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Hollywood has an impressive track record—one that spans more than 4000 films—of blatantly misrepresenting Native people and their cultures. Featuring interviews with filmmakers and activists such as Clint Eastwood, Jim Jarmusch and Russell Means—and clips from hundreds of classic films including Stagecoach, The Outlaw Josey Wales and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Dances with Wolves—Reel Injun delves into the fascinating history of the Hollywood Indian with razor-sharp insight and humour, tracing its checkered cinematic evolution from the silent film era to today.
Rotten Tomatoes Movie Reviews
- Reviews Counted: 15
- Fresh: 13
- Rotten: 2
- Average Rating: 7.0/10
Top Critics' Reviews
Fresh: Setting off in his barely road-worthy "rez car," Mr. Diamond films a series of bittersweet, and sometimes bitingly funny, encounters.
Fresh: Reel Injun will most likely give you a new perspective the next time you watch John Wayne battle Native Americans.
Fresh: Entertaining and informative.
Fresh: Reel Injun is not a peace pipe but a convincing case for a place at the table.
A New Perspective
I was lucky enough to catch this documentary on CBC a few months back, and it was a fascinating film to watch. I will admit that the position of the Native American in film was not something I had meditated upon for much of my life. This film gave a history of Native Americans in film, and outlined a lot of the misconceptions and preconceived notions that audiences and filmmakers have about Native Americans, and how they show in movies.
I do wonder about some of the interviewees, however. There was one who really stuck out to me, and I must confess that I cannot remember his name, but he was a Native American poet from Vancouver, I believe. At one point he asserts (with an assumed air of profundity) that when the Europeans landed in the new world and asked who the Native Americans were, they responded that they were people. But the Europeans didn't understand that, "so they called us indians." This segment of the movie has become a bit of a personal joke for me, since most Native groups use names that literally translate to "THE people," an explicit statement of essential exclusivity. Cultures are inherently ethnocentric, and Native Americans are no exception. But only one interviewee was naive enough to invoke the archetype of the 'noble savage,' so it's not enough to detract from the film as a whole.
I definitely recommend this documentary to you, stranger, as I have to several of my friends. The very least it will do is bring Native issues to the forefront of your mind for two hours, and it might just invite you into a newer, more aware worldview.
First seen this on CBC "Passionate Eye". This is a great documentary of how Aboriginal people have been portrayed in hollywood movies. This would be great for educators, students and just people who want to know why the stereotypes of 'Indians' are the way they are.
This needs to be shown in schools
I work for an Aboriginal focussed organization and I still run into coworkers who have a problem doing what this movie asks: just see us as humans. I am Metis but because of stigma and because my forefathers could pass as white, we lost who we were and now I'm trying to find out who I am and breakdown the colonial views I've been brought up to believe. I don't want to be the cowboy but I sure as hell will never be the mystical brave wearing feathers and headbands. I am human and I am pround of my ancestors. This documentary is so important. It shows the gravity of the situation but it doesn't forget the humour. Please take the time to watch it and learn.