directed by Steve Barron
(Lions Gate, 2003)

Dreams are teachers that tell a people how to believe. And without them, a people no longer exists.

Life's rough on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Young Shane (Eddie Spears) is abandoning his traditional family in favor of a gang. His grandfather (August Schellenberg) wants Shane to take him to the All Nations Powwow in Albuquerque, but Shane doesn't want to leave until a fight with his gang propels him off the rez at a fast clip.

Along the way, Grandfather tells Shane the stories of the Native peoples. This is not just the Lakota stories from Pine Ridge; you also have the story of a young Multnomah Indian who sacrifices herself for the health of her people, the young Cheyenne quill worker who becomes Starwoman, stories of the tricksters Spider and Coyote.

We learn a great deal about Native American culture as well. For instance, there is no word for "I" or "me" in Lakota. It is a collective society. In addition, animals are four-legged people, fish people or winged people. All creatures are people -- and thus are entitled to respect as such. One of the more fascinating moments of the story is when Grandfather prays for the spirits of dead animals along the road.

The imagery on this 180-minute special is amazing. Director Steve Barron has gone to a lot of trouble to create a mystical landscape for the stories to take place and the work far exceeds any made-for-TV production I've ever seen.

This is also a groundbreaking event. Of 88 characters, 87 are played by Native actors. The Native traditions, including patterns of speech, are respected in this story. Dreamkeeper is well worth the time. Be sure to look at the "making of" section following the film. The information is fascinating.

review by
Becky Kyle

2 August 2008

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