Since the dawn of the moving picture, Native Americans have been constant cinematic subjects. In the silent era, Native Americans were not only regular actors but even occasional directors, though their perspective was largely left off the screen. Their image transformed over the years from fascinating characters into bloodthirsty savages, and then again from horse-riding scalp hunters to hippie-friendly activists and beyond. Reel Injun explores the images now ingrained in our cultural consciousness through cinema. Directors Neil Diamond (no, not that Neil Diamond), Catherine Bainbridge, and Jeremiah Hayes document the evolution of images of indigenous peoples and demystify the Noble Savage. The film examines the cinematic history of red-face and the loss of so many diverse native nations’ identities as they were all lumped into a homogenized Southwestern desert tribe. Despite the heavy material, it’s actually a light-hearted film, rife with hope and good humor—it’s a fiercely honest examination that doesn’t get bogged down sorting through a colonial cinematic legacy.
REEL INJUN SCREENS AT 12:30 AND 3:30 P.M. DAILY (EXCEPT WEDNESDAYS) THROUGH JAN. 31 AT THE AMERICAN INDIAN MUSEUM, 4TH ST. AND INDEPENDENCE AVE. SW. FREE. (202) 633-1000.