Monday, July 25, 2011
Black Cloud? Come on...
Oh, the problems a Native can have — and one of them is starring in movies that are just not that good.
“Black Cloud (2004)” is a movie about a young Navajo man fighting his way through life with his fists — because he’s a boxer — and by finding himself through a number of deaths and events that lead him down the bottle, into the sweat lodge and back into his girlfriend’s arms. It was filmed in the Gallup area, near my hometown of Crownpiont, and had a huge opening at the local theaters there. No doubt, the people in the theater seats were also disappointed, but got a good laugh out of it like I did.
Maybe it’s because I live on the edge of the Navajo Nation — on the New Mexico side, but come on, Natives do drive and own vehicles that were made in 2011 and some of our roads are paved. Movies like these only solidify stereotypes and hide the real and current culture by opening the movie with a powwow dream or having the lead character posses a special connection with a coveted wild stallion the elders tell stories about.
One of Black Cloud’s greatest dilemmas was coming to terms with his mixed blood. Apparently his great-grandfather was a respected white man and he nearly kills himself over it and joins a drunken gang of other mix-blood rejects. Maybe the writer forgot that in the Navajo way, if you belong to a clan and you know who your family is, than you’re Navajo. I have certainly never seen or heard of a mix-blood group.
The plot was good and had so much possibility but it was smothered in cliché, unrealistic dialogue and bad acting. The conflict was too quickly resolved and could be more conflicting because being a mixed-blood is not that bad, especially for a guy like Black Cloud, a grown man with an obvious Native name who already loves a half-white child and has very strong ties to the elders and his culture.
I want a good Native movie without the cliché and stone faced Natives with long, strait, black hair. I’d rather see a drama about tribal government crimes against the people — a high-risk lawyer story like “Philadelphia.” An action movie — possibly in 3-D — about a super ghost warrior coming back from the dead to defend his people against a ravaging, late-1800s U.S. Army. A comedy about a group of Natives at a big city conference finding their way back to the U.S. after boarder control mistakenly picks them up — ala Hangover. And a satire about a group of young Natives coming back from the city to set up a healthy vegan sandwich shop on the rez only to go broke and resolve the issue by finding other, morbid means of nutrition (this piece is already half written by yours truly, so don’t copy).
In the mean time, I will continue to write my play, and wish other — future — Native movies would be better. But, you know, kudos for the attempt. It’s always a very nice surprise to see a movie with some familiar Native culture and people.