Monday, April 12, 2010

Untold History: Older than America

Older than America (2008) - Lightening
Georgina Lightening's Older than America digs up some very ugly history in a fictional manner. Lightening plays Rain, a Native American teacher in rural Minnesota who starts seeing disturbing visions. Her mother is in mental institution and she is afraid she'd inherited her mother's traits. Her tribal police fiance (Adam Beach)'s marriage proposal makes matters more complicated. An outsider geologist investigating a minor earthquake near an abandoned catholic school ground causes a stir in the local mayoral election- the incumbent is a big time landowner who is in cahoots with a catholic priest to bury the ugly history of the town. Who are the children Rain sees in her visions? Who's the mystery man?

Catholic sex abuse scandal is nothing new. But it is something else to take Native American kids(savages they were told) forcefully from their homes and institutionalize them into 'proper' humans by physically, sexually abusive priests and nuns up until 1975, ravaging a generation of people permanently scarred and worse, killed off.

Native American culture has been one of my interests for a long time. There are not many films about Native Americans, let alone a good one. Sherman Alexie's The Business of Fancy Dancing proved his great writing skills don't really translate well onto the big screen. For a message movie, Older than America is surprisingly subtle and graceful. Its use of supernatural elements comes off as spiritual rather than a scare and many actors earnest performances are quietly affecting. Sure it doesn't have Hollywood production value or beautiful cinematography. It does suffer from Spike Lee syndrome(trying to do too much in one movie) but it's a good, important film. It's a pity this kind of films don't get distributions theatrically and ends up only on pay-per-view.

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