The documentary Reel Injun, which deconstructs and scrutinizes the representation of aboriginal people in American movies, will be showcased at the Museum Of Modern Art’s Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters in NYC, in a weeklong engagement June 14th through 20th. The film is directed by Neil Diamond, a member of the Cree community of Waskaganish, on Canada’s James Bay.
Reel Injun exhaustively explores Hollywood’s perpetuation of mythical misconceptions through footage from the nearly four hundred culturally distorted westerns, contrasted with corrective feature films made by aboriginal directors across North America. Along with commentary by filmmakers Clint Eastwood, Jim Jarmusch, Chris Eyre, and Graham Greene, critics, commentators, and Native standup comics casting a satirical eye on the issues presented.
Highlights of Reel Injun include the more recent emergence of independent Native cinema; indigenous actors speaking in their Native dialects in vintage movies, in which they subversively mock the Eurocentric narratives; the transformation of stereotypes across the decades, in connection with the changing social and political landscapes; and a look at one of the most well known of Indian representations, the late Iron Eyes Cody, seen by billions in the Keep America Beautiful small screen pro-environmental commercials. Who in fact wasn’t Indian at all, but rather an actor of Sicilian immigrant heritage named Espera di Corti.
In the film, Diamond travels across the United States visiting many popular cinematic locations, from Monument Valley, the setting for many of Hollywood’s westerns, to the Black Hills of South Dakota and home to Crazy Horse. Diamond interviews Clint Eastwood, who discusses the evolution of the image of Indians in westerns and what the cowboy and Indian myths have signified in this country. Also weighing in about their own movies are filmmakers Jim Jarmusch (Dead Man), Chris Eyre (Smoke Signals) and Zacharias Kunuk (Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner), and Native actors Graham Greene (Dances with Wolves, Thunderheart) and Adam Beach (Smoke Signals).
More information about Reel Injun screenings at MoMA, is online at: moma.org.