The Exiles (1961 film)

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The Exiles
The Exiles (2008 restoration poster).jpg
2008 restoration poster
Directed byKent Mackenzie
Written byKent Mackenzie
Produced byKent Mackenzie
  • Yvonne Williams
  • Homer Nish
  • Tommy Reynolds
  • Rico Rodriguez
  • Clifford Ray Sam
  • Clydean Parker
  • Mary Donahue
  • Erik Daarstad
  • Robert Kaufman
  • John Morrill
Edited by
  • Kent Mackenzie
  • Warren Brown
  • Thomas Conrad
  • Erik Daarstad
  • Thomas Miller
  • Beth Pattrick
Music by
Distributed byContemporary Films[1]
Release dates
  • 1961 (original)
  • 2008 (restoration)
Running time
72 minutes
CountryUnited States

The Exiles (1961) is a film by Kent MacKenzie chronicling a day in the life of a group of 20-something Native Americans who left reservation life in the 1950s to live in the district of Bunker Hill, Los Angeles, California. Bunker Hill was then a blighted residential locality of decayed Victorian mansions, sometimes featured in the writings of Raymond Chandler, John Fante, and Charles Bukowski. The structure of the film is that of a narrative feature, the script pieced together from interviews with the documentary subjects. The film features Yvonne Williams, Homer Nish, and Tommy Reynolds.


The film is about Native Americans who have left their reservations in the Southwest. It follows them in Bunker Hill, a gritty neighborhood in Los Angeles.[2] The cast of American Indian actors are notable for their lack of self-consciousness as they drink and socialize during a night out on the town ending in a 49 party[3] of drumming and dancing on "Hill X" overlooking downtown LA.[4][5]


Filming was started in the late 1950s. The film features rock and roll music provided by Anthony Hilder and Robert Hafner. It was performed by The Revels,[6][7] who recorded on Hilder's Impact record label.[8] Years later Norman Knowles of The Revels recalled some of the tracks they recorded for the film. They included "It's Party Time" and possibly "Revellion". According to Knowles, the song "Commanche" which was written for the movie was cut.[9]


The Exiles premiered at the 1961 Venice Film Festival. As it was only licensed (16mm version) to schools and churches, it did not find a distributor to release it theatrically in that year,[10] and so over the years it fell into obscurity, known to cinephiles but remaining largely unseen by the public. A restored version produced by the UCLA Film and Television Archive premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in February 2008, and Milestone Films released it commercially and on DVD in summer 2008.


In 2009, it was named to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant and will be preserved for all time.[11]

Years later, Variety film critic Dennis Harvey's review of the 2015 film Mekko, about a Native American, mentioned The Exiles and On the Bowery (1956); he referred to the two older films as being classics also set on skid row.[12]


Production crew[edit]

  • Written, produced, and directed by Kent MacKenzie
  • Cinematography by Erik Daarstad, Robert Kaufman, John Morrill
  • Production by Ronald Austin, Sam Farnsworth, John Morrill, Erik Daarstad, Robert Kaufman, Beth Pattrick, Sven Walnum, Paula Powers
  • Additional photography by Sven Walnum, Nicholas Clapp, Vilis Lapenieks.
  • Archive photographs by Edward S. Curtis
  • Editing by Kent Mackenzie, Warren Brown, Thomas Conrad, Erik Daastad, Thomas Miller, Beth Patrick
  • Music by Anthony Hilder, The Revels, Robert Hafner, Eddie Sunrise
  • Sound by Sam Farnsworth
  • Sound effects edited by Thomas Conrad

Additional crew[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Heider, Karl G. (June 1968). Films for anthropological teaching. Washington, D.C.: American Anthropological Association. p. 55. Retrieved 2021-04-01 – via Internet Archive.
  2. ^ Melander-Dayton, Adele (2009-11-15). "The Exiles". PopMatters. Retrieved 2022-06-06.
  3. ^ Encyclopaedia Britannica - Forty-nine dance, NATIVE AMERICAN CULTURE Written By: John-Carlos Perea
  4. ^ The Exiles DVD - Audio commentary by Sherman Alexie and Sean Axmaker
  5. ^ Fleischer, Matthew (2008-08-14). "Exiles on Main Street". LA Weekly. Archived from the original on 2008-08-22. Retrieved 2008-08-14.
  6. ^ Dargis, Manohla (2008-07-11). "Despair and Poetry at Margins of Society". The New York Times. p. E12. Archived from the original on 2016-03-05. Retrieved 2022-06-06.
  7. ^ Film Quarterly, Vol. 15, No. 3 Spring, 1962 - Page 59 Film Reviews, THE EXILES (JSTOR 1210630)
  8. ^ Zhito, Lee (1961-05-08). "Music as Written | Hollywood". Billboard Music Week. Vol. 73, no. 18. Retrieved 2022-06-06 – via Google Books.
  9. ^ The Center for Studies in American Culture - September 28, 2010 (XXI:5), Kent MacKenzie, THE EXILES (1961, 72 min) Page 3 to 4
  10. ^ Corliss, Richard (2008-07-18). "Exiles on Indie Street". Time. Retrieved 2022-06-06.
  11. ^ Cannady, Sheryl (2009-12-30). "Michael Jackson, the Muppets and Early Cinema Tapped for Preservation in 2009 Library of Congress National Film Registry". Library of Congress (Press release). Retrieved 2020-04-28.
  12. ^ Harvey, Dennis (2015-09-11). "Toronto Film Review: 'Mekko'". Variety. Retrieved 2022-06-06.

External links[edit]