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Sioux Ghost Dance

Film Review by Dean Duncan May 27, 2015

I’ll say it’s a ghost dance, and in more than just an anthropological or descriptive sense. The image is degraded for one thing, and the photographers are not successful in rendering those varyingly dark skin tones. Plus, of course, they’re doing a kind of cultural salvage work on something that’s still on the brink of extinction, for all their efforts.

So, ghosts all around. The insufficiency of this record is poignant to the point of tragedy. For on thing there are so many dancers, so crowded into this inadequate and inappropriate performative space. It occurs to one that this is precisely the kind of film that should be shot outside, on the subjects’ terms. Now at one level the fact that they didn’t do so is related to the fact that they really couldn’t do so. It’s not bigotry, or a conspiracy, but just a logistical reality. They shot it where they could, the way they could, or that they knew how.

Mind, on a more symbolic level this is the Native’s reality, after the Trail of Tears. These are the Reservations.

Or, practicality again, these performers were part of the Buffalo Bill tour, so that the filmic situation is actually quite accurate and appropriate.

Finally, look at that little kid!