Reel Injun: On the Trail of the Hollywood Indian, an Independent Lens film

Reel Injun: On the Trail of the Hollywood Indian, an Independent Lens film

Thu, 10/28/2010 - 7:00pm - 9:00pm

Pictured: Neil Diamond

Credit: Courtesy of Rezolution Pictures

WXXI invites you to its new season of Community Cinema events, these free monthly screenings feature films from the Emmy Award-winning PBS series Independent Lens.

On Thursday, October 28 at 7 p.m. WXXI will present its first screening from the new season of Community Cinema presentations, Reel Injun: On the Trail of the Hollywood Indian, a film by Neil Diamond. The event is free and open to the public. The screening will be held at WXXI's Studios and followed by a a group discussion. The discussion will be lead by WXXI's Elissa Orlando with panelists Peter Jemison, Site Manager of Ganondagan State Historic Site and Seneca Artist, and Sharon Willis, Director of the Film and Media Studies Program at University of Rochester.

Cree filmmaker Neil Diamond takes an entertaining, insightful, and often humorous look at the Hollywood Indian, exploring the portrayal of North American Natives through a century of cinema and examining the ways that the myth of “the Injun” has influenced the world’s understanding—and misunderstanding—of Natives. Narrated by Diamond with infectious enthusiasm and good humor, Reel Injun: On the Trail of the Hollywood Indian is a loving look at cinema through the eyes of the people who appeared in its very first flickering images and have survived to tell their stories their own way. Reel Injun: On the Trail of the Hollywood Indian will air nationally on the upcoming season of the Emmy® Award-winning PBS series Independent Lens in November 2010.

Tracing the evolution of cinema’s depiction of Native people from the silent film era to today, Diamond takes the audience on a journey across America to some of cinema’s most iconic landscapes, including Monument Valley, the setting for Hollywood’s greatest Westerns, and the Black Hills of South Dakota, home to Crazy Horse and countless movie legends. Clips from hundreds of classic and recent Hollywood movies illustrate Diamond’s points, while celebrated Native and non-Native film celebrities, activists, film critics, and historians discuss their perceptions of the big screen Indian in candid interviews.

Diamond meets with Clint Eastwood (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, A Fistful of Dollars, Unforgiven) at his studios in Burbank, California, where the film legend discusses the evolution of the image of Indians in Westerns and what cowboy-and-Indian myths mean to America.  
Legendary Native American activists weigh in on pivotal moments in American Indian history, including Russell Means, who remembers being in the trading post during the 1973 standoff at Wounded Knee, and Sacheen Littlefeather, who recounts the acceptance of Marlon Brando’s Oscar in protest of “the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry.” Others offering their perspectives include notables such as Robbie Robertson, the half-Jewish, half-Mohawk musician and soundtrack composer (Raging Bull, Casino, Gangs of New York); Cherokee actor Wes Studi (The Last of the Mohicans, Geronimo); filmmakers Jim Jarmusch (Dead Man) and Chris Eyre (Smoke Signals); and acclaimed Native actors Graham Greene (Dances With Wolves, Thunderheart) and Adam Beach (Smoke Signals, Clint Eastwood’s Flags of Our Fathers).  

Reel Injun’s humor and star power is balanced with insightful commentary from film critics and historians, including CBC film critic Jesse Wente; Angela Aleiss, author and scholar of American Indian Studies; and Melinda Micco, associate professor of ethnic studies at Mills College, California. The film also explores the range of non-Native actors who have portrayed Natives onscreen and reveals the bizarre secret identity of the iconic “weeping” Indian, Iron Eyes Cody.

About the Filmmaker
Neil Diamond (Director/Writer)
Neil Diamond, one of Canada’s foremost Aboriginal filmmakers, hails from the Cree community of Waskaganish on the coast of James Bay. His recent credits include The Last Explorer (2009), a feature-length!docudrama retracing the steps of Diamond’s own great uncle, Aboriginal guide George Elson, on an ill-fated voyage into the heart of uncharted Labrador. An integral part of the Rezolution Pictures International creative team, Diamond has directed two award-winning documentaries: One More River
(2004), a behind-the-scenes look at the Quebec Cree’s decision to accept another hydro project on their land, was named Best Documentary at the Rendez-vous du cinéma québecois, while awards for Heavy Metal: A Mining Disaster in Northern Quebec (2004) included Top Prize and Audience Pick at Norway’s Riddu Riddu Festival.

This acclaimed Emmy Award-winning anthology series features documentaries and a limited number of fiction films united by the creative freedom, artistic achievement and unflinching visions of their independent producers. Independent Lens features unforgettable stories about a unique individual, community or moment in history. The series is supported by interactive companion Web sites and national publicity and community engagement campaigns.


A new Native American novel...

I would like to send Neil Diamond info about a novel I wrote. It's called In the Beginning the Dance.

Can you give me his email or contact info?

Many thanks,


Neil Diamond

Dear Lanny,

We're so pleased that you enjoyed this film! We do not have direct contact with the filmmaker as it was presented by Independent Lens. There is more information about the film and the filmmaker at the Independent Lens website including a talk back discussion section, and Facebook and Twitter information.

Good Luck!