Reel Injun: On the Trail of the Hollywood Indian

Kemosabe? Loincloths, fringed pants, and feather headdresses? Heap big stereotypes. Hollywood stereotypes don't reflect the reality.

Reel injun 01
Independent Lens
Premiere Date
November 2, 2010
60 minutes
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2010 Gemini Awards-Canada Award
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2010 Gemini Awards-Best Direction in a Documentary Program Award
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2010 Gemini Awards-Best Visual Research Award
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2011 Peabody Awards-George Foster Peabody Award
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2011 International Public Television INPUT Conference -Official Selection
  • Diamond neil filmmaker bio

    Neil Diamond

    One of Canada's foremost Aboriginal filmmakers and photographers, Neil Diamond hails from the Cree community of Waskaganish. His recent credits include The Last Explorer, a feature-length docudrama retracing the steps of his great uncle, Aboriginal guide George Elson, on an ill-fated voyage into the heart of uncharted Labrador. Neil also directed the award-winning documentaries One More River and Heavy Metal: A Mining Disaster in Northern Quebec.


    Christina Fon


    Catherine Bainbridge


    Linda Ludwick

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    The Film

    Cree filmmaker Neil Diamond takes a look at the Hollywood Indian, exploring the portrayal of North American Natives through a century of cinema. Traveling through the heartland of America, and into the Canadian North, Diamond looks at how the myth of "the Injun" has influenced the world's understanding — and misunderstanding — of Natives.

    Reel Injun traces the evolution of cinema's depiction of Native people from the silent film era to today, with clips from hundreds of classic and recent Hollywood movies, and candid interviews with celebrated Native and non-Native film celebrities, activists, film critics, and historians.

    Diamond meets with Clint Eastwood (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly; A Fistful of Dollars; Unforgiven) at his studios in Burbank, California, where the film legend discusses the evolution of the image of Indians in Westerns and what cowboy-and-Indian myths mean to America. Reel Injun also hears from legendary Native American activists John Trudell, Russell Means, and Sacheen Littlefeather.

    Celebrities featured in Reel Injun include Robbie Robertson, the half-Jewish, half-Mohawk musician and soundtrack composer (Raging Bull, Casino, Gangs of New York); Cherokee actor Wes Studi (Last of the Mohicans, Geronimo), filmmakers Jim Jarmusch (Dead Man) and Chris Eyre (Smoke Signals); and acclaimed Native actors Graham Greene (Dances with Wolves, Thunderheart) and Adam Beach (Smoke Signals, Clint Eastwood's Flags of our Fathers). Diamond also travels North to the remote Nunavut town of Igloolik (population: 1,500) to interview Zacharias Kunuk, director of the Caméra d'or-winning The Fast Runner.

    Diamond takes the audience on a journey across America to some of cinema's most iconic landscapes, including Monument Valley, the setting for Hollywood's greatest Westerns, and the Black Hills of South Dakota, home to Crazy Horse and countless movie legends. It's a loving look at cinema through the eyes of the people who appeared in its very first flickering images and have survived to tell their stories their own way.