Culture, Social Justice, Think
CATALYST @ Sundance: docuseries “Rise” brings us to Standing Rock
A heartbreaking documentary piece about the plight of the modern native American, “Rise” by Michelle Latimer investigates and displays the people behind the protests of the Standing Rock battle against the Dakota Access Pipeline installation and the Apache struggle for sovereignty over Oak Flat – a collection of sacred and historic lands.
I considered myself fairly informed and kept up-to-date on many important national and international issues. Many of my friends and peers attended and reported from the camps at Standing Rock. I followed the news reports and hashtags. I thought I knew all there was to know about the Soiux tribe’s fight against the pipeline.
This docuseries showed me just how wrong I was.
I learned so much about the lives of modern native Americans. I learned about the abuses they continue to suffer – the sexual, emotional, physical and mental exploitation and degradation experienced in the reservations and boarding schools. I was struck with the resilience and bravery of the younger generations who are fighting for their culture, their lands and their lives. These brilliant youths inspired me and brought me to tears at several points during the series because of the hardships they faced and the grace with which they faced them.
The film, itself, was relatively unremarkable in terms of cinematography and technical editing. The pacing of a docuseries shown in its entirety lost my attention at times. Often, the narrator’s voice felt grating and monotonous – contributing to the depletion of my interest.
But as I got further into the film, the structure and technicalities blurred behind the deeply human emotional rhetoric. Every piece of this film was important in expressing why these issues mattered – why I should pay attention and care. Even the narration became more enchanting and dynamic as I fell into the story.
As a student at the University of Utah – Go Utes! – this topic hits close to home. My school has undergone fundamental reform in our representation of the Ute tribesmen and women in recent years. Formally, the Utes were our mascot; the drum and feather, our sigil and logo, worn with pride and ignorance. Several schools and teams across the nation have lately dropped their insensitive and appropriative – at times, derogatory – representations of native peoples. This comes embarrassingly late and happened deplorably slowly and with much resistance and apathy. This film puts into perspective and, for many of us, into view the reality of systematic oppression, suppression and overlooking of modern native Americans. Their cultures deserve protection and celebration. The hundreds of tribes across the Americas feature a vibrant array of ancient beliefs and fascinating histories; no different from those of Europe or Asia; no less deserving of veneration or pride. Why can we, as Americans, not find it our hearts to respect and care for those whose lands we live on and whose lives our very society threatens? Why can we not love and support them as we would any other demographic in need of love and support?
Following the premiere, a panel consisting of members of the cast and crew stayed for a Q&A session – a standard procedure for Sundance films. This time, however, was anything but standard. This time, the panel empowered the audience with their words of solidarity and hope. They cried with us, laughed with us and prayed with us – and in doing so they brought their story to life in a way that grabs at the heartstrings and threatens never to let go until something is done to help them.
“The strongest thing you can do as a human being is show how you feel,” said Sarain Carson-Fox, narrator of “Rise”, during the Q&A session.
What this film accomplished the best was the expression of the feelings of the millions of characters in this nations’ greatest untold story.
This docuseries will be presented by Viceland in the coming months. I wholeheartedly plan on watching it again.
Megan Murri is a spring 2017 intern with CATALYST Magazine.