Reel Injun Dances With Wolves (and Other Native American Stereotypes)


Given a formidable, fascinating subject (the depiction of Native Americans on the silver screen and “how Hollywood’s fantasies about Indians influenced the world”), Reel Injun director Neil Diamond (no, not that Neil Diamond) lacks the faintest idea of how to pack it all into 85 minutes of screen time. Combining a road trip from his native Arctic reservation to Los Angeles with an archival cinematic survey, Diamond’s treatment of each is perfunctory to the point of inutility. As he hits the road, a trip to a Native American–themed camp reveals the perpetuation of the basest Indian myths, while other stops, as when he shows Little Big Man to a group of Crow children, rush by so quickly that they barely register. As a lesson in film history, moving from the relative progressivism of the silent era through the noble (and not so noble) savage of the classic western to the new aboriginal cinema of the ’90s, the film unearths some useful bits of trivia, but too much of the analysis comes from a single talking head, film critic Jesse Wente, while the rest of the subjects, such as musician Robbie Robertson, waste valuable screen time with unhelpful asides. Besides, it’s hard to take any survey of onscreen Native Americana seriously that makes not a single mention of The Exiles.

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