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DOG DAYS: Completed Native-themed film "Neither Wolf Nor Dog" seeks funding for distribution

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OKLAHOMA CITY – The beloved Indian Country novel Neither Wolf Nor Dog has recently been adapted and directed for the screen by Scottish filmmaker Steven Lewis Simpson to much recent acclaim. Filmed in the heart of Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, for Simpson, it was important that he bring the novel to the screen, especially in light of recent events, to fully convey how deep the cuts that have been made in Native America continue to bleed.

“For me, the most important aspect of this film is where it goes beyond the book, when Dave Bald Eagle takes the audience into the heart of Wounded Knee and shares with us the tragedy of the massacre and its resonance to this day,” Simpson said. “Dave improvised the sequence and took it to a deeper place than the author of I could have taken it.”

Neither Wolf Nor Dog is the story of a white author, Nerburn (Christopher Sweeney), who is summoned by Dan, a Lakota Elder (95-year-old Dave Bald Eagle), to write a book about his life and his people's history. Feeling unqualified, unworthy and reluctant, he turns the offer down but events conspire to draw him back in.

“After a blundering false start, Nerburn is all but kidnapped and taken on a road trip around the contemporary Native American landscape,” Simpson said. “Stopping off at key landmarks, Dan and his companion Grover (Richard Ray Whitman), try to educate him in their ways, encouraging him to see and write the story in his own way without falling prey to white men's guilt-ridden clichés of glorifying an indigenous race. The echoes of the great American genocide permeate throughout.”

Even though the film is completed and has started to make the festival rounds, Simpson has launched a Kickstarter campaign in order to distribute the film and recoup various costs. In addition to film festivals, the movie will play special event screenings before heading into limited theatrical and home video releases.

“The main problem getting Native films out there is lack of audience support,” Simpson said. “The business is ultimately financially driven. I have found time and time again with my previous Native films that people express interest in seeing them, but just don't want to pay to see them. So then it becomes nearly impossible for the film-makers to make more Native films. There is more than a big enough audience for there to be a self-sustaining Native cinema, the audience just needs to seek out and buy those films.”

The Kickstarter has so far earned $21,595 with still one week to go. And while the accolades are still pouring in—the first review from the Edinburgh International Film Festival said the movie was a “beautifully shot, fragile film which avoids cliché and is never patronizing,” Simpson believes that it’s a film experience that everyone from Indian Country and beyond will never fully shake.

“At a minimum, those that see our film will fall in love with Dave Bald Eagle through it,” Simpson said. “It is pretty much impossible not to, he is that amazing in the film. The film also creates a deeper layer of understanding between two communities and alternate realities.”

To contribute to the distribution of Neither Wolf Nor Dog, click here.

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Louis Fowler

Güicho. Gadfly. Chicano. Choctaw. Cristero. Freelancer. Leftist. Activist. Vilified. PKD....

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