Film Review: ‘This May Be the Last Time’

Sterlin Harjo's heartfelt doc filters detailed research on Native American hymns through a tragic personal narrative.

Uncovering one corner of American roots music that hasn’t benefited from the recent folk revival, Sterlin Harjo’s heartfelt doc “This May Be the Last Time” begins as a testament to Native American oral history in its most lyrical form, before suggesting its subject may be more universal than that. Filtering painstaking research on the evolution of Creek Nation hymns through a tragic narrative from Harjo’s family history, the director’s first nonfiction feature is artful and illuminating — though, for all its implication of other cultures in its study, unavoidably specialized in appeal. Already acquired by the Sundance Channel, it’ll be perfectly served by a TV premiere this spring.

An Oklahoma-based son of the Seminole tribe himself, Harjo begins by matter-of-factly relating the story of his grandfather’s mysterious death in 1962 — a sincere pretext for a probing examination of the singular-sounding spiritual music that nursed his family through their grief. Through interviews with sundry community members and outside academics, Harjo draws an improbably convincing genealogical line between these endangered Creek hymns and the traditions of Scottish traditional songs, African-American gospel and even the Rolling Stones. Tech contributions are humbly enhancing, particularly Royce Sharp’s bell-clear sound design.

Film Review: 'This May Be the Last Time'

Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (Documentary Premieres), Jan. 21, 2014. Running time: 93 MIN.

Production:

(Documentary) A This Land Films presentation. Produced by Matt Leach, Christina J. King, Sterlin Harjo. Executive producers, Vincent LaVoi, Michael Mason.

Crew:

Directed, written by Sterlin Harjo. Camera (color), Shane Brown, Matt Leach, Harjo; editor, Leach; music, Ryan Beveridge; sound, Royce Sharp; supervising sound editor, Bob Edwards.

More Film

  • Canal Plus

    Canal Plus Orders Thomas Lilti's 'Hippocrate' Medical Series

    Uncovering one corner of American roots music that hasn’t benefited from the recent folk revival, Sterlin Harjo’s heartfelt doc “This May Be the Last Time” begins as a testament to Native American oral history in its most lyrical form, before suggesting its subject may be more universal than that. Filtering painstaking research on the evolution […]

  • A Profile of Argentine Fantasy Genre

    Mar del Plata: Argentina on the Rise -- Demián Rugna

    Uncovering one corner of American roots music that hasn’t benefited from the recent folk revival, Sterlin Harjo’s heartfelt doc “This May Be the Last Time” begins as a testament to Native American oral history in its most lyrical form, before suggesting its subject may be more universal than that. Filtering painstaking research on the evolution […]

  • Coco Trailer

    'Coco' Stuffing 'Justice League' at Thanksgiving Box Office

    Uncovering one corner of American roots music that hasn’t benefited from the recent folk revival, Sterlin Harjo’s heartfelt doc “This May Be the Last Time” begins as a testament to Native American oral history in its most lyrical form, before suggesting its subject may be more universal than that. Filtering painstaking research on the evolution […]

  • Saoirse Ronan Greta Gerwig Playback Podcast

    Playback: Greta Gerwig and Saoirse Ronan on 'Lady Bird' and Coming of Age

    Uncovering one corner of American roots music that hasn’t benefited from the recent folk revival, Sterlin Harjo’s heartfelt doc “This May Be the Last Time” begins as a testament to Native American oral history in its most lyrical form, before suggesting its subject may be more universal than that. Filtering painstaking research on the evolution […]

  • Gal Gadot Kumail Nanjiani Actors on

    Gal Gadot and Kumail Nanjiani Riff on Their Parents' Expectations and Name Mispronunciations

    Uncovering one corner of American roots music that hasn’t benefited from the recent folk revival, Sterlin Harjo’s heartfelt doc “This May Be the Last Time” begins as a testament to Native American oral history in its most lyrical form, before suggesting its subject may be more universal than that. Filtering painstaking research on the evolution […]

  • SGIFF: Singapore Festival Launches in Understated

    Singapore Festival Launches in Understated Style

    Uncovering one corner of American roots music that hasn’t benefited from the recent folk revival, Sterlin Harjo’s heartfelt doc “This May Be the Last Time” begins as a testament to Native American oral history in its most lyrical form, before suggesting its subject may be more universal than that. Filtering painstaking research on the evolution […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content