January 14, 2016

Is The Revenant a game-changer?

The Revenant is a Game-Changer

By Leo KillsbackIn The Revenant we see sides to American culture and history that are typically romanticized—lawlessness and greed. History reveals that, in fact, the hordes of traders and trappers brought lawlessness to Indian country, which was not lawless and inhabited by sophisticated Native nations. The introduction of the alcohol, gun, and sex trades destabilized numerous Native nations. As presented in the movie, the Indians did not want much from the whites aside from muskets (which were inferior to the efficiency and accuracy of bow and arrows) and horses (which they could have acquired through trade with other Indians in the first place). The white traders however, wanted everything from the Indians—their land, animals, their women, and even their children.

The white men in The Revenant had one loyalty above all others, money. In the film most of the trappers were motivated by money, and they were reluctant to help one another without compensation. In fact, without the promise of pay the trappers had no other reason to be in the wilderness, and I believe this to be historically accurate. Whether deliberate or not, the writers revealed a fundamental difference between Indigenous and colonial cultures—one was motivated by greed, while the other by family ties and tribal loyalties.
A press release written by me for Red Nation Films:

'The Revenant' showcases Native Americans in Hollywood“Leonardo DiCaprio is today’s Brando,” says actor/director Joanelle Romero, founder of Red Nations Films and its annual film festivals. “Not since Sacheen Littlefeather took the stage at the 1973 Oscars has anyone spoken this much truth to Hollywood. Like Marlon Brando and a few others, Leo gets it.”

The Revenant is further proof that indigenous-based movies can not only win awards, but succeed at the box office. In its opening weekend, it earned $39.8 million, narrowly losing to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. With the Oscar buzz it’s getting, it’s likely to join Avatar and the Twilight series in the pantheon of Native-themed hits.
Comment:  For more on Leonardo DiCaprio, see DiCaprio's Speech Isn't Enough and Mixed Reactions to DiCaprio's Speech.

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