November 07, 2010

María Hinojosa interviews Chris Eyre

My local PBS station recently broadcast an episode of One-on-One (airdate: 10/4/10) featuring director Chris Eyre. I think One-on-One has a Hispanic focus and the station broadcast it for National Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15-Oct. 15). Here's the story:

About One-on-OneAward-winning journalist María Hinojosa interviews America's foremost artists, writers, activists, and civic leaders.

One-on-One is produced by La Plaza, WGBH Boston’s award-winning production unit. The series is available to public broadcasters through American Public Television’s Exchange service.

Hinojosa's half-hour interview with Eyre wasn't anything remarkable. It consisted mostly of standard questions and answers. But here are a few tidbits from Eyre:

  • Smoke Signals was the movie that told Natives they could be filmmakers.

  • Casinos are a good thing for Indians. (Hinojosa seemed a bit surprised at this.)

  • The fact that he's Cheyenne/Arapaho went over his head until he turned 18. (In other words, he didn't think much about being Indian.)

  • Why does he live in Pine Ridge rather than New York or Hollywood? He moved there to be part of the Northern Plains culture and because of his daughter's ties there. (Left unsaid is why he isn't living on a Cheyenne or Arapaho reservation and learning those cultures.)

  • What people are missing when they see only poverty on reservations, according to Eyre: "The thing that you don't see is the wealth of the spirit, and the love, and the humor, and the community. And those are the things that really make up America. ... It's not about the facades in the front of the house. It's about the love and the laughter and the communities that live within 'em. ... [As filmmakers] we don't want the facades, we want to see what's inside." (This spirit, love, and so forth is exactly what the stereotypical SCALPED series is missing.)

  • He says Hollywood is becoming more and more receptive to honest portrayals of Indians. But when he pitched Edge of America (black basketball coach leads girls' rez team), the executives had trouble pegging it and their eyes glazed over. (Showtime eventually made it, of course.)

  • He's avoided historical dramas because the Indians always die at the end. He did We Shall Remain because it let viewers go inside the facade and see things they hadn't seen before. Things such as Wes Studi as a Cherokee slave-owner.

  • One project he's working on is A Whale Hunt about the historic Makah whale hunt in 1999. HBO passed it over in favor of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, which he called another "feathers and leathers" drama.

  • He loved Dances with Wolves for its entertainment value.

  • If he had his own studio, he'd make movies about contemporary Natives. (Naturally.)

  • For more on the subject, see Chris Eyre on Native Youth and Eyre Films Native Century Pilot.

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