Top critical review
157 people found this helpful
on February 22, 2008
Bury My Heart....is 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 DAKOTA....in 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. As though natives would have spoken that way in their own language.
Anyhow. Tatanka Iyotake comes across as somewhat of a jerk and I feel that the way he was pertrayed took much away from the real Sitting Bull...not that I knew the man of course. However; Sitting Bull was a wicasa wakan...a holy man amongst his Hunkpapa people and I doubt he would have conducted himself as arrogantly and foolishly as he was made to look in this film. Also, he never came to Pine Ridge...much less did he surrender there. He surrendered at Ft. Robinson Nebraska.....the same place where Tashunke Witko...Chief Crazy Horse surrendered and where he was murdered by the U.S. Govt. They did get it right that Sitting Bull was murdered on his Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota.
Again, these inaccuracies may not seem like a big deal to most, but I doubt ANY american would take kindly to a foreigen nation making a film about, say Pearl Harbor, but confuse names, events and places of major american figures along the way. Imagine, a foreigen produced film about Pearl Harbor, with Gen. Mc Arthur invading China instead of Japan, and Pearl Harbor being set on the coast of Maine. Wouldn't go over well would it? Now imagine how the decendants of the native side of wounded knee feel when the story of their ancestors is constantly told in a haphazzard manner.Point made.
There are a few other things wrong with this film. In the last frames of the film Chief Makhpia Luta...Red Cloud, is shown riding on a wagon, as Ohiyesa and his wife bare witness to the aftermath of the massacre. Red Cloud was not at wounded knee. He was at Pine Ridge at the time yes, but he did not visit the killing field because he was afraid that more violence would errupt. Beyond that, he had gone blind and was in frail health at the time of the massacre....he couldn't have gone even if he had wanted to.
All in all the acting was anywhere from great to ok, but given the lame script and dialogue there was not much any of the actors could have done. The cinematography was very good, as were the costumes....at least here they paid attention to detail in ditinguishing the Arikira from the Crow and the Crow from the Lakota...as each tribe had it's own very distinctive dress and appearance forms.
One last note on Dr. Eastman. In the film he is shown as being desolate toward the end and out of work when he, in fact, went on to publish many books and was, even in his day, recognized as a writer and orator of great renown.
From my perspective it is hard to get around the inaccuracies and the torrid dialogue, but given the scarsity of cerdible native themed films...still and ever, I take it for what it is and give it 3 stars.