'Trudell'

As depicted in Heather Rae's hagiographic cinematic c.v. Trudell, the life of Indian activist turned spoken-word performer John Trudell—a "poet, artist, spokesperson, spiritualist" (as Robert Redford labels him)—is a rebuke to F. Scott Fitzgerald's famous maxim: It's hard to imagine a more American second act than the one documented here. Unfortunately, Rae's film is also split down the middle, and the appeal of its latter half depends on your tolerance for earnest politico-poetry set to wailing rock guitar and Native American chants and extraneously endorsed by celebrity talking heads. The backstory portion of the film, though, chock-full of archival footage and contemporary interviews with Trudell and his American Indian Movement cohorts, is riveting. From the late-'60s occupation of Alcatraz Island to his burning of an American flag at FBI headquarters in 1979 (the same day his wife and kids died in a mysterious reservation fire), Trudell helped lead a faction of the civil rights movement that's largely been forgotten. Indeed, while Trudel l's Sundance-style agitprop most assuredly preaches to the choir, it also recalls a time when organized political resistance was the stuff of nightly newscasts rather than the white-liberal-guilt-baiting pop-cultural backwater Trudell labors in (albeit contentedly) these days.

 
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