November 24, 2007

"Nimrod Nation" features Native

Out of This World"Nimrod Nation" is that rare thing, a story of small-town life in America that neither looks for nor finds a dark underbelly (9-10 p.m. EST for the next four Mondays on the Sundance Channel). It was filmed during the winter and spring of 2005-06 in Watersmeet, Mich., where the heavy snowfalls and sub-zero weather of the state's remote Upper Peninsula seem to have frozen time itself. Set to "Fargo"-like music in a major key, it feels like Ibsen without the depression and "Napoleon Dynamite" without fools.

The residents of Watersmeet are not old-fashioned in dress or speech. We meet a teenage choirgirl with a bulging (unwed) belly, parents who appear to have been divorced, and Native Americans who feel like outsiders. Yet away from the nasty, brutish world of the cities, most townsfolk seem to have grown up incapable of cynicism or guile. Discovering these innocents preserved as in amber, one feels the wonder of an archaeologist who has stumbled upon a lost civilization.
The Native star:Quaintness runs through the town like a river. When students are studying the origins of man and Homo erectus, we can't be sure one senior is kidding when he asks: "Did they die out because they were gay?" Other jokes are more obvious, such as the one a husband boasts about playing on his wife--putting sunflower seeds in her underwear drawer to make her think the house has mice. The camera catches people in sad moments, too, like the first time the choirgirl brings her new baby home and realizes that her destiny is irrevocably changed.

No one is so touching, however, as Nimrod star Brian Aimsback, a Native American. He ought to be happy--he is a famous big scorer, the beloved boyfriend of Hope and active in school affairs. Yet Brian's grandmother sees prejudice against Indians as a big barrier. We can never tell whether Brian agrees with her, because he never articulates his feelings. All we know is that on the basketball court, and especially when he has had a bad game, he can look like a frightened child. Then, near the end of the film, he follows the advice of a Chippewa elder and dons Native regalia for an Indian dancing competition. There, for the first time, we see Brian transformed into a man.
But apparently the series leaves some of the Native culture out:

And That’s the News From WatersmeetThe Watersmeet culture, heavily dominated by people of Nordic descent and American Indians, “was something I had never encountered in literature or film,” Mr. Morgen said in an interview at his office.But:[S]ome local players are missing from the series, including leaders from the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, who Mr. Morgen said declined to participate. Tribal leaders recently complained to Mr. Peterson about a scene where they are described as abandoning their traditions, as they gamble and drink at the tribe-owned casino. “That does not portray them,” he said. “The majority is not like that. I didn’t like that when I saw that there.”

4 comments:

dmarks said...

I've been hearing about the Nimrods for years. This sounds like a good movie.

There is also a ghost light at Watersmeet that is interesting.

russell said...

Writerfella here --
Nimrod means 'hunter.' That's why Bugs Bunny said of Elmer Fudd, 'What a Nimrod!' It was not so much a pejorative as it was a descriptive. Stupidity takes many forms, and so did Elmer Fudd...
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'

dmarks said...

I don't know why it is that Elmer Fudd comes up in conversation online or in "real life" at least once a month.

russell said...

Writerfella here --
That is because 'the boys from Termite Terrace' invented Elmer Fudd as a Warner Bros. cartoon icon to represent corporate and executive stupidity, patterning the character on a real Warner Bros. producer. And the icon took, even now on into the 21st Century...
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'