June 01, 2007

Documentaries highlight dastardly deeds

Go Native

Derek Adams on a season of films highlighting the plight and history of the first people of the AmericasRobin Davey and Yellow Thunder Woman’s ‘The Canary Effect’ is only an hour long, but in that short time it manages to illustrate the past and present plight of the North American Indian with amazing style, verve, wit and intelligence. In fact, were the filmmakers to add 20 minutes to its running time I’d be surprised, staggered even, if it isn’t picked up by a distributor for a theatrical release. Exec-produced by former Eurythmics star Dave Stewart, ‘The Canary Effect’ uses racially derogatory cartoons from the ’40s and ’50s, harrowing montages of past tribal massacres (including an emotional split-screen scene of enforced migration cleverly melded to Lennon’s ‘Working Class Hero’) and snappy visual effects to illustrate interviews with various politically-astute talking heads, including eloquent activist Ward Churchill.

While nowhere near as slick a production, Chip Richie’s dramatised documentary, ‘Trail of Tears: Cherokee Legacy’, deals with another great American injustice: the forced removal of the Oklahoman Cherokees in 1838. True, it’s simplistic and very TV-like, but it’s a fair attempt at getting this tragic story across.

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