Mini-Review: The Activist (2014)

The standoff between federal agents and Native Americans at Wounded Knee is an under-discussed event in American history, as well as being under-dramatized especially in Hollywood. However, a recent indie film seeks to remedy that.

The burn on this film is not a quick one, however, it does bear sticking with and being patient for as the film is seeking to explore character rather than exploit sociopolitical situations for cheap drama. The structuring of both plot and persona is not simplistic and seeks a rounded portrait of the figures who are bearing the brunt of systematic marginalization and those who must question their mindless obedience of nonsensical orders.

In a refreshing change of pace the only place the film really struggles in three-dimensional characterization is with the caucasian characters. Most notably with the characters of the Senator and Frank McCarthy.

The standout performances in the film are those of Chadwick Brown in the lead role of Marvin and King Orba as Brando, a character who is insinuated as being Marlon Brando, but not explicitly said to be until the credits. This is a credit to his rendition of the actor’s speech and mannerisms.

Ultimately, this one does come together powerfully well as a prison-set chamber drama surrounding the 1973 Wounded Knee standoff. It takes some sticking to as it seems it may not follow-through on its vast potential. However, as the plot unravels the characters reveal more of themselves and all their interactions become more nuanced. The end is truly memorable, and for a film that readily admits to be a fictionalized retelling based on actual facts; it does well to relate the events therein to the present with end titles such that it may inspire new vigilance and activism rather than just striking people with a passing fancy inspired mostly by an ain’t-that-a-shame sentiment.

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