Reel Injun – Film on Film Week

Reel Injun is currently available on instant Netflix.

Reel Injun (2009) – Not rated

“This engrossing documentary reveals the film industry’s effect on the experiences of North American native people in the United States and Canada, who’ve been depicted in movies in a variety of ways — many of them wildly inaccurate.”

“The only thing more pathetic than Indians on TV is Indians watching Indians on TV:”

Reel Injun has a nice conceit. It traces the history of the portrayal of Native Americans on film while crosscutting with a cross country trip by our Native American narrator. The narrator is driving a Res car and the explanation of that was very funny and brought me back to my 20s.

Reel Injun shows the evolution from Noble Injun to Savage Injun (Stagecoach) to Dead Injun. Reel Injun also has a wonderful montage of white actors playing Injuns: Burt Lancaster, Anthony Quinn, Charles Bronson, Elvis Presley, Victor Mature, Chuck Connors, Burt Reynolds, Boris Karloff, and Sal Mineo.

The movie has many precious moments. There is a wonderful translation of some of the Indian language in A Distant Thunder and the satanic language (backmasking!) of early films. It can also be heart-breaking as when a modern class of Native American children is shown the Indian massacre from Little Big Man.

Besides entertaining, Reel Injun also taught me a bit. Among other things, I learned that while Hollywood dresses almost all Indians as Plains Indians, they are almost always filmed in the American southwest in the desert.

Many of the basic ideas of Reel Injun are not dissimilar from those of The Slanted Screen yet Reel Injun is far better. Reel Injun knows how to entertain while informing and is quite good.

Reel Injun is real good.