There is no doubt that John Trudell is a fascinating person who has led a very interesting life. Trudell is known best as a Native American activist and searing poet who uses vivid imagery to convey sometimes brutal ideas. There's a lot that somebody can do with for a documentary, and director Heather Rae chose to examine Trudell from a macro level, taking a broad look at the vastly different portions of his life. While this approach does give a good introduction to who Trudell is and what he believes, Rae presents very little depth in her look at his life.
Rae and screenwriter Russell Friedenberg also choose to take a non-critical view of Trudell. They are clearly fans of his, yet Trudell suffers a bit because it is too friendly. They could have easily been a bit less fawning over their subject and yielded the same conclusions. In fact, if they took a more neutral view of Trudell's history and actions, they may have made him a stronger documentary subject. Rae intercuts a biography on Trudell with glowing recommendations from the likes of Robert Redford, Sam Shepherd, Bonnie Raitt, and Kris Kristofferson. All of them are highly respected and extremely progressive actors/writers/songwriters, and lend credence to Trudell's character.
However, if one is unfamiliar with John Trudell before seeing this film, they still may be a bit confused after it is over. Trudell presents the facts, but doesn't give them too much context. Rae chronicle's Trudell and the Indian of All Tribes group as they lived on Alcatraz for nearly two years. Their assertion was that the United States government stole land from the Native Americans, so they were taking some land back to live on. From here, Trudell became a target of government suspicion, which later may or may not have resulted in a horrible tragedy for his family.
Trudell really comes to life as Rae moves closer to the present (well, beginning in the 1980s). Trudell became a poet, and later a spoken word musician. It was the sum of his experiences; his personal tragedies and incendiary politics that shaped his work. He seems to think on a different level than most other people, which is what attracted such a varied group of celebrities to him. Rae does the right thing by letting Trudell's poems flow across the screen accompanied by music, they way they were meant to be heard, with a minimum of interruptions.
|Mongoose Rates It: Okay.|
|1 hour, 10 minutes, Not Rated but contains some language, probably an R, possibly a PG-13.|
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