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Reel Injun is a 2009 Canadian documentary film directed by Cree filmmaker Neil Diamond, Catherine Bainbridge, and Jeremiah Hayes that explores the portrayal of Native Americans in film. Reel Injun is illustrated with excerpts from classic and contemporary portrayals of Native people in Hollywood movies and interviews with filmmakers, actors and film historians, while director Diamond travels across the United States to visit iconic locations in motion picture as well as American Indian history.
Reel Injun explores many stereotypes about Natives in film, from the Noble savage to the Drunken Indian. It profiles such figures as Iron Eyes Cody, who as an Italian American reinvented himself as a Native American on screen. The film also explores Hollywood's practice of using Italian Americans and American Jews to portray Indians in the movies and reveals how some Native American actors made jokes in their native tongue on screen when the director thought they were simply speaking gibberish.
The film was inspired, in part, by Diamond's own experiences as a child in Waskaganish, Quebec, where he and other Native children would play cowboys and Indians after local screenings of Westerns in their remote community. Diamond remembers that although the children were in fact "Indians," they all wanted to be cowboys. When Diamond was older, he would be questioned by non-Native people about whether his people lived in teepees and rode horses, causing him to realize that their preconceptions about Native people were also derived from movies.
Interview subjects include Sacheen Littlefeather, Zacharias Kunuk, Clint Eastwood, Adam Beach, Jim Jarmusch, Robbie Robertson, Russell Means, Wes Studi, and scholars Angela Aleiss and Melinda Micco, and film critic Jesse Wente.
The documentary is partly structured as a road movie, with Diamond visiting locations across the United States as well as the Canadian North. In the U.S., he is traveling by "rez car," a broken down automobile often used on Indian Reservations, as demonstrated in Reel Injun with a sequence from the film Smoke Signals. Locations visited include the Black Hills of South Dakota and Wounded Knee, the Crow Agency in Montana as well as Monument Valley.
In Canada, the film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2009, followed by screenings at the ImagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival. Reel Injun began a limited release at theaters in Toronto and Vancouver; it debuted on television on CBC News Network's The Passionate Eye series on March 28, 2010. Reel Injun had its local Montreal premiere at the International Festival of Films on Art, followed by a commercial run at the Cinema du Parc.
In the United States, the film premiered at the SXSW festival in March 2009. It aired on November 2, 2010 on the PBS series Independent Lens. It was screened at the Museum of Modern Art from June 14 to 20, 2010.
Reel Injun received three awards at the 2010 Gemini Awards: the Canada Award for best multicultural program, Best Direction in a Documentary Program and Best Visual Research. It received a Peabody Award for best electronic media in March 2011.
- Directed by Neil Diamond, Catherine Bainbridge, Jeremiah Hayes
- Written by Neil Diamond, Catherine Bainbridge, Jeremiah Hayes
- Cast: Adam Beach, Clint Eastwood, Chris Eyre, Charlie Hill, Jim Jarmusch, Sacheen Littlefeather, Russell Means, Rod Rondeaux, John Trudell. Also featuring Angela Aleiss, Melinda Micco, and Jesse Wente.
- Produced by Catherine Bainbridge, Christina Fon, Linda Ludwick, Adam Symansky.
- Executive Producers: Catherine Bainbridge, Ravida Din, Christina Fon, Linda Ludwick, Catherine Olsen, Ernest Webb
- Original Music: Claude Castonguay, Mona Laviolette
- Cinematography: Edith Labbe
- Editor: Jeremiah Hayes
- Post-production supervisor: Tony Manolikakis
- Sound: Lynn Trepanier
- Visual research: Elizabeth Klinck
- Hale, Mike (14 June 2010). "Letting the Arrows Fly at Hollywood Stereotypes". New York Times. Retrieved 3 December 2010.
- Adams, James. "Hollywood portrayals shaped native self-perception and non-native prejudice". Globe and Mail. Retrieved 3 December 2010.
- Skenderis, Stephanie (18 February 2010). "A reel shame". CBC News. Retrieved 3 December 2010.
- Pevere, Geoff (19 February 2010). "Cree director Neil Diamond's real look at reel Indians". Toronto Star. Retrieved 3 December 2010.
- Ostrow, Joanne (4 August 2010). ""Reel Injun" coming to PBS in Nov.". Denver Post.
- Koepke, Melora (18 March 2010). "The real Neil Diamond". Hour magazine. Retrieved 3 December 2010.
- Kelly, Brendan (2 November 2010). "Me cowboy, you Reel Injun". Montreal Gazette. Retrieved 8 December 2010.
- CBC Documentaries, "Reel Injun: On the Trail of the Hollywood Indian" at http://www.cbc.ca/documentaries/passionateeyeshowcase/2010/reelinjun/
- Weber, Bill (13 June 2010). "Reel Injun". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 8 December 2010.
- Acosta, Belinda (19 March 2010). "SXSW Film". Austin Chronicle. Retrieved 8 December 2010.
- "Canadian doc 'Reel Injun' to screen at MoMA". Canadian Press. 13 May 2010. Retrieved 3 December 2010.
- "Reel Injun". Collection. National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved 3 December 2010.
- "Degrassi, Reel Injun win Peabody Awards". CBC News. 31 March 2011. Retrieved 2 April 2011.
- Dunlevy, T'Cha (9 April 2011). "Reel Injun continues making waves". Montreal Gazette. Retrieved 15 April 2011.
- Official website
- Reel Injun at the Internet Movie Database
- National Film Board of Canada Collections page
- Reel Injun site for Independent Lens on PBS