35/52 PINE RIDGE
Our indigenous populations have been on my mind lately because of the protest movement happening around the Dakota Access Pipeline. This documentary, directed by Swedish filmmaker Anne Eborn, is a fly-on-the-wall observation of the lives and dreams of young people living on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
The poverty of this place is heartbreaking, especially when you see the myriad of complex issues that arise from such a lack of resources–alcoholism, abuse, absent parents, gangs, prison time, poor nutrition and medical/dental care, gaps in education, shoddy housing, broken-down cars and a dearth of meaningful or productive work. And, of course, as with many documentaries–you see the potential for what could be.
There is a nine-year boy who “can’t tie” because his parents never taught him and who has to think hard about how old he is. All I wanted was for his adult caretaker to sit down right then and there and teach him how to tie and how to count. But she has troubles of her own and the thought doesn’t cross her mind. There are teenage boys who can’t stay in school but who have dreams of becoming psychologists and architects. And one boy just wants to be a guardian over the land and the animals that live on it.
What I love about how Eborn shot these kids is that you see them visually, engaged in a routine activity or in the boring nothingness that engulfs them every day, but you hear their voice-overs speaking to their actual hopes for their lives. The juxtaposition of reality and dreams is sobering. There is also footage of long-haired young men and women riding horses across the stark landscape and you just have to wonder what could have been for this culture if their populations hadn’t been wiped out, if their communities hadn’t been besieged and if they hadn’t been forced into a way of life that offers them nothing and is counter-intuitive to the way they lived for so long. Along with slavery, this has got to be one of the blackest stains across our country.
This week’s five-minute morsel takes a fly-on-the-wall look into the world of teenage fan girls and it reminded me of how much our culture has changed since I was a teenager.
Back in my day, I lived in a small Indiana town that boasted the second largest Amish population outside of Pennsylvania and had a booming tourist industry because of it. I’d cash my tiny paycheck from my ice-cream parlor, restaurant or babysitting job and run over the local pharmacy to see if the latest issues of BOP or BIG BOPPER magazine had come in. Then I’d hole up in my room to see what Michael J. Fox, Kirk Cameron or Alyssa Milano were getting up to. At that time my family didn’t own a computer and, in fact, I hadn’t yet learned how to use one. We had to catch our favorite television shows when they aired and we rented movies from the video store.
For me, the colorful and gossipy glimpse into the world of Young Hollywood wasn’t really about “romance.” I did have crushes, to be sure, but mostly I just wanted to live the kind of life that these teenage actors were living. I wanted to be in movies, go to the beach and live in a place that was sunny all year round. I don’t think I ever believed that the actors I admired would be friends with me; I just wanted to be like them.
In today’s world, that sort of innocent and distant infatuation has evolved into a hyper psedu-intimacy, where every banal thought and deed is posted instantly on social media and available to a public audience. Young teens grow up feeling like they have access to the most private aspects of their idols lives and, therefore, an emotional bond forms that is rooted in the public fantasy instead of in reality. Some of that is status quo, some of it is innocent and some of it can be quite disturbing–particularly when you think about how this constant virtual voyeurism is depriving young women of the opportunity to discover their own strengths, interests and passions. I also think about how much pressure young people must feel to be “followed” socially and to have their five minutes of fame.
Director Liza Mandelup is exploring a worthy subject. You can read her director’s statements and watch this short doc HERE.