Preview of Older Than America

by Jim Northrup
News From Indian Country

Fond du Lac Follies motored to Gakaabikaang for the sneak preview of Older Than America, the film that was shot mostly on the Fond du Lac Reservation. I motored in that shiny ‘64 Corvette my wife won at the Black Bear Casino a few years back.

As I cruised along with the top down I could smell what some farmers put on their fields. I knew that smell because in my youth I had to shovel a lot of it. Shoveling is one of the few jobs I have had where I started at the top.

The doings were held at the Walker Art Center. After I parked I walked in and began meeting friends right away. Juanita Espinosa and I decided to sit together and catch up on the gossip. At the door we were greeted by Director Georgina and Producer Christine. They gave us a survey form. Christine introduced herself to the audience which numbered about a hundred people. The house lights went out.

The opening shots showed Dan Harrison at what looks like a sun dance. This was artistically and dramatically shot. It was a beautiful opening to the movie.

The next shots were used for establishing the location and time. They showed downtown Cloquet with the Sappi paper mill steaming in the background. Also people were shown walking about doing their normal business. I saw a sign that said Fond du Lac Reservation, I saw that shiny Corvette that wears license plates that say Rez Car, also the Black Bear Casino.

Once those shots were done the drama began. Our part was shown early in the movie. A gichi-mookomaan comes walking up to my fire pit where a group of Anishinaabeg are sitting around joking and laughing. He asks us if we know where the Reservation Police are. And my shining moment begins as I answer him. The moment that makes me eligible to join the Screen Actors Guild. I say, in my deep radio/TV/movie voice, “Why? You got a crime to report or are the cops looking for you too.”

I had practiced that line over and over until it sounded natural. Just think, a lot of people go to Hollywood hoping to be discovered. All I had to do was sit in my yard and Hollywood came to me and my family.

That’s it, that was my moment. Also in the shot we can see Ray Earley smiling directly at the camera. My old friend Drew LaCapa is in the scene as is Dennis Banks.

The story moves on from there. Georgina is introduced as is Adam Beach. Also Glen Gould and Gloria Eshkibok who became our new friends during the filming of this movie. Wes Studi plays an important role as does Tantoo Cardinal.

The movie portrays some of the abuses of the boarding school and mental health institutions. The electroshock treatments are terrible to watch, one patient gets the charge and bends backwards on the bed until only her head and toes are touching. During the boarding school flashbacks I saw the most powerful scene in the movie.

A priest or authority figure is shown coming out of a room. The camera peeks around the corner of the door and we see a young Indian boy crying and zipping up his pants.

No one ever said this was going to be a happy movie.

The movie moves on and the loose ends are tied up. The final scene is when Georgina’s character’s mother is welcomed back to the community. In this scene Pat and I are part of the crowd. We are easy to see because we are both wearing bright jackets. I noticed also that one of our Pendleton blankets is used.

When the movie was over I sat in the dark and said... “Wow.” I filled out my survey form and thought how much I liked the movie.

How could I not like a movie that shows my wife, my son, my car, my house inside and out, my fire pit and back yard. In the inside the house shot I can see one of my green coffee cups and the floral painting Pat did on the back door window. I saw my fire pit where I boil syrup and parch rice also a small table Ezigaa and I had built. Yeah, it was a good movie and worth seeing ten-twelve hundred times. I gave it a rating of five moccasins on my four moccasin scale.

I rumbled north up 35 in that beautiful Corvette.

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I went to a RBC meeting here in Sawyer and learned Fonjalackers are not going to be paying the excise tax on gasoline purchases. The aRe Bee Cee voted to end the agreement with the state.

 

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Mii sa iw.

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