January 23, 2009

"All-star" movie about Wyandot sisters

Filmmaker Telling a Native Tale of Resilience[T]he Los Angeles-based filmmaker won the support of Oscar-winning actor Sir Ben Kingsley to help him produce a film about three Wyandot Nation sisters who fought the government with guns and axes to protect their ancestral burial grounds.

"Whispers Like Thunder" tells the story of Lyda, Ida and Helena Conley, sisters who fought for more than 60 years to protect a Wyandot Nation cemetery in present-day Kansas City, Kansas, where their mother, sister and ancestors were buried.

"These sisters gave their lives to make sure their Indian burial grounds were not sold to a developer," said Moro by phone recently from his Los Angeles home.

Moro, 45, said the project took root after a colleague met the chief of the Wyandot Nation of Kansas, Janet English, who expressed an interest in finding a filmmaker to tell the Conley sisters' story. The colleague referred English to Moro, who was quick to sign on.

After he finished writing the script, Moro set out looking for production support. After his wife became friends with a colleague of Kingsley's, he was introduced to Kingsley and gave the British actor the script for "Whispers Like Thunder."

With Kingsley's support as a producer of the film, Moro is hopeful the movie will find a major distributor and an all-star cast. But he's also hopeful the project's cultural value will not be lost in translation.
And:Moro sees the Conley sisters' story as empowering to women and Native people. He said Wyandot Nation leaders, like Chief English, support the project, especially now that Kingsley has joined. As well as co-producing the film, Kingsley will play the role of Charles Curtis, the only Native to serve as U.S. vice president.

Moro hopes to finish the movie in time for the 2010 movie award season.
Comment:  An "all-star cast" headed by three Native actresses playing the Wyandot women? I wonder whom Moro could mean. I didn't know any Native actresses qualified as mainstream "stars."

Please don't tell me Moro is planning to cast non-Natives to play the Conley sisters. Who? Summer Glau, Lynn Collins, and Vanessa Hudgens? Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lopez, and Lucy Liu? Spare me from more ridiculous and racist casting decisions.

Ben Kingsley, Native?

And of course casting Ben Kingsley as Charles Curtis, vice president and Kaw Indian, is bad. Here's Curtis's ancestry according to Wikipedia:Curtis was nearly half American Indian in ancestry. His mother, Ellen Pappan, was one-fourth Kaw, one-fourth Osage, one-fourth Pottawatomie and one-fourth French. His father Orren Curtis was of English and northern European ancestry.I understand the "need" to cast Kingsley in order to get his support. But I cringe when Moro says Kingsley "gets" it. Neither of them gets it if they agree to racist casting choices.

Anyway, I wouldn't bet much money on seeing an "all-star" version of a movie about three women defending a cemetery. This has "independent art-house movie" written all over it. I suggest they forget about finding an all-star cast or a major distributor and just make the movie.

For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Movies.

Below:  Charles Curtis and Ben Kingsley. (Not a bad match, physically speaking.)


dmarks said...

"I understand the "need" to cast Kingsley in order to get his support"

Ben Kingsley got an Oscar playing an Indian. I guess that must count for some!

Rob said...

Ha ha...good joke. But also a clue that Hollywood's racist casting isn't limited to American Indians.