July 18, 2011

Oneida Nation finances feature film

Film finds 'First Allies'

Oneida Indian Nation financing movie

By Josh L. Dickey
The Oneida Indian Nation is fully financing its first theatrical feature film, greenlighting $10 million indie epic "First Allies," the true story of the nation's decision to break from their Iroquois brethren to side with the American colonists in the Revolutionary War.

Ray Halbritter, Oneida Indian Nation representative and CEO of Nation Enterprises, will produce with Alex Siskin ("Mr. Deeds"). Exec producing is former Acad prexy Sid Ganis.

"In the past, we used American Indian runners to spread important messages," Halbritter said. "But in today's world, film is the most powerful messaging medium of our mainstream culture. 'First Allies' provides the perfect opportunity to relay the story of the Oneida Indian Nation to audiences worldwide while also telling one of the lesser-known and most riveting stories about the founding of the United States of America."

Though its budget is about $10 million, it has the built-in advantage of being shot on Oneida lands, freeing it from location costs. "It's not only shot on location, it's on the location," Ganis told Variety.

Pic will be financed entirely by the Oneida Indian Nation, one of the six American Indian nations comprising the Iroquois Confederacy. Reps also say the project is actively seeking New York state tax incentives.

Kees Van Oostrum, the Emmy-nominated director of "Miss Rose White" and "Gettysburg," is set to helm "Allies" from a script by Bob Burris ("The Toy"). Pic is based on the book "Forgotten Allies" by U. of Houston history professors Joseph T. Glatthaar and James Kirby Martin.
Comment:  This is the second tribal film project I've heard of it. It follows in the footsteps of the Chickasaws' production of Pearl. Let's hope it's the start of a trend: tribes using their gaming revenue to tell their own stories.

In the popular media, that is. Museum exhibits are good and necessary, but the popular arts are how you reach large numbers of people. Especially the young, who may be open to learning about Indians.

For more on the Oneida Nation, see Oneida Nation Gives Another $1 Million to NMAI and Halbritter to Attend Oscars.

Below:  Ray Halbritter.


Anonymous said...

Telling their own stories are great...but to reach the mainstream media and find an audience a story needs to be entertaining. Think Whale Rider. Historical dramas can be compelling as long as they don't turn into history lessons. That was the difference in the success of Gettysburg vs the utter failure of Gods and Generals.

dmarks said...

"That was the difference in the success of Gettysburg vs the utter failure of Gods and Generals."

"Gettysburg", $10 million box office. Total. That's $4 less than one of the most famous film failures of all time, "Ishtar".

"Gods and Generals" actually made MORE money. So you have it backwards as to which one is the failure.