Adapted from the 1996 Minnesota Book Award-winning novel, this touching drama covers familiar topics about white and Indian relations with refreshing levels of awkward honesty and wry humor.
It follows the challenging yet cleansing relationship between Dan, a seen-it-all Lakota elder at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, and Nerburn, a guilt-stricken white author who has road-tripped from Minnesota to the rez to deal with the old man’s request to write his story.
The book-smart outsider has trouble keeping pace, as Dan channels his inner trickster for laughs and to drive home painful, important points about Native American history.
Director Steven Lewis Simpson, who co-wrote the script with novelist Kent Nerburn, captures the textures of rural life in rundown houses, the vastly empty South Dakota Badlands, well intentioned ineptitude and ancient wounds that bleed again when visiting a site like Wounded Knee. The late Dave Bald Eagle, who played Dan at the age of 95, is as hypnotic as a wise old turtle, and Christopher Sweeney shines as the out-of-his-league writer, alternately apologetic and irritated.
After a slow opening, the story develops strong momentum. By the time the end credits arrive, the characters of this modest, crowdfunded feature are practically unforgettable. It’s immensely serious but no downer.
(At the Tivoli)
‘Neither Wolf Nor Dog’
☆☆☆ 1/2 out of four stars
Unrated but suitable for all audiences.