SXSW Film '10 Preview — Reel Injun

Neil Diamond, the Cree filmmaker not the singer, has put together a really fascinating look at Native Americans and how they influenced Hollywood — and how Hollywood influenced them.

Reel Injun uses interviews and archive footage to take a peak behind some of the most prevalent myths and legends that have sprung from America’s cinematic fascination with indigenous people.

The documentary focuses on Diamond as he sets out on a journey from his home in Canada to the hills of Hollywood — with pit stops along the way to pay tribute to some of film’s biggest American Indian legacies — including the son of Iron Eyes Cody (the actor most famous for being the crying Indian in the “Keep America Beautiful” PSA — who ironically was not actually Native American but Italian).

The movie is sometimes enlightening, often funny and always engrossing.

Among the people interviewed for the film are Adam Beach, Clint Eastwood and Sacheen Littlefeather — the Native American activist who found infamy when she memorably declined Marlon Brando’s Academy Award after he won for The Godfather.

Sprinkled among the interviews, Diamond reflects on his own childhood spent growing up on a steady diet of cowboy and Indian movies — with his younger self more often then not associating with the cowboys more then the Indians.

The film libelously uses archive footage from some of Hollywood’s most memorable portrayals of Native Americans (from John Wayne’s films to The Fast Runner) to showcase how much (and sometimes little) the stereotypes surrounding America’s indigenous population has changed.

While parts of the film can drag a bit, there is always some new and interesting factoid to pull audiences back into the proceedings.

Some really interesting observations about a culture’s identity and the role Hollywood has had in shaping it can be found in the documentary. Combined with beautifully shoot footage of Diamond’s journey through Native Americana and some great interviews, Reel Injun is a film completely worth checking out at SXSW.

Category: 24 Beats Per Second
Director: Neil Diamond
Showtimes: Saturday, March 13 at 8 PM at The Hideout and Thursday, March 18 at 1:30 PM at Alamo Lamar

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The South by Southwest film festival will be held in Austin from March 12 through the 20th. For more information about attending the festival and the films being shown, visit

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