Reel Injun (2010)
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Critic Reviews for Reel Injun
Reel Injun is not a peace pipe but a convincing case for a place at the table.
Setting off in his barely road-worthy "rez car," Mr. Diamond films a series of bittersweet, and sometimes bitingly funny, encounters.
Reel Injun will most likely give you a new perspective the next time you watch John Wayne battle Native Americans.
Both the talking-head interviews and montages trace distortions and puncture myths with professional rigor.
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.
Audience Reviews for Reel Injun
There are several documentaries like this about racial stereotyping in Hollywood on the streaming service Kanopy, although I think I initially streamed this on Netflix before I had heard of the new Kanopy site through my library. A fascinating exploration of the subject with a lot of movie clips and interviews. The filmmakers and many interviewees are angry at the way First Nations people were/are depicted. You can also see in the trailer and throughout the film that many are able to look at the inherently racist movie industry with a sense of humor and hope for the future. The doc is not narrowed to only looks at Hollywood feature films, but a stand-up comic who worked in the 70s is featured as well as the controversy involving the "crying Indian" from a famous 70s TV commercial. And rather than the filmmakers remaining off screen, native filmmaker Neil Diamond, one of a trio of writer-directors, is shown traveling around to meet interview subjects. He also visits a real-life old west town that let's tourists dress up and live a bit of wild west cowboy fantasy (minus the androids of Westworld). This definitely makes a statement.
Director Neil Diamond explores the portrayal of Native Americans throughout the history of American cinema, exposing the racist stereotypes that films have perpetuated. it's hard for me to review this film. I think that I, along with most of the rest of modern American culture, am trained to pick at the negative with an almost knee-jerk quickness so that when I find a film with which I agree so heartily, I have little to say. Diamond's analysis is spot-on. Yes, the vast majority of John Wayne westerns are racist. Yes, Disney's Pocahontas is infantile and racist. Yes, Natives in film are either pre-modern savages or pre-modern hippies who have to make way, usually through their gruesome demise, for "civilization." Yes, yes, yes. The film lauds Native cinema by Natives, and it contextualizes Marlon Brando's public refusal of his Oscar to raise awareness of Native rights. The half-star off is because even though the academic analysis of American film is great, the road-trip story is half-baked and doesn't provide the through-line for the film that Diamond intended. Overall, Reel Injun is a fantastic analysis of Natives in film, and it should be required viewing in any film school.
An eye opening and thought provoking investigation into the evolution of Native American portrayals in film. Director Neil Diamond examines contemporary projects and revisits a few old classics on his way to exposing racial stereotypes and blowing up long held misconceptions about Aboriginal culture.
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