French film composer Cyril Morin sets his writing-directing debut, The Activist, in a fictional county sheriff substation near the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. His timeframe is minimalist and based on real events -- the 71-day standoff between American Indian Movement activists and federal officials at Wounded Knee, chosen for its loaded significance. Morin's idea of wedging a political thriller into this historical moment is brilliant, but he undermines his story with broad caricatures and a phlegmatic pace. The actors stand up to his intense close-ups with convincing enough portrayals, but their characters can't burst through the cumbrous American stereotypes: There's the deputy sheriff, an angry, racist, trigger-happy Vietnam vet; the overconfident Nixon minion, popping in from time to time to validate your 1970s-era paranoia with a sitcom smile and vaguely Warholish female assistants; the jailed heroic white man, our title character, a lawyer who's felt close to Native Americans since siding with them in childhood cowboy-and-Indian games and who is mourning his Native wife; and worst of all, his sidekick, Bud (yeah, "Bud"), the poetic noble savage with a temper who, in calmer moments, says things like, "We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children." It's too bad, because with more authentic characters, Morin's simple story might have proven potent. The details are just believable enough, moments of humor score, and the denouement, a terrible wrong, feels right.
Cyril MorinChadwick Brown, Tonantzin Carmelo, Michael Spears, Ron Roggé, Circus-Szalewski, Alena von Stroheim, Anthony Palermo, Henry LeBlanc, King Orba, Amber Marie BollingerCyril MorinMedia In Sync