November 07, 2008

Oklahoma festival of restored films

Film Preservation Festival to focus on American Indian moviesIn recognition of National American Indian Heritage Month, the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, in collaboration with the University of Central Oklahoma Film Studies Collection, the American Indian Cultural Center & Museum and the Film + Video Center of the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of the American Indian, are presenting recently restored films that depict diverse images of American Indians in the film medium.


One of Paramount’s last silent films, this spectacularly photographed tale of a Navajo caught between two cultures was shot in two-strip Technicolor. Richard Dix plays the Navajo abducted to a government boarding school as a child, but his partial assimilation into white society leaves him neither Indian nor white, just “Redskin.” The film was far ahead of its time in presenting a sympathetic and authentic portrayal of Native Americans and the prejudices they faced, despite all of the leading roles being acted by non-Indians.

“House Made of Dawn”

This film adaptation of Oklahoma author N. Scott Momaday’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is a story of loss and redemption. A young man, played by actor/poet Larry Littlebird, must cope with his life in two distinct but conflicting worlds of the 1970’s-the reservation in the Southwest and the gritty urban environment. Richardson Morse’s quiet, insightful film ultimately celebrates the natural and the enduring.

“The Exiles”

The Exiles chronicles one night in the lives of young Native American men and women living in the Bunker Hill district of Los Angeles. Based entirely on interviews with the participants and their friends, the film follows a group of exiles--transplants from Southwest reservations--as they flirt, drink, party, fight, and dance.

“In the Land of the War Canoes”

Best known as one of the premiere photographers of the 20th century, Edward S. Curtis devoted his life to documenting the disappearing world of the American Indian. In this film Curtis retold a tribal story of love and revenge among the Kwakiutl Indians of Vancouver Island.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Movies.

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