January 25, 2016

Native women in film

Someone asked me if I had a list of Native women in film. Not just Native actors, which would be easy, but writers, directors, and producers.

I didn't, so I went to work. Here are the results:

This is the most comprehensive list I could find of Native filmmakers. In 5-10 minutes of searching, that is:

National Museum of the American Indian
Film & Media Catalog: People

You probably know some of these people. For the others, you'd have to check the female names via IMDB and Google. To see whether they're directors, producers, writers, actors, or some combination thereof.

This article:

Powerful and Resonant: Native & First Nations Women’s Filmic Presence

lists a few of the big names:A very brief list includes Alanis Obomsawin (Abenaki), Sandra Sunrising Osawa (Makah), Christine Welsh (Métis), Shirley Cheechoo (Cree), Beverly Singer (Tewa, Navajo), Loretta Todd (Métis, Cree), Shelley Niro (Mohawk), Valerie Red-Horse, Tracey Deer (Mohawk), Missy Whiteman (Arapaho, Kickapoo), Heather Rae (Cherokee), and Tamara Podemski.These postings:

Through Indian Eyes: Native American Cinema

Native American & Indigenous Film

First Nations & Native American Celebs

list a lot of performers but also some directors, producers, and so forth. You can search them for the words "director," "producer," and so forth. And add them to your list.

I think these combined will give you most of the Native women working in film these days. There may be a few hundred of them, if not more.

Below: Tantoo Cardinal in Shelley Niro's Honey Moccasin.

January 24, 2016

Movie and TV diversity sells

After the #OscarsSoWhite announcement for 2016, Hollywood once again considered its failure to diversify.

In Hollywood, a major disconnect between economic interests and business practices

Study by UCLA Bunche Center finds that women and minorities are still underrepresented among actors, directors and executives

By Eric Greene
The report reveals a dramatic disconnect between the reality of America and the Hollywood dream factory. It found that although films and TV shows with casts that reflect the nation’s racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to succeed at the box office or in the Nielsen ratings, minorities and women continue to be severely underrepresented as directors, show creators, writers and lead actors.

For example, although women make up a little more than 50 percent of the U.S. population, only 6.3 percent of the films in the study were directed by women, and only 17 percent of film studio senior management were women. Not a single film studio CEO was a woman during the period studied in the report.

Similarly, while racial minorities are approximately 40 percent of the population, racial minorities directed just 17.8 percent of theatrical films in 2013 and represented only 8 percent of film studio senior management. Only one person of color was a film studio CEO.

The report also reveals that more than half of “frequent moviegoers”—a group that buys half of all domestic movie tickets—are minorities, suggesting that the industry’s hiring practices are out of sync with its economic interests.

“What we’re finding is that audiences want diverse content,” Hunt said. “They want diverse content created by diverse talent. So the industry would increase its odds of success if there was more diversity in the room.”
When will Hollywood figure out that diversity sells?

Panel discusses findings of UCLA's Hollywood Diversity Report

By Sarah Rothbard/Zocalo
Hunt, who wrote the report with Ana Christina Ramon, also with the Bunche center, said that he was not surprised by most of this year’s findings, which came from analyzing 200 films and more than 1,100 television shows released in the 2012-13 season. Film directors, writers and actors remain overwhelmingly white and male; TV is more diverse, but both nonwhites and women remain vastly underrepresented.

Hunt said that the study’s most interesting finding is that “diversity clearly sells.” More diverse TV shows are more popular than shows that aren’t diverse. And movies with diverse casts did best at the worldwide box office.

So why doesn’t Hollywood follow the money and create more diverse content?

Hunt said that white men have dominated positions behind the camera for many years. In a high-risk industry, they want to feel they have the best chance of succeeding, and so they tend to hire people who look and think like them.
Diverse movies are a huge business. Why doesn’t Hollywood make more?

By Drew HarwellThe industry is ignoring a gold mine. Every year for the past half-decade, the average white American has bought a ticket to fewer films than the average black, Hispanic or Asian moviegoer, industry data shows. Though 37 percent of the U.S. population, minorities bought 46 percent of the $1.2 billion in tickets sold in the United States last year.

Some of the year’s biggest surprises had diverse actors and small budgets but ended up dominating the silver screen. For five straight weeks ending in September, movies with predominately black casts topped the box office, including the Christian drama “War Room,” thriller “The Perfect Guy” and rap biography “Straight Outta Compton,” which has made $200 million on a $28 million budget to become the highest-grossing biopic of all time.

More recently, “Creed,” a “Rocky” spinoff starring Michael B. Jordan and directed by Ryan Coogler—both 20-something black men who led the 2013 critical darling “Fruitvale Station”—has triumphed with $72 million at the box office and one of the best opening weekends in the boxing franchise’s 40-year history.

High-profile hires of actors such as Jordan in “Creed” and John Boyega in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” have remained the exception in a Hollywood that has shown only stuttering progress over the past year in getting more-diverse talent into blockbuster roles.
How Hollywood Keeps Minorities Out

By Dennis RomeroFilms with casts that are 21 to 30 percent minority fared better than movies with any other racial-ethnic mix, earning a median box office take of $160 million, according to Hunt's last UCLA study. Those films also saw the greatest return on investment. With major network TV, "median household ratings peaked" for shows with casts that were 41 to 50 percent minority, the report found.UCLA Releases Scathing Report on Diversity in Film and TV

By Melissa SilversteinJust when you thought it was safe to be hopeful again, here comes another reality check.

The Bunche Center at UCLA has released its annual "Hollywood Diversity Report" to remind us that we're still nowhere near where we should be in terms of gender and racial diversity. Researchers examined 172 theatrical films released in 2011 and 1061 TV shows aired during the 2011-12 season on six broadcast and 62 cable networks, eloquently explaining their reasoning as follows: "When media images are rooted primarily in stereotype, inequality is normalized and is more likely to be reinforced over time through our prejudices and practices."

Here's the crazy--and yet entirely logical and expected--part: Diversity means money. Broadcast comedies and dramas with more diversity get higher ratings. Films with just 21-30% diversity earned a global median box-office total of $160 million, while films with less than 10% diversity made just $68.5 million.
Oscars So White? Or Oscars So Dumb? Discuss.

By Manohla Dargis, Wesley Morris, and A.O. ScottMANOHLA DARGIS I love that so many people are enraged at this year’s whiteout—anyone who yells at the Academy is a friend of mine—but I wish that this anger was being expressed 365 days a year and not when the nominations are announced. As Tony suggested, it’s worth repeating again and again (and again!): The primary reason the Oscars are so white this year and most years is that the movie industry is overwhelmingly white. That’s infuriating, but that’s not shocking, and it sure isn’t news. And if that bothers people, then they need to start complaining loudly and perhaps even begin voting with their dollars. By, say, supporting movies with minorities and women. Because the only way the industry will change is if people give them hell.

WESLEY MORRIS Manohla, wouldn’t you say that’s what happened in the last year and the year before? The audiences paid to see women, films with mostly black actors and racially diverse casts, and paid often: “The Force Awakens,” “Inside Out,” “Furious 7,” “Pitch Perfect 2,” “Spy,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Trainwreck,” “Straight Outta Compton,” “Cinderella,” “Creed,” “Get Hard,” “Sisters,” that second “Divergent” movie and the last “Hunger Games.” There’s demonstrable proof that North America wants to see itself—more of itself—in its entertainment. And the Academy—which is working to add more women, young people and color to its ranks—should want to see more of its ideal self at the Oscars.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see The Revenant vs. Life of Pi and Diversity Is "An Artistic Necessity."

January 22, 2016

The Revenant vs. Life of Pi

More on The Revenant:

Consider Life of Pi. Man (boy) vs. nature (tiger or bear, sea or snow). Who greenlit that without Cruise, Clooney, or DiCaprio and why?

It earned $609 million worldwide on a $120 million budget, which would put it near the top of DiCaprio's hit list. But without a white man as the star...puzzling!

No one even needs The Revenant or the Hugh Glass story. If DiCaprio wanted to work with González Iñárritu on a sweeping Western epic, they could've made a story up. Something with DiCaprio and a co-equal Native star.

With roughly the same ingredients, it would've done roughly as well. DiCaprio could've thanked his Native co-stars without becoming the great white savior. That movie would've advanced Natives, whom he supposedly cares about, more than The Revenant.

My Facebook friend joined in:This is my point, since I'm actually reading the book. it's a story of survival, and in this day when we are sorely lacking in diversity it would've been so much bolder to make this change.

Or how about a screenplay portraying Indians any time after say, 1915? That would be truly revolutionary!
Like my Breaking the Code movie!

Lots of indie films

Of course, indie films about modern Natives get made all the time. In the last couple of years there's been Drunktown's Finest, Rhymes for Young Ghouls, Empire of Dirt, The Jingle Dress, Songs My Brother Taught Me, Mekko, Le Dep, and the upcoming Neither Wolf Nor Dog.

I haven't seen most of these, so I'm not sure how good they are. There aren't many (or any) commercial or mainstream stories among the bunch. Nothing I'd send my mom, who doesn't care about Indians, to see.

One could argue against more period pieces like The Revenant, Bone Tomahawk, or the upcoming Diablo starring Adam Beach. Not to mention The Ridiculous 6.

The question is: Does it help Indians to appear as minor characters in old Westerns? Which reinforce the idea that Indians are dead and gone? I dunno.

Yes, it reminds people that Indians were a part of the West. But do people get that modern Indians with jobs, SUVs, and cellphones were only play-acting between their Starbucks and yoga classes? I'm not sure about that.

Upcoming projects

Q'orianka Kilcher, Graham Greene cast in Chickasaw Nation film, 'Te Ata' (VIDEO)

After 1915, so it counts!

Charles Red Corn’s 'A Pipe for February' to be a Film

Only 95 years in the past! Getting closer!

For more on Leonardo DiCaprio, see Native Lead in The Revenant? and The Revenant = "White Savior" Story

January 21, 2016

Bundys hold Paiute artifacts hostage

The 'hostages' of Oregon standoff: 4,000 Paiute artifacts? (+video)

The Burns Paiute tribe, whose ancestral lands are occupied by protesters at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, have asked officials to prosecute the armed activists for potential damage to sacred sites and historical artifacts.

By Molly Jackson
As the armed occupation of an Oregon wildlife refuge enters its third week, with little public response from the government, many Americans' initial fascination with Ammon Bundy's eclectic group of protesters demands to return the land "to the people" has faded to weary frustration.

For the nearby Burns Paiute tribe, however, much more is at stake: 4,000 tribal artifacts, maps, and hundreds of sacred sites that they fear may be damaged or carted off for profit while their ancestral lands remain under the control of armed activists who see loggers and ranchers, not Native Americans or the federal government, as the land's rightful owners.

"As far as I'm concerned, our history is just another hostage," Paiute Tribal Council Chairwoman Charlotte Rodrique told the Associated Press.

After weeks of speaking out against the occupation, the tribe has written a letter to the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), which manages the refuge, asking that the Citizens for Constitutional Freedom, as the occupiers are now calling themselves, be prosecuted for any damage to federally protected artifacts. A copy was also sent to the US Attorney for the state of Oregon, Billy Williams, according to the AP.
Burns Paiute Tribe: Oregon Occupiers Might Sell Sacred Artifacts on eBay

By Justin StreightCharlotte Roderique (pictured above), chair of the Burns Paiute Tribal Council, released a statement on the occupation Friday.

“Armed protestors don’t belong here. They continue to desecrate one of our most important sacred sites. They should be held accountable.”

Tribal council member Jarvis Kennedy highlighted one particular fear—that the artifacts could end up for sale.

“They could be on eBay right now—we don’t know. With militia members coming and going freely from the refuge, who knows what’s leaving there?”
Interior and exterior threats

Oregon Wildlife Refuge Occupiers Rifle Through Native American Artifacts

By Brendan O'ConnorA video uploaded to Facebook on Wednesday appears to show the armed militants occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge rummaging through a storage area, accusing the Bureau of Land Management of improperly storing artifacts belonging to the local, native Paiute tribe. “SHARE!” the video is captioned. “BREAKING UPDATE BURNS OREGON BLM LEFT NATIVE ARTIFACTS TO ROT IN MICE DROPPINGS!”

Earlier this week, Burns Paiute tribal chairperson Charlotte Roderique expressed concern over how the militia was handling the tribe’s history. “We are really worried about the status of the artifacts down there,” Roderique told the Indian Country Today Media Network. (Gawker could not reach Roderique for comment.)

“I understand they took a bulldozer and built a line around the refuge headquarters,” Roderique told Indian Country Today. “You can’t go and bulldoze things. I don’t know what these people are doing if they are doing things to just get a rise or to be martyr—all they are doing is making enemies out of the people they professed to support.”

Last week, the tribe delivered a letter to the U.S. Attorney and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service demanding the militants’ prosecution “if the occupiers disturb, damage, remove, alter, or deface any archaeological resource on the refuge property.”
Militants claim they want to return Paiute artifacts from Oregon reserve in new video

By Arturo GarciaMembers of Ammon Bundy’s militant group released a video on Wednesday claiming they want to “open a dialogue” with members of the Burns Paiute Tribe regarding artifacts stored inside the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

The video, posted on YouTube by multiple-time felon Stanley Blaine Hicks under his “Blaine Cooper” alias, shows LaVoy Finnicum walking through a storage room at the facility, saying it contains artifacts shoved into boxes.

“You can see there’s some rat’s nests in here,” Finnicum says, motioning toward one group of boxes. However, no rats are visible at any moment during the three-minute video.

“My question is, why do they just keep them down here?” Finnicum asks.

Militants Plow New Roads At Refuge, Possibly Damaging Artifacts

By Amanda PeacherKevin Foerster, the agency’s Pacific region chief, also denounced the construction.

“There’s a reason why there’s not a road there,” said Foerster. “If there was a need for a road in that particular location, we would have over the past 108 years put a road in that location.”

The agency said the action is likely a violation of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act, also known as the ARPA.

“Even disturbing 3 to 4 inches on the surface is an ARPA violation,” said Holm. “Investigators will have to excavate to determine depth of disturbance in several areas to understand the extent of the damage.”
Summing it up

Bundy Militia Compared To ISIS For Pawing Through Native American Artifacts, Destroying Sites

By Kristina KillgroveOn the face of it, this doesn’t seem like a bad sentiment. For an organization obsessed with individual rights, it makes sense in a way: Finicum and others may actually be convinced that the Paiute objects need rescuing. But their paternalistic concern for people they perceive as downtrodden by the US government is misplaced. The Paiute agree that the objects need to be rescued—but rescued from Finicum and the other militia members. Rodrique is further quoted in Daily Kos as saying that “we feel strongly because we have had a good working relationship with the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge” prior to the occupation. “We view them as a protector of our cultural rights in that area.” The Paiute helped archive the artifacts at the refuge in the first place.

The Daily Kos quotes tribal council member Jarvis Kennedy as saying, “They just need to get the hell out of there. They didn’t ask anybody, we don’t want them here.” And the archaeologist for the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Carla Burnside, told ICTMN that militants released photos of themselves in her office rifling through sensitive archaeological files. Fish and Wildlife Service assistant director of external affairs, Jason Holm, further told Oregon Public Broadcasting that the road the occupiers recently bulldozed is “an archaeological site important to the Burns Paiute Tribe.” They also removed a fence that Holm said was “a deterrent to keep fire crews from driving across the archaeological site.”

The actions of the Bundy-led militia almost certainly go against ARPA, in spite of what Finicum and friends seem to think. Legal protections have been put into place over decades in the US to protect Native sites, artifacts, and burials and to help right the wrongs done to Native archaeological remains since Europeans first landed. Finicum may think he is doing the right thing in his misguided attempt to repatriate artifacts that are being stored at the refuge by choice and by design, but the Paiute vehemently disagree. And as it’s their heritage, it’s their right to rebuff Finicum and to bring federal action against the occupants who have no idea how to handle the artifacts or how to safeguard their sacred sites.

Rodrique’s quote in ICTMN sums it up for me, and for many of the people in my Twitter feed outraged by this brash disregard for the opinions of Natives: “I don’t know what these people are doing… if they are doing things to just get a rise or to be a martyr—all they are doing is making enemies out of the people they professed to support.”
Comment:  For more on Cliven Bundy, see Bundy: Paiutes Lost Their Claim and Paiutes Tell Bundys to Leave.

January 20, 2016

Native lead in The Revenant?

A Facebook friend wrote the following about The Revenant:I'm reading The Revenant, and it seems after the creators of the film bought the rights they took the liberty of completely adding in the story of Glass having a Native wife and son. So my question is, if they felt they needed to drastically change the story to add more humanity and drama, why didn't anyone think to just make the main character Hawk? He survives a bear attack, watches his white father get stabbed in front of him, and the movie ensues as is, a story of revenge, but with an Indian as the lead character. The movie would be filmed in the same fashion, therefore getting the same nominations, an Indian wins "Best Actor" and the Oscars don't have to explain another year lacking in diversity. BOOM everyone wins.I said something similar!

DiCaprio could've played the Tom Hardy role. Or, if we're further fictionalizing the story, a made-up role.

Marketers don't necessarily care whether a star plays a leading role or a supporting role. E.g., Johnny Depp in Into the Woods.

If DiCaprio's in it, they can sell it as if he's the star. Because audiences don't care that much either.Right. If audiences really cared, the turnout for Star Wars would've been significantly lower after learning of the storm trooper role. That's the logic of "white male leads put more butts in seats."There's also the fact that a star doesn't guarantee anything. See Johnny Depp in The Lone Ranger. No one could tell in advance whether The Revenant would be a hit or a flop.

DiCaprio vs. Depp

Someone else chimed in:Right, but I bet you [Depp] was a huge reason that movie got green lit. And the reason is flopped is, well, that is a TERRIBLE movie.Right, but the "Lone Ranger" experience contradicts your initial claim:

"The sad truth is, Leo [Johnny] sells tickets. He gets movies made. You couldn't realistically make this flick without him. With a budget of about 130m, you need to make sure you're going to get a certain amount back by casting a face who puts people's butts in seats."

The "selling tickets" part isn't a sad truth, it's a wish or a hope. An article of faith. The truth is that except for maybe Tom Cruise, no white actor can guarantee a hit movie. Certainly not Johnny Depp, whom Hollywood considers a hitmaker. These actors can't put "butts in the seats" and "make sure" a movie earns a profit.

I checked and DiCaprio's movies have a solid record of earning profits. But he generally does prestige projects with the likes of Martin Scorsese, Christopher Nolan, Steven Spielberg, and James Cameron. I.e., big names who often have hits because of their directing and producing skills regardless of whom they cast. DiCaprio doesn't take many risks with low-brow popcorn fare like The Lone Ranger.

So The Revenant was a gamble, not a sure thing. A $60 million film with a Native star, DiCaprio as the co-star, and a big-name director also would've been a gamble. We won't know which is the bigger gamble until DiCaprio and Hollywood actually make the second movie.

The "gets movies made" part is the sad truth. Because Hollywood ignores the success of diverse films and continues to operate via its old-boy network aka racism.

In short, the facts are these:

Diverse movies are a huge business. Why doesn’t Hollywood make more?

Not whatever Hollywood thinks they are.

For more on Leonardo DiCaprio, see The Revenant = "White Savior" Story and Is The Revenant a Game-Changer?

January 19, 2016

Means: Geronimo had 100+ errors

Hollywood v. Indians: Russell Means, The Great Mystery and Adam Sandler's Dreck

By Bayard JohnsonRussell came over for dinner one evening and sat down at the table, hardly speaking, staring into space. He was in another world. After a while he sat up straighter, cleared his throat, and came back to our kitchen table. “Got a look at the GERONIMO script,” he said. “It’s the worst piece of trash I’ve ever seen.” I can’t remember how many factual errors about Indians were written into the script. It was a staggering number, over 100. Everything about the script reflected an attempt by non-Indians, who knew nothing about Indians or their culture or beliefs or ways of life, to make money off the popular current interest in movies about American Indians. There was no attempt by the filmmakers to learn anything factual about Indians, or to represent them on screen with any accuracy whatsoever, according to Russell’s reading of the script.Means said he wouldn't do anything about it. The Great Mystery would take care of the problem:How was the Great Mystery going to take care of GERONIMO? I must’ve looked dubious. “If you look at the history of Hollywood,” said Russell, “you’ll see that recent movies that have treated Indians with respect—LAST OF THE MOHICANS, LITTLE BIG MAN, THE OUTLAW JOSIE WALES, DANCES WITH WOLVES—have all done well at the box office. Those like GERONIMO, which trampled roughshod over Indian culture, were box office disasters. Just wait, said Russell. You’ll see.

The numbers became clear later in 1993. GERONIMO cost $35 million to produce. The picture grossed $18 million, meaning that everyone who tried to exploit Indian culture to make money lost their ass instead.
Of course, Means also told us what he thought the best Native movies of the 1990s were:Last of the Mohicans and the best one of them all, Pocahontas.Not Dances with Wolves or Smoke Signals but Pocahontas, which must've had hundreds if not thousands of historical errors. So take his claims with a grain of salt.

For more on Russell Means, see Means on His Acting Career and Means on Native Movies.

January 18, 2016

The Revenant = "white savior" story

The Revenant is not an indigenous story

Grandiose frontier epic never escapes colonial gaze of western genre

By Jesse Wente
The Revenant is not an indigenous story. Like Dances with Wolves before it (among many others) it is an American fable that uses First Nations characters to support its allegorical intent, and one that never escapes the colonial gaze of the western genre.

Like Kevin Costner's more traditional western, The Revenant takes great strides to get period details correct around clothing, language, housing and combat, but does little to elevate the indigenous characters beyond narrative and storytelling devices.
Indigenous People’s Stories Need More Than Just Leonardo DiCaprio’s Speech

By Ryan McMahonMy social media is split between people who love the film for what it was—a story about how lost the English and the French were when they arrived in our territories—and people who hated the film for its tired tropes of violent Indians, and the portrayal of sexual violence against Indigenous women (and, yeah, one scene of sexual violence against an Indigenous woman is enough to mention it here). I've accepted the film for what it is: a look at how ugly and violent the fur trade and the settling of North America was.

Among friends, our "inside the circle" conversations (yes, Indigenous peoples have private conversations y'all are not privy to) about The Revenant have revolved around the white savior complex of the story, the bloodthirsty revenge narrative of the Arikara Chief, and the general musings of the violent times that were. For some, the anger and frustration at the representations of Indigenous people in the film don't allow all of us to see that The Revenant wasn't an Indigenous film. It was a film that happened to have a "B story" that included Native people, but it was not an Indigenous story alone.
'Revenant' Review: It’s Ok, But Still the Same Ol’ White Savior Stuff for Native People

By Gyasi Ross[T]he actual human story pushed Revenant into the same “white savior” garbage pile that has permeated pretty much any mainstream movie that includes Natives as major characters. DiCaprio’s “Glass” character is a dirty, vicious, capitalistic and brutal white man who is trying to get some quick money at the expense of Native people’s resources just like every other white man in the movie. The only difference is that Glass has a half-Native son (some of his best friends are black) and so that, evidently, somehow makes him different than the rest of the dirty, vicious, brutal and capitalistic white men. Glass instructs his half-Native son to be silent and to not upset white men, for survival, as white men hold the key to Native people’s survival and can exterminate them at any time. “Be invisible.”

When one of those other dirty, vicious, capitalistic brutal white men kills Glass’s son, DiCaprio goes full-on Native; somehow surviving the worst tragedies, misfortunes and pains that the world can throw at him (‘cause that’s what we do). He’s bent on revenge—the only way that he can find redemption is through avenging his Native son. And that’s kinda the way Hollywood historically uses Native people and black bodies: as lesson providers and tragic figures. We usually don’t live long enough to see the glory of the white man’s redemption, but instead have to be killed so that the white protagonist can find his or her humanity.
Chris Hemsworth and Leonardo DiCaprio Suffer for Oscars in Their New Movies

Both stars try to prove their seriousness as actors in old-timey survival tales In the Heart of the Sea and The Revenant, but there is a winner.

By Alison WillmoreThe Revenant is so prettily constructed that it’s painful to admit how ridiculous it actually is, and how empty it feels to watch a gruff, pseudo-mystical Western consisting of two actors method-style grunting their way toward an inevitable showdown in the snow. Like In the Heart of the Sea, The Revenant is set in a realm that’s entirely female-free, save for Glass’s ghost wife and an Arikara woman who’s kidnapped and raped. Movies don’t have to have a gender balance to be good, but The Revenant’s monotonous manliness is part of its weakness—it isn’t about anything other than the savage, violent world it’s so convinced has innate weight to it. Its revenge plot brings no satisfaction and its observations about the indifference of nature are prosaic. It’s a movie about survival in which survival seems as meaningless as everything else in its universe.

Though The Revenant is a more ambitious film than In the Heart of the Sea, in the end, the two survival dramas do the same thing: They treat struggle as synonymous with substance, even though one definitely doesn’t guarantee the other.
Excellent points, especially in the final review. Even if The Revenant is historically accurate, its portrayals sound disturbing.

Indeed, they sound like a 19th-century version of "poverty porn." See how bad the violence against Indians was? See? See? See?

We could call it massacre porn, genocide porn, or something like that. I'm not sure it serves a useful purpose either artistically or historically.

Someone defended the movie as "based on a true story," to which I said:

If you're going to fictionalize Glass's story--as they did--you could fictionalize it with a female, black, or Native protagonist. Heck, you could set it in Africa with a lion or Asia with a tiger instead of a bear.

It's a choice to make a movie featuring a white male protagonist such as Hemsworth or DiCaprio. Not an unalterable law of nature.

For more on Leonardo DiCaprio, see Is The Revenant a Game-Changer? and DiCaprio's Speech Isn't Enough.

January 17, 2016

Diversity is "an artistic necessity"

More on the #OscarsSoWhite controversy:

Oscars 2016: It's time for Hollywood to stop defining great drama as white men battling adversity

By Mary McNamaraBefore chalking all this up to a discussion of political correctness, Hollywood should take note that there is money at stake.

The movie and TV industries won't solve their main problem—how to capture the eyes of young audiences—by hewing to hallmarks of excellence set by previous generations. Millennials and post-millennials aren't just big franchise fans, they are also the most racially diverse and socially tolerant generations in history. As the crossover audiences for "Straight Outta Compton" and "The Hunger Games" series proved, they don't "need" their heroes to be white and don't expect them to be male or straight or anything but interesting.

So instead of panicking about the logistical challenges of the digital era, Hollywood should remember its own time-honored mantra: What matters is the story. The size and shape of the screens are, to a certain extent, outside the entertainment industry's control. What is playing on them, and how much it moves the audience, is not.

"Diversity," the lack of it and need for it, has been discussed and debated ad nauseam. But diversity isn't a civic duty, it's an artistic necessity. For any art form to remain relevant, it must grow with the society it explores, questions, criticizes and represents.
#OscarsSoWhite, Again: A Symptom of Hollywood's Racism

By Jacqueline KeelerThis generation of Native Americans actors do not follow their dreams to Hollywood in order to continue to play buckskin and loincloth Potemkin villager parts that serve only to provide a backdrop to a white male actor’s heroics. I agree with Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie when she said in her TED Talk that “The Danger of a Single Story”—that is, the world seen only from the perspective of the white male—is that, “it robs people of dignity. It makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult. It emphasizes how we are different rather than how we are similar … Many stories matter.”

In light of this, I call for a moratorium on “buckskin and loincloth parts” until portrayals of Native people are balanced with those featuring modern Native American protagonists. We must get away from the portrayal of Native people as either savage warriors of the past, “Indian princesses” to be courted and conveniently killed off before giving birth to a Mestizo nation north of the Rio Grande, or as stoic stereotypes.
And:In this vacuum of diverse portrayals, it is no wonder that stereotypes are all most Americans know about Native people.

The result of this whitewashing of racially diverse American stories—both those based in the real world and those in fantasy—was found in a 2014 UCLA study to reduce minority representation in films by more than half. Racial minorities make up 40 percent of the population but only 17 percent of leads in films, while 83 percent of the lead actors in films are white.

America is rich in stories—embarrassingly so. Let’s bring all the missing stories to the table and then we can begin to see each other as people.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Why Are Oscars So White? and #OscarsSoWhite2016.

Flipping the Whitesboro script

A couple of takes on the Whitesboro seal and what they tell us:

The "Whiteburros" seal is a satire, but it makes an important point. If the real seal shows a friendly wrestling match, then revise it to show both sides as equals. Or the Indian as the superior. Putting the white man in the superior position sends a racist message--whether the town of Whitesboro realizes it or not.

Would any white folks accept this as a seal even if it accurately reflected their history? Then why do you expect Indians to accept an image of an Indian in an inferior position? There's no logical consistency here--just "whites get to show themselves winning because of white privilege."

For more on government seals, see Comedians Mock Whitesboro Seal and Whitesboro Votes to Keep Seal.

January 15, 2016

Why are Oscars so white?

Some analyses of the #OscarsSoWhite phenomena:

The unbearable whiteness of Hollywood: The Academy should be ashamed—but the problem is bigger than the Oscars

For the second straight year, no performers of color have been nominated. Here's the real reason why

By Jack Mirkinson
What’s behind all this? Let’s call it one part economics and two parts institutional bigotry.

First, the economics: It’s no accident that television’s explosion of diversity happened at the same time that the economics of the business have morphed so much that it’s hard to articulate what constitutes “television” anymore. The plunge in ratings, the rise of streaming and the insane proliferation of outlets spending money on original series mean that TV creators have the luxury of targeting smaller audiences than movies do, and of taking more risks. The prestige wing of the industry has also embraced the new platforms enthusiastically. Having a show on Netflix is now seen as equivalent to having one on HBO.

Movies aren’t there yet. 2015 was actually the biggest year in both global and domestic box office history. That money, though, was generated on the back of a small handful of films—mostly thundering 3-D blockbusters that were easily exportable to every country in the world. More and more, the movie industry won’t take a chance on anything but the seemingly surest bets, and until it sees a sufficient threat to its way of life, it won’t veer from this path. What’s more, the on-demand platforms that could potentially sustain smaller, more interesting films are still seen as second-class, meaning that they don’t have a chance to break through in the same way that similar TV ventures do.

Here’s where the bigotry part really starts to rear its ugly head. All too often, “risk-free” still means “white men.” There remains a stubborn belief that movies about women or people of color won’t “play” in the international markets that have become so important to sustaining the film industry. What’s so infuriating about this is that, over and over again, movies about people of color or women that do get released make piles of money for the studios. It’s institutional barriers, not box office clout, that are holding back more of these films.

Even when movies aren’t expected to make a ton of money, the same rules still apply. Take another look at the 2016 nominations, many of which were given to smaller films. It’s not like the chosen white actors were plucked out of diverse movies. With a couple of exceptions, all of the movies they starred in contain almost completely white casts from start to finish. (They’re overwhelmingly male-centered, too: the most prominent female character in “The Revenant,” which won the Best Picture award at the Golden Globes, is a bear.)
Another Oscar Year, Another All-White Ballot

By Cara BuckleyFingers immediately pointed to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which gives out the Oscars and which, despite efforts to diversify its ranks in recent years, still skews older, male and white, according to a 2012 investigation by The Los Angeles Times. Academy members themselves were taken aback, saying in private conversations, “Don’t look at me,” but also, “This really doesn’t look good.”

But the truth probably springs from a murkier confluence of factors both sweeping and granular, from missteps and misjudgments in awards campaigns in support of individual movies to the systemic lack of diversity in Hollywood.

The studios behind two films that focus on black characters, “Creed” and “Straight Outta Compton,” seemed to come late to the realization that their productions were awards contenders or proved unable to win enough votes. The Academy’s preferential voting system also works against films and actors not selected as voters’ top picks. And, perhaps the biggest factor of all, the industry’s overall offerings: Many of the 305 films eligible for Oscars did not, demographically speaking, reflect the lives and complexions of movie audiences.

“Every time I say the same thing: Until we get a position of power, with a green-light vote, it’s not going to change,” Spike Lee said in an interview a few hours after the nominations came out. “We may win an Oscar now and then, but an Oscar is not going to fundamentally change how Hollywood does business. I’m not talking about Hollywood stars. I’m talking about executives. We’re not in the room.”
The Oscars’ death spiral: The academy and Hollywood are locked in a crisis of their own making

Another super-white list of Oscar nominees, but the problem is less the academy than Hollywood's dominant ideology

By Andrew O'Hehir
From the point of view of the academy’s leadership, this pretty much presents an insoluble dilemma. Seriously, what are they supposed to do, beyond putting up with all the outraged blog posts and #OscarsSoWhite tweets and pushing onward for another year? Can they kick out all the stereotypical retired bit-part actors and movie executives in Beverly Hills, with their stereotypical sky-blue cardigans and white patent-leather shoes? Or send them all anthrax in the mail with their holiday-season screeners? They cannot. Can they rig the nomination process, or set up some informal quota system to ensure that at least one or two people of color show up in the acting and directing categories? Well, I suppose they could, and I wouldn’t be surprised if such things have been brainstormed in private. But consider all the ways that could go wrong—if Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh heard about it, for instance.

Barring such drastic measures, the academy is pretty much stuck with the membership it has, which is gradually growing younger and more diverse, but remains predominantly just the way you would think. Far more important, it’s also stuck with the production process of the Hollywood studios and “prestige” indie producers like Harvey Weinstein and Scott Rudin, which privileges certain kinds of movies, certain kinds of stories and certain kinds of characters over others. That’s where the heart of the problem lies, which is why I think it’s slightly misguided to point fingers and shriek at Mr. Sky-Blue Cardigan. Yes, to the extent Mr. SBC exists, he doesn’t get off the hook. (He didn’t nominate Ava DuVernay last year for “Selma,” the most Oscar-y movie imaginable.) But it should not come as an enormous surprise to learn that Oscar voters have safe and conservative tastes in many ways, or that they favor period pieces, inspirational fables and do-gooder tales, all wrapped in that indefinable quality best described as movie-ness.
The Oscars Will Remain So White If These 5 Things Don't Change

The first step to fixing the problem is admitting that it exists.

By Carolina Moreno
Hollywood's Diversity Problem Starts at the Top

Major Talent Agencies Represent Few Actors of Color

Studios and Talent Agencies Won't Take Responsibility

Films Just Aren't Casting Actors of Color

Yes, Academy Voters Are Seriously Lacking Diversity
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Hollywood Still White in 2015 and Another White Year at Oscars.

Parents magazine shows "wild Indian"

Manning: When Media Promotes Offensive Indian Stereotypes

By Sarah Sunshine ManningThe cover of a popular magazine is catching the attention of Native American parents, writers, educators, and proponents of cultural awareness.

The January 2016 edition of Parents Magazine features a white mother, shaking her finger at a rambunctious child who jumps on furniture, wearing a faux Native American headdress and mouth open wide suggestive of a wild yell.

Native Americans quickly took to social media to call out the magazine for lack of cultural awareness, and for reinforcing harmful stereotypes. On Twitter, Native American educator, Dr. Debbie Reese (Nambe Pueblo), directed tweets at Parents Magazine, and also asked for support to share the message:Dear Editors at Parents Magazine,

Depicting a bored child, in a toy headdress, clearly screaming, suggests "wild Indian." You apparently do not realize that depiction is racist. I'm tweeting the cover on social media and tagging you (at your twitter ID: @parentsmagazine) and sharing this Facebook post widely. I'm encouraging others to do so, too.


Dr. Debbie Reese
American Indians in Children's Literature
The magazine cover highlights the phenomena commonly known as “playing Indian,” which signifies a centuries-old American cultural practice of reducing minorities to demeaning and marginalizing, one-dimensional stereotypes. In this particular mockery, the child is seen portraying one of the most widely established stereotypes of Native Americans–the “wild savage,” or “wild Indian.”
Comment:  For more on the subject, see IndianHeaddress.com and Los Angeles Magazine's "Going Native."

Bundy: Paiutes lost their claim

‘We Don’t Want Bloodshed’: Armed White Militants in Oregon v. Paiute Tribe

By Jacqueline KeelerThe tribe enjoys a strong working relationship with the Malheur Wildlife Refuge and participated extensively in creating a Comprehensive Conservation Plan in 2013.

“We utilize the refuge almost constantly,” Roderique explains, “We’ve had excursions where our elders sit down and practice traditional crafts and tell stories about how we once existed. There are petroglyphs down there—it’s a real valuable site for us. The youth program takes kids down and they make tule boats and swamp. Being Native people we think it is necessary to continue the practice of oral history. When you are down there these stories come naturally. When you take children out today and show them how we survived here so long it is an important tool to bringing the elders and the youth together so the youth are able to identify themselves as Paiute people.”

However, tribal council members expressed concerns about feeling unsafe with the arrival of more men with guns in their community. Tribal council secretary Wanda Johnson told ICTMN, “These people who have been intimidating our Indian men but they are unchallenged and they walk about town and our concern is if they could escalate things…we don’t want to see bloodshed or see anyone thrown in jail. We feel frustrated that these people can come and go in town and resupply. People are taking things out there and feeding them. Like they are out there in on an outing. It’s so frustrating.”

Some animosity towards Native people can be seen in the Harney County Committee of Safety, a local group Bundy started which refers to Natives as “savages" in their statement of purpose.
Ryan Bundy: Native Americans have lost their claim to the Land.

By xxdr zombiexx This is the kicker though, buried all the way at the end of the piece.

"We also recognize that the Native Americans had the claim to the land, but they lost that claim," Bundy said. "There are things to learn from cultures of the past, but the current culture is the most important."

This is no different than the Taliban blowing up the Buddhas, or ISIS trying to find antiquities to destroy. No different whatsoever.

While these faux-militia assholes are technically entitled to their opinions, however fucking stupid those opinions are, they are using these “opinions” (delusions) to make real-world decisions that affect all sorts of people who have JUST AS MUCH RIGHT to these public spaces. And they are set to damage irreplaceable artifacts because they are so delusional about their white supremacy.
Comment:  For more on Cliven Bundy, see Paiutes Tell Bundys to Leave and Bundy Bunch vs. Dann Sisters.

January 14, 2016

#OscarsSoWhite 2016

Oscars 2016: Here's why the nominees are so white--again

By Rebecca Keegan and Steven ZeitchikIt's another embarrassing Hollywood sequel: For the second year in a row, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has nominated an all-white group of acting nominees.

This year's list of Oscar nominees passes over popular, well-reviewed performances in the movies “Creed” and “Straight Outta Compton” and excludes prominent actors of color in 2015 films including Idris Elba, Samuel L. Jackson and Will Smith.

The news again provoked an outcry and raised fresh questions over a familiar issue: whether an industry that prides itself on its progressiveness remains stubbornly stuck in the past.

“For the two black movies that made over $100 million at the box office, touched a nerve and are artistically fresh, only white people were nominated. How does that work?” asked producer and academy member Stephanie Allain, referring to “Creed” and “Compton.”
Academy Nominates All White Actors for Second Year in Row

By Tim GraySome may conclude that the nominations reflect institutional bias against minorities and women within the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, but the problem is with Hollywood’s major studios and agencies. There were 305 films eligible this year. If hiring reflected the U.S. population, Oscar voters would have weighed 150-plus films directed by women, 45 directed by blacks, 50 by Hispanics, and dozens of movies by directors who are Asian-American, LGBT individuals, people with disabilities and members of other minorities. Of course, the actual tallies were a fraction of those numbers.

Surprising omissions from the actor race this year included Idris Elba for “Beasts of No Nation,” Will Smith for “Concussion,” Michael B. Jordan from “Creed” and the many young actors in “Compton.”

Last year, #OscarSoWhite lit up the Twitter-sphere, generally focused on the acting and directing categories, mostly due to omission of actor David Oyelowo and director Ava DuVernay from “Selma.” But in fact, the imbalance carries into the majority of categories due to lack of opportunity.

In the Jan. 14 announcement, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences listed 23 total producers for the eight movies picked in the best-pic race; seven were women. For the two screenplay races, 17 individuals are nominated, with four women and no racial minorities. The sole nom for “Straight Outta Compton” went to a self-described “white Jewish gay guy from Connecticut” and his white writing partners, Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff.)
Oscars 2016: It’s a Nearly All-White Nominees’ List—Again

Comment:  For more on the subject, see Hollywood Still White in 2015 and Another White Year at Oscars.

Is The Revenant a game-changer?

The Revenant is a Game-Changer

By Leo KillsbackIn The Revenant we see sides to American culture and history that are typically romanticized—lawlessness and greed. History reveals that, in fact, the hordes of traders and trappers brought lawlessness to Indian country, which was not lawless and inhabited by sophisticated Native nations. The introduction of the alcohol, gun, and sex trades destabilized numerous Native nations. As presented in the movie, the Indians did not want much from the whites aside from muskets (which were inferior to the efficiency and accuracy of bow and arrows) and horses (which they could have acquired through trade with other Indians in the first place). The white traders however, wanted everything from the Indians—their land, animals, their women, and even their children.

The white men in The Revenant had one loyalty above all others, money. In the film most of the trappers were motivated by money, and they were reluctant to help one another without compensation. In fact, without the promise of pay the trappers had no other reason to be in the wilderness, and I believe this to be historically accurate. Whether deliberate or not, the writers revealed a fundamental difference between Indigenous and colonial cultures—one was motivated by greed, while the other by family ties and tribal loyalties.
A press release written by me for Red Nation Films:

'The Revenant' showcases Native Americans in Hollywood“Leonardo DiCaprio is today’s Brando,” says actor/director Joanelle Romero, founder of Red Nations Films and its annual film festivals. “Not since Sacheen Littlefeather took the stage at the 1973 Oscars has anyone spoken this much truth to Hollywood. Like Marlon Brando and a few others, Leo gets it.”

The Revenant is further proof that indigenous-based movies can not only win awards, but succeed at the box office. In its opening weekend, it earned $39.8 million, narrowly losing to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. With the Oscar buzz it’s getting, it’s likely to join Avatar and the Twilight series in the pantheon of Native-themed hits.
Comment:  For more on Leonardo DiCaprio, see DiCaprio's Speech Isn't Enough and Mixed Reactions to DiCaprio's Speech.