Arkansas PBS > Engage > Blog > Let's be frank about this.

Let's be frank about this.

  • Posted by
  • Kerry
  • on

Community Cinema kicked off last night with the screening of "Reel Injun: On the Trail of the Hollywood Indian." We didn't have a large crowd, but we had an engaged crowd--and that's probably the most important thing about Community Cinema--caring about the topics at hand.

Featuring interviews with Native American actors, filmmakers and activists, "Reel Injun" is about Native American stereotypes throughout the history of film.

Our panelist was Dr. Bob Sanderson from the Sequoyah National Research Center in Little Rock. Dr. Sanderson provided excellent insight into many of the feelings Natives regarding stereotypes. He also helped put everything in perspective--how does film indoctrinate ideology into us? I believe the exact words he used were "film is a subtle form of social control."

And he's exactly right. How much of what we see on film do we carry into our daily thoughts and conversations? A lot. Film is everywhere.

"Here's Johnny!" "It's ALIVE!" "Here's looking at you, kid." "Don't put Baby in a corner." "You can't handle the truth."

Those are just a few that came to mind, but my guess is that many of you reading will be able to recognize where these lines came from. Because of that, it's so important that filmmakers be mindful about what goes into their work. Some of the clips from old Westerns, many including John Wayne, were very uncomfortable to watch in this day and age, but for that time period the images weren't as shocking because that's what the national viewpoint was. Does that make it right? Absolutely not. But does that help to explain--a little. 

Dr. Sanderson explained that it's not about making movies for the sake of including Natives--it's about including Native Americans where it makes sense. Native Americans are teachers, doctors, accountants, truck drivers--pretty much everything you can imagine. Just like everyone else. Filmmakers are getting better at accurately depicting Native Americans, but there's still work that needs done.

Stereotypes are tricky things. Just talking about stereotypes has the ability to make people uncomfortable, so how do you host a screening of a film about stereotypes and hold a panel discussion afterward? By being frank.

Some of the discussion among the panelist and attendees included some language that some may have found offensive in any other situation, but when it comes to talking about stereotypes there's really no other way. Sometimes laying it all out on the table is the best way to start from scratch. Burying the past won't help us learn from it. 

If you missed the Conway screening of "Reel Injun," you have another chance Thursday, Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. at the Arkansas Studies Institute in Little Rock. It's free and open to everyone and Dr. Sanderson will be joining us again.

"Reel Injun: On the Trail of the Hollywood Indian" will air on AETN Sunday, Nov. 7 at 11 p.m. 

Join us for next month's film "Deep Down," on Nov. 16!

Visit www.aetn.org/engage/communitycinema for a list of upcoming films and screening dates.