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Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

366 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Inspired by Dee Brown's acclaimed bestseller, the HBO Films event begins powerfully with the Sioux triumph over General Custer at Little Big Horn. The action centers on the struggles of three characters: Charles Eastman (Adam Beach, FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS), a young, Dartmouth-educated Sioux doctor; Sitting Bull (August Schellenberg, THE NEW WORLD), the proud Lakota chief who refuses to submit to U.S. government policies designed to strip his people of their identity, dignity and sacred land; and Senator Henry Dawes (Aidan Quinn, EMPIRE FALLS), one of the men responsible for the government policy on Indian affairs. While Eastman and schoolteacher Elaine Goodale (Anna Paquin, X-MEN: THE LAST STAND), work to improve life for the Sioux on the reservation, Senator Dawes lobbies President Grant for kinder Indian treatment. Epic in scope, BURY MY HEART AT WOUNDED KNEE is a new Western classic called "...insightful...deeply affecting...visually striking" by The Washington Post.

DVD Features:
Audio Commentary
Photo gallery
Production Notes

With an acceptable balance of strengths and weaknesses, HBO's revisionist rendition of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee can be recommended as a very basic (if slightly inaccurate) history lesson for younger viewers. It doesn't flinch from the harsh realities that were so passionately chronicled in author Dee Alexander Brown's enduring 1970 classic of Native American history, nor does it soften the brutality of violence between the U.S. federal forces and the doomed Native American tribes who fought to preserve their native territories, from the legendary battle of Little Big Horn in 1876 (depicted in the opening scenes) to the shameful slaughter of Sioux warriors at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, on December 29, 1890. Originally broadcast on May 27, 2007, and running slightly over two hours, this U.S./Canadian coproduction struggles to tell a story that would've been better served by a full-length miniseries (and will surely disappoint anyone familiar with Brown's important book), and the screenplay is so busy giving us a Cliff's Notes version of history that it lacks any particular focus or consistent point of view. Instead, we get a sobering, noble, and heartbreaking tale of territorial injustice, with forced parallels to the war in Iraq, full of admirable performances yet riddled with clichés and anachronistic details.

If you look closer, however, you'll find much to admire: Although his character was dubiously conceived to appeal to a contemporary white audience, Adam Beach (from Flags of Our Fathers) gives a fine performance as Charles Eastman, a Sioux doctor integrated into white society, who grows increasingly conflicted by the plight of his people. He's the tragic embodiment of the faulty ideals of Senator Dawes (Aidan Quinn), whose governmental effort to assimilate Native Americans leads to disastrous outbreaks of violence, depicted here with blunt-force realism. As Eastman's sympathetic and upright wife (a white schoolteacher with a strong sense of conscience), Anna Paquin makes the most of an underwritten role, and Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee is an impressive showcase for outstanding native American actors like August Schellenberg (as Sitting Bull) and Gordon Tootoosis (as Red Cloud), who bring obvious authority and conviction to their roles. The film is most effective when addressing the inevitable failure of the white man's well-meaning but ultimately misguided policies toward Native Americans. To the extent that we still struggle with the historical legacy of those policies, this flawed but instructional rendition of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee can be viewed as a compact precursor to deeper historical study. --Jeff Shannon

Special Features

  • Commentary by director Yves Simoneau
  • Commentary by actors Aidan Quinn and Adam Beach
  • Behind-the-scenes featurettes: Making History, The Heart of a People, Telling the Story
  • Interactive on-screen historical guide prepared by the film’s screenwriter
  • Photo gallery
  • Production notes

Product Details

  • Actors: Aidan Quinn, Adam Beach, August Schellenberg, Anna Paquin
  • Format: AC-3, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Dubbed: Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Hbo Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: September 11, 2007
  • Run Time: 133 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (366 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000R20164
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #85,483 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

175 of 189 people found the following review helpful By Bob Reece on August 8, 2007
Format: DVD
HBO's "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" is not a mini-series; in fact, it only covers the last two chapters of Brown's book and runs a little over two hours. The film would have been better titled, The Last Days of the Sioux Nation: Second Edition

There are many historical inaccuracies in this film; some are big, and some are small. Director Yves Simoneau recounts the story of reservation life, the taking of Indian lands and the debate that ensued. Choosing drama, as opposed to a documentary style, to recount these subjects is most challenging. When one looks past the inaccuracies in "Wounded Knee", one will discover many moments of brilliance.

So, let us undo some of the most important snafus first:

* The film opens with a young Ohiyesa -- Charles Eastman living in the village at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Eastman was never there.
* Sitting Bull physically lashes his men for attempting to flee Canada for their old homeland. This was never the case. Sitting Bull did use the akicita (similar to law enforcement officers) to keep people from leaving Canada. The film accurately portrays why Sitting Bull took the actions he did.
* Sitting Bull surrenders at Standing Rock instead of Ft. Buford.
* Charles Eastman was not the right-hand man to Dawes in developing what would later become the Dawes Act.

"Wounded Knee" indeed seems to be two films. The first covers the latter years of Sitting Bull's (August Schellenberg) life which are filled with triumph and defeat, greatness and loneliness. The second involves the rescue of a culture gasping its last breath.
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131 of 146 people found the following review helpful By James A. Holland on February 22, 2008
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Bury My a decent film. I always welcome any film that, respectfully and honestly, tries to deal with native american subject matters.
However; this film was simply too riddled with historical inaccuracies to be what it should have been.
The first problem arises in that Dee Brown's book in itself romantizises the massacre at wounded knee. To base a film on a book that is already flawed, from a native point of view, is tatamount to building a house on quicksand.

Ok let's look at the character of Ohiysa, or Dr. Charles Eastman, portrayed by Adam Beach.
Ohiyesa was Whappeton-Sisseton the film he is portrayed as LAKOTA. To most people that won't matter much, but for both the Lakota and Dakota people it does.
He sometimes speaks in Lakota....which, as a Dakota, he most certainly would not have. True, both dialects are mutually understandable and are of siouan origin, but Ohiyesa would certainly have spoken his Whappeton Dakota dialect....not the Oglalla Lakota dialect.
Then he is placed in the wrong place and time. Ohiyesa was nowhere near the greasy grass (little big-horn) when the lakota camp was attacked by Reno and his men. In fact, he was a state away up in North Dakota or further over in Minnesota....not in Montana where the battle took place.
Neither was he ever close to the wounded knee massacre. He WAS the agency physician at Pine Ridge, Oglalla Lakota Reservation, but not at the time of the battle at wounded knee.

Chief Tatanka Iyotake...Sitting Bull. August Schellenberg did a good job with the script he was given. What bothers me however, is that in almost all native type movies the actors are forced to speak in a very awckward manner which comes across as phoney and contrieved.
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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful By B. Merritt VINE VOICE on January 7, 2008
Format: DVD
BURY MY HEART AT WOUNDED KNEE is a somber retelling of the events leading up to the massacre at (what is now) the Wounded Knee Memorial. But this isn't a documentary. This is a made-for-TV fictional retelling, and it is the "made-for-TV" bit that makes this important American event lose some of its composure.

The entire production flags because of the TV aspect, many of the film shots losing their impact either because of lack of attention to detail or funds (or probably both). Either way this could've been an extreme visual recollection for most viewers but instead it lacks the depth I would've liked to have seen.

Regardless, there are some stellar appearances and acting within it. August Schellenberg as Sitting Bull undeniably has the most impact. Recent movie viewers will probably remember him from his portrayal as Powhatan in The New World. The contrast between the character in The New World and here in Wounded Knee shouldn't be lost, either. Without Powhatan and Pocahontas, the white settlers at Jamestown would've perished within the first few winters. And now, in Wounded Knee, it is the white man who destroys what is left of Native American life; a terribly stark (and bloody) reality.

The other notables are Adam Beach (Flags of Our Fathers) as Charles Eastman, and Aidan Quinn (Legends of the Fall) as Senator Henry Dawes. They spend a lot of time together on film and they played against/off each other exceptionally well.
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