I am embarrassed to say that before watching “Young Lakota,” a new documentary directed by Rose Rosenblatt and Marion Lipschutz (The Education of Shelby Knox), I had yet to see a nonfiction film that focused on Native American life. This was probably a result of my own oversight–Independent Lens has produced plenty of them, see my Docutopia column this week–but I assume it’s also due to the general lack of media attention given to America’s indigenous populations. As we visit with friends and family this week to celebrate our colonialist holiday, it seems like an opportune time to highlight the struggles of Native American people–and the documentaries that chronicle them.
Here’s an excerpt from my article:
Young Lakota presents an intimate look at life “on the Rez,” that also serves as a compelling microcosm of the country’s culture wars and the struggle for women’s rights.
Add another feather in the headdress of Independent Lens, which has supported an impressive roster of docs that have touched on Native American themes, from Chiefs (2002), an observational documentary about Native American high school basketball players to Young Lakota producer Heather Rae’s portrait of the celebrated activist Trudell (2005). In a country that appears to suffer from both historical amnesia and social apathy, these films spotlight a people and a culture often ignored by the mainstream media.
Set in South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation,Young Lakota follows two young, politically minded Native Americans who choose to stay in their homeland to work for positive change in their local community. Early in the film, one of the subjects, Sunny Clifford, a single woman who works at a convenience store, lays out some of the statistics that hover over those who live on the reservation: Life expectancy is four years less than the U.S population and death rates are 670% higher from alcoholism, and 318% higher from diabetes. “We’re not expected to do much,” she says, wryly. “Have kids and raise them”—and then presumably, die.
Read the rest of the story here: