Reel Injun

Reel Injun, airing Sunday, March 28 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on THE PASSIONATE EYE on CBC News Network, is Cree filmmaker Neil Diamond’s entertaining and insightful look at how Hollywood has portrayed North American Natives through a century of film.

Reel Injun traces the evolution of the cinema’s depiction of Native people from the first flickering images of the “Injun” in silent films to today’s big-screen portrayals. Along the way, Diamond travels to such iconic film locales as Monument Valley, the setting for countless Hollywood Westerns, and the Black Hills of South Dakota, home to Crazy Horse (rumoured to be Hollywood’s inspiration for the mystical warrior stereotype) and whose descendants now live in poverty on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation. Diamond discovers that the future of Native cinema seems to reside in the unlikeliest of places – Canada’s North.

A star-studded list of interviews is headlined by Clint Eastwood (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, A Fistful of Dollars, Unforgiven). From his studio in Los Angeles, Eastwood talks about the image of Indians in Westerns and what the Cowboy-and-Indian myth means to Americans. Other interviewees include Canadian Robbie Robertson, a half-Jewish/half-Mohawk musician (The Band) and soundtrack composer (Raging Bull, Casino, Gangs of New York), Cherokee actor Wes Studi (Last of the Mohicans, Geronimo), filmmakers Jim Jarmusch (Dead Man) and Chris Eyre (Smoke Signals) and acclaimed Native actors Graham Greene (Dances with Wolves, Thunderheart) and Adam Beach (Smoke Signals, Clint Eastwood’s Flags of our Fathers). Diamond also travels north to the remote Nunavut town of Igloolik (population: 1,500) to interview Zacharias Kunuk, director of the Cannes film fest award-winner The Fast Runner.

Also weighing in on how the myth of “the Injun” has influenced the world’s understanding – and misunderstanding – of Natives are Native American activists John Trudell, Russell Means and Sacheen Littlefeather and CBC film critic Jesse Wente.

Reel Injun is directed by Neil Diamond and produced by Christina Fon, Catherine Bainbridge & Linda Ludwick (Rezolution Pictures, Montreal) with the National Film Board of Canada and in association with CBC News Network.

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