Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
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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.
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
- 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 films screenwriter
- Photo gallery
- Production notes
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This also shows why they were upset when minerals were found on their land so immediate removal was attempted...
Will make you cry. Will make you angry. Will make you think. Will make you ashamed of our history. Will make you wonder about America pointing fingers at other nations who we claim trespass against their people's freedom and rights.........
I didn't know that Indians received the right to vote AFTER women and AFTER blacks.
I didn't know that Indians had bounty on their skin.
I didn't know that individuals made a living from killing Indians equivalent to what school teachers earned in a year.
One of the best films to clearly depict how the Government was responsible for the kidnapping of Native American children and sent to foster homes and schools away from their homes to be given "White" names and then returned tot he parents after the age of 15 or so in the most formidable years of development.They were not allowed to speak their own language.
You would not see white children treated in this way in the early 1800 to 1900's.
See also "A Good Day To Die" with Dennis J. Banks, Russel Means, John Trudell, etc...