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Lakota Woman: Siege at Wounded Knee

Mogul Ted Turner's involvement with the plight of America's original inhabitants shows itself abundantly this month, with the six-hour docu "Native Americans" already running on WTBS, and CNN Reports'upcoming news series "The Invisible People" starting Oct. 31. In between comes "Lakota Woman," a skillful, if low-key, filming of Mary Crow Dog's moving autobiography (written with Richard Erdoes)

Mogul Ted Turner’s involvement with the plight of America’s original inhabitants shows itself abundantly this month, with the six-hour docu “Native Americans” already running on WTBS, and CNN Reports’upcoming news series “The Invisible People” starting Oct. 31. In between comes “Lakota Woman,” a skillful, if low-key, filming of Mary Crow Dog’s moving autobiography (written with Richard Erdoes)

Bill Kerby’s script, like the book, details her accession to maturity during the American Indian Movement’s 1973 occupation of Wounded Knee, enshrined site of the bloody massacre of Indians by American troops in 1890.

Filmed at the site, with an almost entirely Native American cast, “Lakota” looks real. Director Frank Pierson and d.p. Toyomichi Kurita aim their cameras directly through the dust of the South Dakota Badlands; the setting itself creates an aching sense of desolation.

The central story is less the account of Mary — her abused childhood at a school where Indian children become “Americanized” and her annealing in the fury at Wounded Knee — than of the siege itself.

The issues are tangled and painful: intra-tribal politics between those who fight to preserve a proud heritage and those who cut deals with the outside world; blood struggles between the besieging forces and trigger-happy U.S. troops.

In the weathered, sad faces of the mostly amateur cast, and especially in the eyes of the extraordinary Irene Bedard in the leading role, one of the many blots in the sorry annals of this nation’s treatment of its predecessors on the land is powerfully illuminated. Vidpic is from Fonda Films, its first project for TNT.

Lakota Woman: Siege at Wounded Knee

(Sun. (16), 8-10:30 p.m., TNT)

  • Production: Filmed in South Dakota by Fonda Films. Executive producer, Lois Bonfiglio; producer, Fred Berner; co-producers, Hanay Geiogamah, Steve Saeta; director, Frank Pierson; writer, Bill Kerby, based on the book by Mary Crow Dog and Richard Erdoes.
  • Crew: Camera, Toyomichi Kurita; editor, Katina Zinner; production designer, Stephen Marsh; music, Richard Horowitz.
  • Cast: Cast: Irene Bedard, August Schellenberg, Joseph Runningfox, Floyd Red Crow Westerman, Tantoo Cardinal, Pato Hoffman, Michael Horse, Lawrence Bayne, Nancy Parsons, Dean Norris, Tim Sampson, Scott Means, Gary Bullock, John Harnagel, Casey Camp-Horinek, Dawn Lavand, Dawn Little Sky, Nathan Bison, Angel McFarland, Richard Swallow, Norman Roach, James Abourezk, Richard Whitman, Michael Spears, Ellen Moves Camp, Archie Little, Lois Red Elk, Owen Le Beau, Van Burnette, Bob Farbett, Don Strong, Reno Lodge, Mike Kinney, Monty Bass, Amy Moore Davis, Julia Recountre, Eliza Morrison, Mary Olguin, Mekasi Horinek, Mark Barney, Kevin Gusmano, Jake Walker, Van Mercado, Wi-Waste-Win Conroy, Vic Camp, Mark J. Nelson , J. Miller Tobin, Dora Hernandez, Forrest Bayne, Duane Chalmers, Grete Borogaard Heikes, Michael Kniep, Steve Saeta, Jonathan Gill, James Hatzell, Kathy Burnette, Bruce Ellison, Claudette Sabon, Jessica White Plume, Dave Bald Eagle, Doreen Gardner, Edgar Bear Runner, Forrest O'Brien, Irene Handren-Seals, Richard Dream Walker.