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Scottish filmmaker praises late chief's performance


By Margaret Chrystall


A FILM with a vital scene shot at Wounded Knee and featuring a Native American chief in his first starring film, comes to Inverness for two nights this week.

Made by Scottish filmmaker Steven Lewis Simpson, Neither Wolf Nor Dog takes audiences on a deeply moving road trip through contemporary Lakota life.

Chief Dave Bald Eagle in the lead role is a Lakota elder who was 95-years-old at the time of filming. He saw the film before he died at 97.

The late Chief Dave Bald Eagle in a scene from the film.
The late Chief Dave Bald Eagle in a scene from the film.

Based on a book of the same title, the film describes the journey of a non-Native American writer who is drawn into contemporary Native American life by a Lakota elder who wants him to tell the true story of his people and almost kidnaps him with a friend to take him on an important road trip.

For one important scene shot at Wounded Knee, the book and script were put to one side with Dave Bald Eagle improvising the scene. He revealed his family had a closer connection to the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890 than even his film character.

The film was primarily shot on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, which borders South Dakota and Nebraska as well as having scenes shot in Los Angeles and Rushville, Nebraska.

Director Steven Lewis Simpson said: “It’s amazing to think that it was almost exactly 20 years ago that this journey started for me when I followed the repatriation of a Ghost Shirt from the Kelvingrove Museum to Wounded Knee in South Dakota, to the site of the massacre in 1890, where it had been taken from.

“The resonance of the film is so deep due to the film’s star, Dave Bald Eagle putting his spirit on the screen. It is a truly unforgettable performance.”

The film was produced and financed by the director’s Scottish company, with just 18 shoot days. On release in 2017, the film was self-distributed and was launched in small towns where it often outperformed Hollywood blockbusters in numerous multiplexes.It is still in first-run cinemas in 2019 which has made it the longest first-run theatrical release of any movie in the US in at least a decade.

Neither Wolf Nor Dog takes a journey through Dakota.
Neither Wolf Nor Dog takes a journey through Dakota.

After originally premiering at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in 2016, the film has appeared in 18 Scottish cinemas since May.

Steven said: "It was truly amazing to see this film breaking the all-time attendance records at a couple of cinema venues in smaller Scottish towns.

“ To see such support in Scotland has been a glorious thing for me. So I'm thrilled to also be bringing it to the Inverness audience."

Due to the success of his self-distributed release, Steven was asked to give a TEDx Talk on his innovative distribution model.

The film was primarily shot on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, which borders South Dakota and Nebraska as well as having scenes shot in Los Angeles and Rushville, Nebraska.

You can see the film at Eden Court Cinema on Monday, July 15 at 7pm and the next day at 2pm.



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