I’ve often wondered what a fictional feature film set at Standing Rock, at the height of the 2016 Dakota Access Pipeline resistance, might look like. What about, for instance, an unlikely-allies narrative about two Indigenous people who dislike each other but are forced to work together to fight the pipeline? What about a coming-of-age story about a reconnecting Native trying to find their identity through protest? Or a rom-com where two Indigenous people fall in love surrounded by state violence and chaos?
The upcoming feature-length movie, On Sacred Ground, opts for none of these. Rather, it follows the story of a (white) journalist and a (white) oil company executive who “find themselves on opposite sides of the fight” during the construction of the contentious pipeline. As for the Indigenous activists who led the actual protest effort on the North Dakota reservation, their narratives are shunted to the background in order to allow the main characters to plumb the depths of white guilt.
On Sacred Ground is hardly the first film to focus on Standing Rock. There have been some documentaries on the protests: Awake: A Dream from Standing Roc... Read more