol in Whiteclay to Oglala Sioux
      tribal members is the subject of a new documentary film, “The Battle for
      Whiteclay.”

      The film will premiere Wednesday night at the Orpheum Theatre in Sioux
      City, Iowa.

      It is a five-year labor of love by producer/director Mark Vasina of
      Lincoln, who returned to Nebraska a few years ago to pursue documentary
      filmmaking after working for 10 years on Wall Street.

      Now 54, he has completed his first film, and he’s proud of it.

      The principal editor is Alex Muscu, with Vasina listed as co-editor. The
      film, which is nearly two hours long, will be shown in Omaha and Lincoln as
      early as this fall, Vasina said.

      It follows Native activists, including Frank LaMere of Winnebago, from the
      streets of Whiteclay to the halls of the Nebraska State Capitol in their
      campaign to end alcohol sales in Whiteclay.

      “Frank LaMere, he’s almost the moral compass within the film,” Vasina said.
      “There are no interviews with him, but there’s him in action throughout.”

      Whiteclay’s beer stores sell an estimated 11,000 cans of beer a day, mostly
      to Oglala Sioux tribal members living two miles north of the town. The sale
      and possession of alcohol is banned on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

      Vasina’s involvement began in spring 2003 when LaMere and Nebraskans for
      Peace joined for a march to Whiteclay. Vasina videotaped the event.

      That night, as he and a small film crew walked around Whiteclay, Vasina
      noticed that townspeople and merchants had cleaned up the town in advance.

      “Even though there was an attempt by the locals to sanitize Whiteclay, it
      was pretty shocking to me, what I saw and the people that I talked to on
      the streets,” he said. “And I was hooked.”

      As much as he admires the in-your-face documentary style made popular by
      Michael Moore in recent years, Vasina said he felt more comfortable
      tackling such a complex topic chronologically. The film includes footage of
      marches, protests, blockades and government meetings.

      Vasina said seeing the film’s final cut made him think of the events he
      experienced over the past five years.

      “I think the viewer comes away understanding that something is very, very
      wrong in Whiteclay,” he said. “And something definitely needs to be done
      about it.”
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