Fort Pitt Museum Challenges Film Myths With Doc ‘Reel Injun’

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The American motion picture industry has a long history of marginalization. By casting white actors in non-white roles – a practice that, unfortunately, continues to this day – and the constant portrayal of non-whites as the villain, Hollywood has manufactured misrepresentations that have shaped how audiences view certain cultures and groups. On Nov. 22nd, the Heinz History Center will examine this issue with Reel Injun, a documentary that shows how films have influenced perceptions of Native Americans.

Hollywood has made over 4,000 films about Native people; over 100 years of movies defining how Indians are seen by the world. Reel Injun takes an entertaining and insightful look at the Hollywood Indian, exploring the portrayal of North American Natives through the history of cinema. Traveling through the heartland of America, Cree filmmaker Neil Diamond looks at how the myth of “the Injun” has influenced the world’s understanding – and misunderstanding – of Natives. Through candid interviews with directors, writers, actors and activists, including Clint Eastwood, Jim Jarmusch, Robbie Robertson, Sacheen Littlefeather, John Trudell and Russell Means, clips from hundreds of classic and recent films, including Stagecoach, Little Big Man, The Outlaw Josey Wales, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and Atanarjuat the Fast Runner, Reel Injun traces the evolution of cinema’s depiction of Native people from the silent film era to today.

Reel Injun will screen at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. at the Fort Pitt Museum. In addition to the film, Michael Galban, Interpretive Programs Coordinator at the Ganondagan State Historic Site and member of the Washoe-Paiute tribe, will speak to visitors about his own consulting work on both Indian related films and exhibitions, and how film depictions of American Indians have affected his life.

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