‘Reel Injun’ doc on First Nations in Hollwood to recieve showing in Whitby


Published April 22, 2024 at 5:12 pm

Reel Injun a Canadian documentary about Indigenous actors’ experience in Hollywood is set to receive a special screening in Whitby as part of the Durham Region International Film Festival.

The 2009 film will be shown at the Whitby Public Library at 405 Dundas St. W. on May 1.

Cree filmmaker Niel Diamond, from Waskaganish, Quebec directed the documentary which explores his own upbringing in the remote James Bay area community. As a boy, Diamond and his young friends played “cowboys and Indians” after watching famous Western films.

Though they were First Nations, all the children always wanted to be cowboys. As an adult, he faced the preconceived notions of people of other ethnicities about Indigenous peoples, which were often derived from film. These included questions like whether or not First Nation peoples still lived in teepees.

As a result, Diamond explored the influence of older film representations of Native people. He jumped into a “rez car” (basically just a beater) and drove across the United States and Northern Canada to speak with Native performers and activists.

The interview list is extensive including;

  • Adam Beach, renowned Manitoba-born Saulteaux actor in Smoke Signals, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, and Law & Order
  • Clint Eastwood, actor and director of many Westerns including the revisionist The Outlaw Josey Wales, which focuses heavily on Native Peoples
  • Graham Greene, a Oneaida actor from the Six Nations reserve near Hamilton who starred in numerous films including an Oscar-nominated turn in Dances with Wolves and most recently Marvel Studio’s Echo.
  • Jim Jarmusch, director of the First Nation-focused Dead Man,
  • Zacharias Kunuk, the Inuit film director behind Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, based on Inuit legend and considered among the greatest Canadian films of all time
  • Sacheen Littlefeather, who refused Marlon Brando’s Oscar for The Godfather on his behalf at the Academy Awards in 1973 over the treatment of Indigenous actors in Hollywood
  • Robbie Roberston, founder of Canadian-American group The Band and longtime composer for Martin Scorsese films, including his work on Killers of the Flower Moon about a string of murders of Osage Nation members, which earned him a posthumous Oscar nomination, and many more

The documentary also explores a later resurgence in Indigenous filmmaking highlighting numerous movies with better representation than their forebearers such as Smoke Signals, Flags of Our Fathers (an Eastwood film), Atanajurat, New Zealand’s Whale Rider and Australia’s Rabbit-Proof Fence. 


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