This documentary explores the lives of Native American people who live on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, an Ogala Lakota reservation in South Dakota. Filmed in the last year, this documentary explores how Lakota Native Americans are working to instill their history and culture in the reservation’s youth, despite obstacles such as drug abuse, alcoholism, and disrespect to their way of life, (as manifested, for example, in the DAPL).
The filmmakers did an excellent job portraying the humanity of the film’s characters. For instance, the filmmakers feature Ms. Tiny, a woman who struggles with family problems but nevertheless serves as a respected guide to Lakota youth on the reservation. The filmmakers even portray the reservation’s high school teacher, a young Caucasian male, in a positive light after one student questions why “white people” put “our people [Native Americans]” onto reservations “like cattle”. The mid-range shots and close-ups helped foster the humanity among the film’s characters. Considering that the filmmakers are not American themselves, I appreciate the respect that the filmmakers afforded to the film’s characters. Another aspect that the filmmakers did particularly well was connecting characters’ personal stories to larger social events, like the DAPL protests at Standing Rock and drug abuse in the reservation. Although I would have preferred less “voice of God” narration, I understand that the narration helped add context to the film’s events.
The film’s conclusion mentions that President Trump intends to continue work on DAPL, in effect reversing President Obama’s decision to halt work on the pipeline. I am curious to see how the film’s characters react to this news. Perhaps my curiosity is a testament to the film’s success in bridging human connections between viewers and the film’s characters and stories.