“Thunderheart” is a beautifully crafted and emotionally-touchingfilm whose plots explore different but important themes such as cultural discrimination (of Native American culture), politics and political corruption and lawlessness. The film although considered as a fiction, was said to be based on factual events that have taken place in the 1970's on the Oglala Sioux Reservation. It is about an actual standoff between FBI agents and Indian activists in 1975 on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota (Apted Michael, 1992).
“Thunderheart” tells the story of Ray Levoi (played by Val Kilmer), a mixed-blood FBI agentwho ventures onto the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota to solve a murder but finds his Indian identity in the process. At first, Levoi’s loyalty clings to the American government and his cultural identity to that of his white mother. Reference to his father is a sensitive matter, as the latter was an alcoholic full-blooded Sioux, a thing which he is not proud of. Being an FBI agent, he was called to serve the government involving a politically sensitive murder investigation. Thus, the situation placed Levoi in exactly a position which he does not want to. In the unexpected turn of events, Levoi realizes that the government is involved in the murder and a plot to mineuranium on the reservation, hence Levoi teams with tribal policeman WalterCrow Horse (played by Graham Greene) and traditional elder Grandpa Sam Reaches (played by Ted Thin Elk) to stop the plotand preserve the environment of the reservation.
In this film, “the audience is presented withtwo diametrically opposed worlds” (Pack Sam, 2001) which represent a form of cultural discrimination. One refers to the world of the white Americans or the so – called “white world”, while the other refers to the world represented by the Oglala Sioux Reservation. The latter is being conveyed as impoverished, dirty, and violentenvironment in contrast with the “white world”....
References: Clarke Fountain Rovi, 1992.Thunderheart. Retrieved at www.rottentomatoes.com/m/thunderheart/ on March 25, 2013
Desmond Ryan, 1992. Film Depicts South Dakota Tragedy In '75. Inquirer Movie Critic. Retrieved at http://articles.philly.com/1992-06-26/entertainment/26030685_1_fbi-agents-aim-leonard-peltier on March 25, 2013
Garcia Alma M, 2012. Contested Images: Women of Color in Popular Culture.AltaMira Press, Set 16, 2012.
Michael Apted (1992). Thunderheart [Motion picture]. United States: TriStar Pictures.retrieved at http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/bibliog/fictionalfilm.htm on March 25, 2013
Pack Sam, 2001. The Best of Both Worlds: Otherness, Appropriation, and Identityin Thunderheart.Wicazo SA Review, Volume 16, Number 2, Fall 2001, pp. 97-114 (Article). Published by University of Minnesota Press, DOI: 10.1353/wic.2001.0028
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