“Hostiles”: ambitious indie western examines the implicit racism in the old West as an Army captain returns a “guilty” Cheyenne chief to his homeland

Hostiles” (or “Hostis”), directed by Scott Cooper and based on a story manuscript by Donald E. Stewart, is a large independently produced ($39 million budget) western, that is strong on challenging the racism implicit in western pioneers in the 19th Century, but somehow got snubbed at the Oscar nominations.  It has shown at Telluride. The drama (139 minutes) evolves slowly, but the few violent scenes are very intense, matching “The Unforgiven” and “Silverado”.

The film opens as a landowner in New Mexico has to defend his homestead against a sudden Cheyenne attack, and the family is largely massacred, although the wife (Rosamund Pike) and daughter survive. Just before the attack (almost the very first scene), the mother is home-schooling her daughters on what an “adverb” is — writers will cringe, or laugh.

Soon Army Captain Joseph Blocker (Christian Bale) is challenged – that is ordered – to escort the aging Chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi) all the way to Montana, where he is likely to die soon.  The Captain objects because he considers Hawk responsible for the massacre, but president William Henry Harrison has ordered it.

Timothee Chalamet plays an Army private on the mission, and unfortunately he falls to an ambush.  You want to see more of him.

The film has several conversations about the morality of settlers taking lands from native Americans. In the nativist family value system of the time, you “took care of your own”. At the end, Blocker is confronted by angry “sovereign” landowners as he returns Yellow Hawk.  Blocker is willing to shoot a fleeing man and then follow him and break his neck.

The distribution company seems to be involved in litigating against telecoms for racial discrimination in programming, and seems to be quite active in the network neutrality debate.

3-1/2 stars out of 5 is my rating.

(Posted: Saturday, January 27, 2018 at 6 PM EST)

Open pit mine near Butte, MT which I visited (in snow) in early May, 1981.

Name:  “Hostiles”
Director, writer:  Scott Cooper, Donald E. Stewart
Released:  2017/12/31
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Regal Potomac Yards, 2018/1/27, moderate audience, Saturday afternoon, seemed to like film
Length:  134
Rating:  R
Companies:  Entertainment Studios, Freestyle Releasing, Waypoint, Grisbi
Link:  Oscarsdeadline


“Tribal Justice”: how juvenile justice works in the sovereign native American system

Tribal Justice” by Anne Makespeace, looks at how juvenile justice works on two Native American reservations in California:  the Yorok, on the Pacific Coast near Eureka,  and Quechan, in thedesert.

Specifically, it presents two female judges, Abbie and Claudette, who deal with troubled youths (like Isaac) in their system.  They are confronted with the possibility that the state of California may take custody of them.

The independent tribal justice system tries to apply healing and resolution rather than punishment and justice.  The film makes the point that “restorative justice” could set a good example for mainstream courts.   The judges say they are well aware of the “devastation of history”.

The film presents life inside both communities.  I noticed that most of the young men seemed obese, from their natural reaction to western diets with processed foods.

The film appeared on PBS POV Monday night Aug. 21, 2017, late (10:30) after the PBS Nova coverage of the eclipse.  The film was followed by a brief director interview.

Wikipedia tribal art for Quechan.

Name:  “Tribal Justice”
Director, writer: Anne Makespeace
Released:  2017
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  PBS POV 2017/8/21
Length:  87
Rating:  NA
Companies:  PBS POV
Link:  official

(Posted: Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017 at 1o AM EDT)