Thursday, January 5, 2012

Movie Review: Older Than America

The new year has been very busy for me thus far. Actually, since my last post I have been going going going. I was a vendor at the Native American Rehabilitation Association of the Northwest's New Year's Eve Sobriety Powwow. I didn't really make much money, and I am cool with it. I really enjoyed seeing people and meeting with friends that I haven't seen in a long time. However, that is not what I wanted to chat about.

For Christmas my mother-in-law gifted the family a film called Older Than America, a movie featuring Native-American actors and about the Native people. We had never seen it before, but there are a good number of great actors.

Image courtesy of

The lineup includes Tantoo Cardinal, Adam Beach, and Wes Studi, all well-respected Native American actors. Tantoo Cardinal has been in Dances with Wolves, Smoke Signals (playing Arlene), and a great deal of other films. For her full filmography and bio, click on her name. It will direct you to the IMDB page for her. You may recognize Adam Beach from Smoke Signals (playing Victor), Wind Talkers, and the recent Cowboys & Aliens. Dances with Wolves also featured actor Wes Studi. He also starred as Sphinx in Mystery Men, and can be found in a variety of films as both a comedic character and a serious one.

The film was well-done, with a compelling story, wonderful cinematography, and relate-able characters. Older Than America also discusses some very sensitive, difficult subjects that, quite honestly, some people wouldn't touch with a ten-meter pole. Yes, I said ten meters. There are people who wish to deny the existence of some of these issues.

Issue One: "Indian Boarding Schools." These schools were where woefully misguided people believed that it was better to "Kill the savage, save the man" in order to civilize and save children. These children were taken from their homes, their clothing burned, forbidden to use their Native tongue, and suffered physical, emotional, spiritual, sexual, and inter-generational trauma. The film takes into account both oral and written histories of the events that occurred in the schools.The inter-generational trauma still exists in the minds and beliefs of Native Americans youth today. The elders remember it. These schools were mandatory for Native American children as recently as 1975. Yes, that is the late 20th century!

Issue Two: Medical diagnosis within the ideals and confines of the Native American spirituality. Commonly, when discussing a variety religions, including many recognized "world religions," it is difficult to say whether visions and visitations are symptoms of a psychological disorder or not. I won't give anything in the film away, but it does question the balance between reality, mental illness, and spiritual encounters.

It has a similar feel to Imprint (never heard of it? Click the link). It isn't a depressing film. For a story going into a painful and difficult history, it is actually quite uplifting. Like I said, it is a strong, compelling story. I would highly advise giving it a watch.

Remember, the title is Older Than America.

Happy watching. :)


  1. I have both Imprint and Older than America and enjoyed them both. Great review Picpic.

  2. Really good review! I look forward to seeing this movie.