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Films >> Incident at Oglala (1992) >>

Brown, Georgia. "American Nightmare." Village Voice 19 May 1992: 60-61.
Brown finds fault in indigenous films that romanticize American Indians, yet she romanticizes mainstream culture's conception of American Indians within her own review. She even goes so far as to claim that "no child believes cowboys are better than Indians." Despite her hypocrisy, she commends Incident at Oglala for raising awareness of Peltier's story of injustice, one that she strongly believes needs to be told -- "too bad it's taken 15 years to get it out."
Ebert, Roger. Review of Incident of Oglala. Chicago Sun Times 26 June 1992.
Ebert views both Incident at Oglala and its fictional counterpart Thunderheart with mixed feelings. While Thunderheart vividly depicts the beauty and desolation of reservations in South Dakota, Incident at Oglala focuses on the injustice of Peltier's case that "has refused to die." Although Ebert employs dry, and in some places sarcastic language, he resolves that the film still proves that Peltier's conviction deserves to remain a hot topic for debate -- specifically because of witness intimidation, conflicting evidence, misidentification of vehicles, and a murder confession from Mr. X.
Hinson, Hal. Review of Incident of Oglala. Washington Post 22 May 1992.
Hinson praises Incident at Oglala as reminiscent of The Thin Blue Line, the documentary that lead to the release of an innocent man. With the intent to discount Peltier's conviction, the filmmakers created a movie that "doesn't make the slightest claim to objectivity; instead, it's a cry of outrage against, specifically, the injustice of Peltier's conviction, and, in general, the government's history of misconduct toward the Indian population."
James, Caryn. "Film view: one director, two routes to American Indian travail." New York Times 10 May 1992: 2.22.
James favorably compares Apted's murder mystery Thunderheart and documentary Incident at Oglala. Both films successfully intersperse aerial shoots of the Badlands, work with a similar story, share a director, and cast John Trudell (the national spokesman for the American Indian Movement). Despite the numerous similarities, James believes that the real power lies in being able to explore the general differences between the fiction and documentary. In short, James concludes that Apted's films complement one another nicely – "‘Oglala' affirms the truth behind ‘Thunderheart,' just as ‘Thunderheart' enhances the emotional power of ‘Oglala.'"
Johnson, Brian D. "Verdict on Trial." Maclean's 27 July 1992: 30-31.
Contrary to Weinraub's review, Johnson hails Robert Redford as modest and deeply invested in issues surrounding American Indians. By using his influence, Redford drew even more attention to Peltier's imprisonment and went to court against the FBI to get transcripts of the transmissions between the agents before their murders. Johnson attributes the film's completion and effectiveness to Redford's clout and passion.
Kauffmann, Stanley. "Wrongdoings." New Republic 8 June 1992: 32-33.
Overall, this review compliments Incident at Oglala on the film's success in portraying "evidence of our country's inability to ignore miseries" by taking the time to create this documentary. But the film simultaneously depicts Peltier's imprisonment as "the oblique result of such an ignoring." Although viewing the film positively, the reviewer critiques Apted's choice in including gunshots crackling in the soundtrack as the agents car drive through the reservation. Similarly, the writer finds the invisible questioner unsettling. Is it Redford? Apted? Someone else?
Kolomitz, Nancy. "Apted's documentary pursuits continue with 'Oglala'." Film Journal 95 Feb/Mar (1992): 8-11.
Interview with director Apted who talks about his admiration for Oliver Stone and his hopes that his "even-handedness" doesn't mean that the film doesn't have impact: after all, "I've got a man in a maximum security prison at Leavenworth who none of us think should be there."
Kolomitz, Nancy. "Redford, immersed in projects, steps up drive to free Peltier." Film Journal 95 Feb/Mar (1992): 8-10.
Interview with producer/narrator Redford. The facts are all there, there's no editorializing, and the goals are a new trial and/or executive clemency for Peltier.
Maslin, Janet. "Review/film: documentary evidence supporting Indian's rage." New York Times 8 May 1992: C15.
Maslin applauds how Apted "establishes trouble between progressive and traditional elements within the Indian community, and supplies evidence that seems to attest to the violent acts of the so-called GOON squad (for Guardians of the Oglala Nation)." She continues to praise Apted for his filmic techniques, which she believes adds to the documentary's ability to sway the audience.
Rafferty, Terrence. "True Stories." New Yorker 1 June (1992): 59-62.
Rafferty admires Apted's ability to lead the audience "through this tangle of ambiguous evidence and back-and-forth legal maneuvering with patient, unobtrusive skill, and the cool rationality of his manner makes the movie's arguments seem all the more irrefutable." While Rafferty finds the movie compelling, he attributes its success to Apted's directing instead of the story itself: "The filmmakers concentrate on demonstrating that Peltier didn't get a fair trial, and that's not an inherently dramatic approach; the movie is built on an accumulation of subtle discrepancies and nagging doubts, rather than on a sense of inexorable progress towards a smoking-gun solution."
Schickel, Richard. "Death on the Reservation." Time 4 May 1992: 77-78.
Schickel admires Apted's undertaking of creating two such similar films in such close proximity. But Schickel's enthusiasm fades as he refuses to give Incident at Oglala full credit for Apted's effective filmic techniques. Instead, he claims that the documentary was modeled after the "brilliantly styled film," The Thin Blue Line. By the end of the review, he really shows his disappointment in both the American Indian Movement and the film when he states: "One cannot completely sympathize with a movement that does not either own up to the crime or prove lack of complicity in it. Nor can one entirely accept a movie that does not ask more forthright questions about it."
Simon, John. "Lo, the poor Indian!" National Review 8 June 1992: 53-56.
While the reviewer admires the film's restraint in outright claiming Peltier's innocence, "it does make an awesome case for the tenuousness, the shadiness, the self-contradictions of the supposed evidence that convicted him, thus making retrial mandatory if any sort of law, logic, or mere humanity is to prevail." The writer thrusts responsibility for this injustice onto the government and court systems, proving the effectiveness of the film.
Travers, Peter. Review of Incident of Oglala. Rolling Stone 28 May 1992: 61.
Travers views Incident at Oglala with some trepidation, hesitating to call the documentary a success before seeing the public and government's response to it. Although he acknowledges the film's triumph in portraying the violence and poverty on the Pine Ridge reservation, he believes that Redford's name is the documentary's "best shot at getting noticed." If lucky, the film might "just raise hopes a little higher."
Weinraub, Bernard. "Robert Redford speaks his mind on truth, justice and Hollywood." New York Times 4 May 1992: C11-12.
Weinraub depicts Robert Redford as a pompous, rich, washed-up actor who works on films more for publicity than political reasons. He opens the review with Robert Redford's career and status, both of which have enabled him "the freedom and money" to work on a film at his own pace. Unlike other stars in his position, Redford remains "ambivalent about the interlocking relationship between his career and political commitments." Still, despite Weinraub's subtle skepticism of Redford, the actor still makes a strong political statement in Incident at Oglala.

See Also

"New Film Finds Evidence that Peltier Was Framed." National Catholic Reporter 19 June 1992: 10.