Thursday, Oct. 28, 2010

Spooky Drama on the Reservation

By David Luhrssen
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Like many B movies, Older than America is interesting for exploring paths well beyond the boundaries of Hollywood. Director Georgina Lightning’s story, hovering between the supernatural and the political, unfolds on an Indian reservation in a remote, forested corner of Minnesota. Older than America is out now on DVD.


And like many Bs, the film has problems, including a screenplay that would have benefited from a lighter touch and a cast that could have performed better had time and budget permitted. The presence of Bradley Cooper (The Hangover, Wedding Crashers) as a geologist investigating an earth tremor in the woods seems more gratuitous than integral to the story of an abandoned Roman Catholic boarding school where cultural genocide was practiced at a time—not that many decades ago—when federal policy mandated extinguishing the existence of Native Americans as a distinct people. The cover up continues, abetted by an unctuous priest, a cruel mental hospital, a crooked mayor, the casual racism of white Americans and the willingness of some Indians to sell themselves short. The blackjack casino hasn’t solved every problem.


Older than America’s story of ghosts real and metaphorical has much to say about the troubled past and present of Native Americans and the hope of some tribal people for a future grounded in the traditions the U.S. tried to stamp out.

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