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Native American life remains so shamefully underrepresented and bafflingly underexplored in our arts and entertainment that whenever the rare (and worthy) project does come along, we should all sit up and take notice.
Steven Oritt's documentary American Native is an astute and accomplished exploration of Native American life among New Jersey's struggling, five-thousand member Ramapough Nation tribe. Native is set to play across the Northeast this month, with two New York City screenings on Saturday, August 12th, at the 10th Annual Harlem International Film Festival, and another on Tuesday, August 15th at 7:30 PM at Union Square Stadium 14, with a director Q&A to follow. (Tickets must be bought in advance for the Tuesday screening. Buy them here.)
The film, which was recently the subject of a revealing New York Times profile, is billed as follows:
Thirty miles from New York City lives a forgotten indigenous people, shrouded in mystery and discrimination, fighting for recognition as Native Americans. American Native exposes one indigenous community's efforts to gain recognition as a Native American tribe from the Federal Government and the private interests colluding behind the scenes to prevent them from doing so. Through expert interviews and unbridled access to the tribe, American Native provides an in-depth look at the complex past, volatile present and endangered future of the Ramapough Lenape Nation.
For more information, visit American Native's official site. And give some serious consideration to offering your patronage (and further endorsement) to a film that focuses its camera on a subject and subset so seldom glimpsed on our screens. It's one thing to maintain the mentality that these types of bypassed stories should be told; it's another to actually donate the time, money, and attention that ensure they continue being told.
Check out the trailer below: