Review: ‘The War Against the Indians’

MONTREAL--The white man's war against the natives began in October 1492 when Christopher Columbus hit the shores of the Caribbean, according to a landmark documentary marking the 500th anni of an ongoing conflict. This overwhelming historical text needs cutting, but belongs on TV screens worldwide.

MONTREAL–The white man’s war against the natives began in October 1492 when Christopher Columbus hit the shores of the Caribbean, according to a landmark documentary marking the 500th anni of an ongoing conflict. This overwhelming historical text needs cutting, but belongs on TV screens worldwide.

Two and a half hours of wall-to-wall details with static images and talking-head interviews is too much in one sitting, even for the “converted.” Didactic editing structure creates a churchlike sermon.

Nonetheless, docu provides prominent natives (such as “Dances With Wolves” actor Graham Greene) and various tribal elders, activists and artists with a vehicle to tell their side of North American history.

POV is strictly Indian, and authoritative narrator (helmer Harry Rasky) adds a footnote to history that discoverer Columbus–also a documented slave trader–never set foot on North American soil. However, pic details the path of destruction initiated by the arrival of Euros, led by Columbus.

“The War Against the Indians” is a tale about injustice against people who lived, and try to live, as an integral element of a complex ecosystem. It’s an old lesson that has yet to be learned by the white man, per various interviewees.

Camera lingers too long on paintings and artifacts, and relentless narration eventually sounds like a droning teacher. Footage of the Grand Canyon and other natural spectacles is too sparse. Inter-cut interviews with various natives becomes repetitive.

Vet documaker Harry Rasky seems too committed to his subject matter to know when to stop, although there were several punchy opportunities. Namely, “If you want to know anything about the environment, ask the Indians.”

The War Against the Indians

(Canada--Docu--Color)

Production

A Canadian Broadcasting Corp. production. Produced, directed, written and narrated by Harry Rasky.

Crew

Camera (color, 16mm), Milan Klepl, Kenneth W. Cregg; editor, Ken Mullally. Reviewed at the Montreal World Film Festival, Aug. 29, 1992. Running time: 145 min.
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