July 08, 2012

Whites star in "thunder being" movie

Movie on Lakota tribe has Valley roots

By Cheryl AndersonNine years after the 1890 Massacre at Wounded Knee, Henry Seed is out for blood. Though Caucasian, Henry’s chosen to hunt down the white people who did horrible things to members of the Lakota Indian tribe. He wants to use force to help them take back all that was lost in battle.

That’s the set-up for the new movie, “West of Thunder,” starring Dan Davies of Appleton. It’s produced by Dr. Avi Bar-Lev and his wife, Jody Marriott Bar-Lev, of Hortonville and co-directed by Marriott Bar-Lev and Steve Russell, who is co-owner with Davies of the Appleton-based production company DaviesRussell.

The film and original screenplay—written by Davies and Marriott Bar-Lev—is more than just a cinematic vehicle for all those involved.

It will help financially support the creation of a K-12 Lakota Cambridge-accredited school on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
And:Davies said his character, Henry Seed, is the embodiment of a wakinyan. “In the Lakota faith, they’re thunder beings. They emanate wakan tanka; they emanate (the Great Spirit’s) power and bring the thunder, the lightning and the rain. The thunder and lightning are terrible, but the rain brings the growth.

“My character is a conflicted thunder being,” Davies said. “That’s why the movie is called ‘West of Thunder.’ He’s bringing the thunder and the lightning, and he’s bringing retribution and revenge.”

The ultimate message of the movie—filmed in South Dakota, Agua Dulce, Calif., and the Stonefield State Historic Site in Cassville—is about taking the higher road of forgiveness and love.

“Realizing it’s a powerful circle of hate that will only bring more of the same, Little Thunder, spiritual leader of the Lakota, takes the path of forgiveness,” Davies said. “It’s the Lakota’s way of saying even though all these horrible things happened to us, we’re not going to hold a grudge. We’re not going to hate.”
Comment:  Helping to finance a school is a noble goal, but this movie has several problems:

1) It's the umpteenth movie to star a white guy who tries to solve the Indians' problems? Why not feature an Indian seeking revenge for Wounded Knee? That's a more plausible storyline.

Oh, yeah...because Dan Davies, whoever he is, wants a starring vehicle for himself. So much for his noble aspirations to help Indians.

2) IMDB suggests Davies has little experience at anything: writing, acting, or directing. That raises a red flag about the quality of the movie--not to mention its authenticity.

3) As far as I can tell, not a single Indian is listed as participating in any capacity in the movie. Will this "movie on Lakota tribe" have a single Native actor in it? How about a Native advisor for the historical and cultural issues?

4) The central premiseHenry Seed, is the embodiment of a wakinyan. “In the Lakota faith, they’re thunder beings. They emanate wakan tanka; they emanate (the Great Spirit’s) power and bring the thunder, the lightning and the rain.sounds culturally insensitive at a minimum. Really, a white guy who thinks he's the embodiment of a Lakota thunder being? Is that allowed in the Lakota religion?

I wonder what the Lakota think about that. They may think the same thing we'd think if an Arab Muslim declared himself a Catholic saint or a pope. In other words, "No way in hell is this acceptable."

For more on non-Natives starring in Native movies, see Del Toro to Play Native Veteran, Open Letter to Johnny Depp's Tonto, and Mark Wahlberg as Billy Jack?


Danny Davies said...

Hey Rob,

I really enjoyed your article although you have quite a number of inaccuracies. My name is Dan Davies and I play Henry Seed.

First of all, your title "Whites star in thunder being movie" is patently wrong. Our four major actors in the film are tribal members and respected elders. You made the stereotypical assumption that unless a Native person has a name like Grey Eagle, Two Horse, White Feather, Running Cloud etc etc etc that they are not Native...as you looked up on IMDB you saw Corbin Conroy, Larry Swalley, Albert Red Bear, and Steve Garcia. They are tribal members.

You also made the assumption that I was fully white. I am a mixed race person. My great-grandfather was a Seneca of the Iroquois.

You also ripped on me as someone who hasn't done anything. I have accomplished a few things in my life. Please go to my Wikipedia page for further edification. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_DaviesWikipedia

I'm also attached to 6 other full-length feature films and an HBO TV project.

But enough about me...you questioned how I could become the embodiment of a Thunder Being (Wakinyan. I meant that in its literal sense... that a Wakinyan physically embodies or incorporates the body of Henry Seed...not intellectually, emotionally of fully spiritually. In my article I actually state that Henry is a "conflicted Wakinyan" he is "west of thunder" that he only brings the thunder and lightening not the rains that bring growth.

Also you state that Henry, the white guy, is the hero. That is wrong. Henry wants to bring revenge and retribution, the real heroes and victors are the Lakota elders who choose the path of forgiveness and peace. They actually make Henry see the error of his ways.

Also my film is unlike many westerns that have the Natives speaking English. We do not. We feature the Lakota language. About 1/4 of the film is in Lakota.

You also stated that we have no Native advisers. That is wrong. We had 5 Lakota elders advise. Among them Lakota educator Monica Terkildsen. Our "white" adviser was none other than Michael Blake of "Dances with Wolves" fame. also my language tutor Larry Swalley, is a fluent Lakota speaker and noted Lakota historian and storyteller. He also plays my great-great grandfather's namesake Minor Running Cloud.

You also mentioned that me playing an embodied Thunder Being might be wrong or disrespectful. According to Black Elk, one of the most respected and quoted elders, medicine men and heyokas...he believed in the interconnectedness of all the circles or "hoops" of all the races, creeds, religions. He was a fully Lakota man and a fully Roman Catholic that believed, through his 50 years of missionary and charitable works, in the melding of all mankind and mankind's beliefs.

Last but not least Rob do not judge a book, film or person by its cover. I have lived that all my life. People make the assumption that because I have blue eyes that I am fully white. But the same blood that courses through my veins courses through all of the indigenous people of North America. So sometimes you have to delve a little further for the truth. So please delve into our movie when it comes to your neck of the woods before you judge. I think you may be pleasantly surprised. Thanks Rob and take care.

Warmest regards,
Dan Davies

Anonymous said...

Well, what would a Muslim think if I said "I am God."? That's a more direct association.

They're involved in ecotourism, whatever that means. Couldn't figure out what's ecological about tourism in this heat, but whatever.

Problem with finding info is that a Wisconsin oncologist named Avi Bar-Lev is the first Google result, and there are ~75000 more.

Anonymous said...

Danny Davies,

Thanks so much for posting and rebutting. Rob pulls this book-cover judgement, stir the pot for the sake of it crap all the time.

Very very rarely have I seen him delve more deeply into an issue to find out the whole story. Usually it's just his knee-jerk reaction.

He is to Native issues what Sean Hannity is to political issues.

It's nice to see him called on it.

dmarks said...

Hannity is spot on when it comes to political issues. You have greatly complimented Ron!

Rob said...

It's true Newspaper Rock emphasizes breadth rather than depth, Anonymous. You try posting news every day for six years straight and see how deep you can go.

But on such core issues as Native stereotypes, mascots, comic books, and Hollywood representations, I'm confident I'm in the top 1-2% of knowledgeable people. Good luck proving you know more about these issues than I do.

And if you don't like my style, you're welcome to offer guest commentaries on the issues. Or to make like a bee and buzz. I scorn anyone who reads my blog regularly only to criticize everything I write. If you don't have something constructive to say, get lost.

Anyway, I'll post a response to Dan Davies soon. Needless to say, his comments on my comments are either misleading or wrong.

P.S. Sean Hannity is a pathetic joke when it comes to political commentary, so being compared to him isn't flattering.

Rob said...

Here's your response, Dan:

Davies defends West of Thunder

Hope you appreciate it!

The same applies to your anonymous buddy. If you want to come out from hiding and discuss an actual issue, Anonymous, you'll find I know plenty. I'll put my 11,000 blog postings, 2,000 Web pages, and 300 articles against anything you've written about Indians.