INDIAN HORSE film

Date/Time
Date(s) - Sat, Jan 15, 2022
7:00 pm-10:00 pm

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Location
Old Dutch Church

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This authentic, emotional drama — about an Ojibway boy, torn from his Indigenous culture and committed to the brutal residential school system to be “civilized” by the church into white society — is “a cinematic landmark,” writes film critic Brian D. Johnson in Maclean’s news magazine.

“It should be mandatory viewing for high school students,” writes Kristin Grant in the Anishinabek Nation’s Anishinabek News.

“If the Canadian film ‘Indian Horse’ is an index of how aggressive assimilation was brought to bear in the real-life context of the country’s indigenous peoples, it leaves no doubt that ‘aggressive’ was the operative word,” writes Antonio D. Sison in the National Catholic Reporter.

The award-winning film, from executive producer Clint Eastwood, is inspired by a dark chapter in U.S. and Canadian history that is still being written.

Indian residential schools were established in the United States and Canada in the 19th and 20th centuries in church-and-state accords with the objective to “kill the Indian” in Native children and assimilate them into Euro-American and Euro-Canadian Christian culture.

The schools made the children give up their original languages, religions and other cultural signifiers: forcing them to cut their hair, wear Catholic school uniforms and replace their tribal names with English-language names, including the names of Christian saints.

In May 2021, the remains of 215 children buried in unmarked graves were discovered on the grounds of a former residential school in British Columbia that was once the largest residential school in Canada. Less than a month later, more than 750 unmarked graves were found on the site of another former residential school, this one in Saskatchewan, north of Montana and North Dakota. A week later, 182 human remains were found buried in British Columbia near yet another former residential school — a site now used as a golf resort. Soon after, remains presumed to be of 104 children were found buried near former residential schools in Manitoba, north of North Dakota and Minnesota.

In June, after the news came out, U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, a member of the Laguna Pueblo and the first Native American cabinet secretary, ordered a federal task force to investigate graves and other evidence of “the troubled legacy” of U.S. residential schools. A final report is expected to be sent to her by April 1.

“Indian Horse” tells the story of a fictional 6-year-old Ojibwe boy named Saul Indian Horse (Sladen Peltier), who is put in a Canadian residential school in 1959 after all the other members of his family die.

The film is based on a best-selling novel of the same title by Ojibwe author and journalist Richard Wagamese.

At the St. James Residential School in northwest Ontario, Saul is surrounded by violence, abuse and cruelty committed and approved by the very people sworn to protect him. But Saul finds salvation in the unlikeliest of places — the hockey rink.

At age 7 he is given permission by friendly priest Father Gaston (Michiel Huisman) to play with the bigger boys. Saul proves to be an extraordinary player, with exceptional intuition, vision and speed.

Together these talents open doors for him. Father Gaston showers him with praise and removes him from the school so he can join an all-Ojibwe amateur circuit, where Saul (now played by Forrest Goodluck) plays through his teenage years.

As Saul (now played by Ajuawak Kapashesit) becomes a young man, he earns a spot on a semiprofessional white team and comes within grasp of a professional career.

But the white team is very different from the Ojibwe team, whose members were knit together by language and cultural ties. On the white team, even as Saul’s victories mount, so do the indignities, taunts and racism from the crowds and even from his teammates.

Father Gaston visits Saul one last time when Saul appears on the cusp of joining the NHL. Father Gaston says he’s off to Africa for missionary work. The priest gives Saul a deep hug and lovingly tells him again how much he admires Saul.

“You’re a glory, Saul,” he says.

The 2017 film earned 10 festival and critic awards, including six audience choice awards and the San Diego International Film Festival’s Kumeyaay Eagle Award for best film depicting Indigenous heritage.

The film’s trailer can be found on YouTube at https://tinyurl.com/Indian-Horse-MoviesWSpirit.

The movie runs 1 hour 41 minutes and is not rated in the United States. It is rated in Canada as suitable for children 14 and older.

The screening will be followed by a facilitated discussion. Refreshments will be served.

Attendees over age 12 are asked to contribute $10 a person.

Movies With Spirit screenings comply with all federal, state and local health and safety protocols, including those of the screening venues.

The monthly Movies With Spirit series, organized by Gerry Harrington of Kingston, seeks to stimulate people’s sense of joy and wonder, inspire love and compassion, evoke a deepened understanding of people’s integral connection with others and with life itself, and support individual cultures, faith paths and beliefs while simultaneously transcending them.

The films are screened in diverse places of worship and reverence across Ulster and Dutchess counties at 7 p.m. on the third Saturday of every month. The series has no religious affiliation.

For more information about “Indian Horse” and the rest of the series, contact Harrington at 845-389-9201 or at gerryharrington@mindspring.com. Details are also available at facebook.com/MoviesWithSpirit.

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