Casting Call In Montana For Native Film - Neil Diamond on 'Hollywood Injuns'
Written by Associated Press
MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) – A novel by celebrated American Indian writer James Welch is being made into a movie, and hundreds of people are showing up at auditions hoping to land a part.
Filmmakers and brothers Alex and Andrew Smith, who are twins, said they plan to start filming the movie based on the novel “Winter in the Blood” in July, and that it will be shot entirely in Montana.
Hasalyn Harris, the film’s public relations director, said the cast will be exclusively Native American, and mostly from Montana.“I think they’re wanting it to be as authentic as possible,” she said Saturday as she took in hundreds of applications at the casting call at the University of Montana’s University Center.
The novel by Welch, published in 1974, is described as a key book in the Native American Renaissance that began in the 1960s. It is set on the Fort Belknap Reservation and follows one man’s struggle to find his identity and roots in a modern world while dealing with self-doubt and addiction.
Welch was born in 1940 at Browning to a Blackfeet father and a Gros Ventre mother and grew up mainly on the Fort Belknap Reservation. Welch died in 2003 at age 62.
“I would love to see it as a movie, period,” said Lois Welch, a retired University of Montana literature professor and widow of James. “I’m really touched about the way they’ve been able to keep it so close to the text.”
Alex and Andrew Smith, and writer Ken White, wrote the screenplay for the movie.
Mathew Weasel, 13, of Missoula, was one of those trying to land a part.“I don’t really know what’s going to happen,” he said. “I’m just going to try my best.”
Perry Lilley Sr. was hoping to land the role of Lame Bull. He said he appeared in movies and on television in the past before drugs and alcohol ended his career.“My wife told me about this, and my dreams flashed before me again,” Lilley said. “I get an opportunity to do this again, this time drug and alcohol free. Thank the Creator.”
Another casting call is planned in the coming months in eastern Montana.
Welch wrote about being an Indian in modern American society, and with each of his books came more accolades, a growing fan club and an international following that led to speaking invitations across Europe.
Welch’s works were translated into French, and he was given France’s Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters medal.
Information from: Missoulian, http://www.missoulian.com/
Cree Filmmaker, Neil Diamond, Explores How Hollywood Has Depicted Aboriginals
By Victoria Ahearn (CP)
TORONTO — Cree filmmaker Neil Diamond remembers watching spaghetti westerns as a child in the basement of the local church in Waskaganish, in northern Quebec. As he rooted for the cowboys, he didn't realize that the actors playing the native Americans were white, or that they were supposed to represent aboriginal culture.
Then about seven years ago, while watching another western, it hit him: many white actors - from Charles Bronson and Elvis Presley to Burt Reynolds - have played aboriginals in Hollywood films. And the version of North American native they were playing was typically an offensive stereotype.
Thus began Diamond's journey in making the enlightening and humorous documentary "Reel Injun," about how Hollywood has shaped the image of Native Americans. It opens Friday in Toronto and Vancouver.
"I started remembering the questions I'd get when I moved away from the community to go to school in the (Quebec) south - from students and adults alike - asking if we lived in teepees, if we rode horses or if we spoke 'Indian,' " Diamond said in a recent interview."
I figured that's where those ideas came from. That's the only place you saw Indians living in teepees and riding horses and speaking 'Hollywood Indian,' which is apparently a whole language in itself."
Diamond, who lives in Montreal, hops in his beat-up "Rez car" at the start of the film to drive around Canada and the United States to examine the origins of cinema's "enduring love affair with the Injun."
Through interviews with activists, film critics, comics, historians and actors - including Winnipeg's Adam Beach and Clint Eastwood - Diamond outlines the evolution of native images in movies, from the silent era to contemporary times.
Classic westerns he explores include the 1924 silent feature "The Iron Horse" and 1941's "They Died With Their Boots On." He also looks at children's animated pieces that perpetuate stereotypes, including the Disney film "Pocahontas" and Looney Tunes cartoons.
"I always get embarrassed with some of the really bad filmmaking that's using all these stereotypes," said Diamond, whose other documentaries include 2004's "Heavy Metal: A Mining Disaster in Northern Quebec."
"There's one where every time the native character is about to deliver a line a flute starts to play, or if they're going to say something really profound, an eagle cries."
Hollywood started to dispel such stereotypes around the 1970s, he said, with films including "Little Big Man" and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."
That trend continued with movies including "Once Were Warriors" and "Smoke Signals" that portray native people "as human beings," added Diamond.Still, there's progress to be made, he added.
Nine-time Oscar nominee "Avatar," for instance, is like "Dances With Pocahontas in Space" with its depiction of animated Na'vi native characters, said Diamond."(For) the story, I saw something on the Internet saying they just took the synopsis from 'Pocahontas' and replaced all the names ... It's kind of lazy storytelling, I find."
Diamond said he's not knocking the technical brilliance of "Avatar," he just wishes that some of the millions of dollars put into the special effects had been spent on "developing a good story."
"They're basically eight-foot-tall, blue Indians with tails. That's pretty much what the story is ... I'd recommend 'Avatar' with a caveat: don't go for the story, just go to see it."
"Reel Injun" premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last September and screened a month later at the ImagineNative Film and Media Arts Festival in the city.
It will make its U.S. debut next month at the South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas. Said Diamond: "It'll be interesting to see how it's received there in cowboy country."
Copyright © 2010 The Canadian Press.
TO SUBMIT an ARTICLE, OPINION PIECE, COMMENTS to the Native Unity Digest, e-mail email@example.com.
NATIVE UNITY - A place for Native American Peoples to solidify their tribes to make a positive impact on the cultural, social, economic and political fabric of American society and a place for non-Natives to better understand the ways of the American Indian.
News Blog - American Indian Report - AIR BLOG
THE BUFFALO POST - Missoulian Montana's Native News Blog about Native People And The World We Live In.
Check Out NATIVE PRIDE- It's a great site!
NATIVE AMERICA, DISCOVERED AND CONQUERED
PATHOLOGY.ORG - Up-to-date informmational database on general health and disease information, medical schools and medical resources.
FOR ANNIE'S NATIVE CELEBRITY NEWS - go to www.nativecelebs.com
CATCH COLORADAN PETER JONES AT:
SUPPORTING NATIVE AMERICAN/FIRST PEOPLE - ARTISTS, FILM MAKERS, ENTERTAINERS, ETC. http://www.krystynmedia.blogspot.com.