February 20, 2013

River Phoenix as Hopi Indian

River Phoenix Plays Indian in Never-Seen Film 'Dark Blood'Twenty years after his death, River Phoenix is hitting the screen one last time in Dark Blood, an unfinished film in which he plays a Hopi Indian.

Phoenix died with just a few weeks of shooting remaining, and, as recounted in a Reuters report, the film's negatives were comandeered by the production's insurers. In 1999, they were about to be destroyed, but director George Sluizer was able to swoop in and save them. A few more years went by, and in 2007, following an illness, Sluizer resolved to finish what he'd started. A version of the film--stitched together with still photography and voiceovers--is now being shown.

In the film, Phoenix plays a hermetic part-Native widower who develops an obsession for stranded traveler (played by Judy Davis), despite the presence of her husband (Jonathan Pryce). As described in a Hollywood Reporter review of the film from the Berlin International Film Festival, Dark Blood is "an engagingly modest low-key thriller, a curio item that’s half art house, half genre-jumper and entirely watchable despite the absence of several key scenes."

Also appearing in the film are Native actors T. Dan Hopkins, John Trudell, Julius Drum, Rodney A. Grant, and George Aguilar, according to its entry at IMDB. Reports suggest that a theatrical release is unlikely, but it may see further showings at festivals and an eventual DVD release.
Comment:  I guess they could excuse casting Phoenix by saying the character is only part Native. That's a common tactic used to avoid casting minority actors. But it's still wrong.

For more on casting issues, see Depp "Too Pretty" to Play Natives?! and Revolution and TV Diversity.

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