Pine Ridge packs unexpected emotion
by Vladan Petkovic
- Anna Eborn’s first feature documentary is a contemplative film about the life of the Lakota people, produced by Adomeit Film
Swedish-born director Anna Eborn’s first feature documentary Pine Ridge [+see also:
film profile], which premiered Out of Competition in Venice, is set in the eponymous Native American reservation in South Dakota. This mostly quiet, impressionistic and contemplative film about the life of the Lakota people invokes deep emotion in the viewer instead of providing information or delivering a political statement.
Pine Ridge was the scene of the 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre which ended the American Indian War and the Pine Ridge shootout in 1975, still a controversial issue (Michael Apted made the excellent documentary Incident at Oglala about the incident in 1992). But if there is a political angle to the film, it is peripheral and only implied: footage of the beautiful nature contrasted with sublevel housing and industrial waste creates an atmosphere of hopelessness and decay, and a sequence in which the Native Americans partake in rodeo, wearing cowboy hats, tells all that needs to be said about assimilation.
Some ten protagonists are featured in the film, most of them young, with lives typical for this ethnic group in the States, more segregated than any other minority. The film simply shows where and how they live, and describes some of their problems through confessionals in voice-over, without focusing on any of the individuals. They are regular people with problems that are the norm for the demographic, there are no odd characters there to serve a biographic film, and while their living conditions are meagre, they are not poor enough for misery porn frequently disguised as documentary.
This way Eborn builds a palpable atmosphere of Pine Ridge and provides a well-defined emotional and spiritual footprint of the community, placing the viewer right in the middle of the reservation and triggering empathy, an emotion much more meaningful and sincere than sympathy that most similarly themed documentaries calculate to achieve.
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.