Reel Injun: On the Trail of the Hollywood Indian

Reel Injun

On the Trail of the Hollywood Indian

  • BY Neil Diamond | IN Identity
    Premiered November 2, 2010

About the Film

Cree filmmaker Neil Diamond takes a look at the Hollywood Indian, exploring the portrayal of North American Natives through a century of cinema. Traveling through the heartland of America, and into the Canadian North, Diamond looks at how the myth of "the Injun" has influenced the world's understanding — and misunderstanding — of Natives.

Reel Injun traces the evolution of cinema's depiction of Native people from the silent film era to today, with clips from hundreds of classic and recent Hollywood movies, and candid interviews with celebrated Native and non-Native film celebrities, activists, film critics, and historians.

Diamond meets with Clint Eastwood (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly; A Fistful of Dollars; Unforgiven) at his studios in Burbank, California, where the film legend discusses the evolution of the image of Indians in Westerns and what cowboy-and-Indian myths mean to America. Reel Injun also hears from legendary Native American activists John Trudell, Russell Means, and Sacheen Littlefeather.

Celebrities featured in Reel Injun include Robbie Robertson, the half-Jewish, half-Mohawk musician and soundtrack composer (Raging Bull, Casino, Gangs of New York); Cherokee actor Wes Studi (Last of the Mohicans, Geronimo), filmmakers Jim Jarmusch (Dead Man) and Chris Eyre (Smoke Signals); and acclaimed Native actors Graham Greene (Dances with Wolves, Thunderheart) and Adam Beach (Smoke Signals, Clint Eastwood's Flags of our Fathers). Diamond also travels North to the remote Nunavut town of Igloolik (population: 1,500) to interview Zacharias Kunuk, director of the Caméra d'or-winning The Fast Runner.

Diamond takes the audience on a journey across America to some of cinema's most iconic landscapes, including Monument Valley, the setting for Hollywood's greatest Westerns, and the Black Hills of South Dakota, home to Crazy Horse and countless movie legends. It's a loving look at cinema through the eyes of the people who appeared in its very first flickering images and have survived to tell their stories their own way.

The Filmmaker

Neil Diamond
One of Canada's foremost Aboriginal filmmakers and photographers, Neil Diamond hails from the Cree community of Waskaganish. His recent credits include The Last Explorer, a feature-length docudrama retracing the steps of his great uncle, Aboriginal guide George Elson, on an ill-fated voyage into the heart of uncharted Labrador.

Film Credits

Neil Diamond

Catherine Bainbridge Jeremiah Hayes

Jeremiah Hayes

Christina Fon Catherine Bainbridge Linda Ludwick

Catherine Bainbridge Neil Diamond Jeremiah Hayes

Director of Photography
Edith Labbé

Line Producer
Lisa M. Roth

Executive Producers
Ernest Webb Catherine Bainbridge Christina Fon Linda Ludwick

Producer for CBC News Network
Catherine Olsen

Producer for the NFB
Adam Symansky

Executive Producer for the NFB
Ravida Din

Researcher and 1st Assistant Director
Ramelle Mair

Production Coordinator
Jacob Kent

Lynne Trepanier

Camera Assistant
David MacLeod

Associate Producer
Camila Blos

Assistant to the Producers
Anne-Marie Belhadj

Additional Directing
Christina Fon Michelle Latimer Lisa M. Roth

Additional Camera
Alfonso Maiorana (New York)
Glenn Taylor (Vancouver)
Guy Godfrey (Toronto)
Brian R. Ochryn (New Jersey)

Additional Camera Assistants
Eric Godbout Jacob Kent

Additional Sound
John D’Aquino (New York)
Jacob Kent (Montreal)
John McCoy (LA.)
Dyron Pacheco (LA.)
Jason Wood (Vancouver)
Jason Milligan (Toronto)
Jan McLaughlin (New Jersey)

Dolly Grips
Jimmy Stuart (San Francisco)
Chris VanNess (Montana)

Location Assistants
Hugh Bonner (L.A.)
Orville Sisco (Arizona)
Tony Milford (Arizona)

Igloolik Crew
Brian Nutarariaq
Aaron Kunuk
Lucy Uyarak

Original Soundtrack
Claude Castonguay
Mona Laviolette

Post-production Supervisors
Tony Manolikakis
Lisa M. Roth

Technical Director
Tony Manolikakis

Assistant Editors
Ilana Kelemen
Jacob Kent
Phil Shaw

Narration Recording
Jacob Kent

Narration Coach
Matthew Taylor

Sound Editor
Mona Laviolette

Online Editor (NFB)
Yannick Carrier

Opening and End Titles (NFB)
Philippe Raymond
Gaspard Gaudreau

Sound Mixer (NFB)
Jean Paul Vialard

Technical Coordinators (NFB)
Steve Hallé

Digital Editing Technicians (NFB)
Martine Forget
Pierre Dupont
Isabelle Painchaud

Digital Editing Supervisor (NFB)
Danielle Raymond

Program Administrators (NFB)
Stephanie Brown
Dan Emery

Production Coordinator (NFB)
Camila Blos

Marketing Manager (NFB)
Moira Keigher

Archival Footage and Stills
ABC News VideoSource
Bernie Abramson/
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
AP Archive/Getty Images
Beesum Communications
Bernie Boston/RIT Archive Collections
BBC Motion Gallery
Budget Films Stock Footage
Denver Public Library, Western History Collection
Dubi Feiner
Christopher Felver/Corbis
Footage Farm USA
Friedman Archives
Glenbow Archives
Ilka Hartmann
Aaron Huey
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Wally McNamee/Corbis
National Archive and Records Administration
NBC News Archive
Prelinger Archives/Internet Moving Images Archive
Progress Film/Verleih GmbH
Reel Media International
Marc Riboud/Magnum Photos
Timeless Media Group
Richard Wear/Design Pics
Western Development Museum Images
WPA Film Library
Zefa Value/Corbis

Edward Curtis's “The North American Indian”
Courtesy of Northwestern University
McCormick Library of Special Collections

Excerpts from “MacKenna's Gold”
Courtesy of Columbia Pictures. All rights reserved.

Excerpt from “Powwow Highway”
Courtesy of HandMade Films. All rights reserved.

Excerpts from “Broken Arrow” and “The Big Trail”
Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox. All rights reserved.


“Half Breed”
Written by Al Capps and Mary Dean
Performed by Daniel Mercure
and Kim Richardson
Published by Blue Monday Music

Written by Jon Thor Birgisson, Orri Pall Dyrason,
Georg Holm, and Kjartan Sveinsson
Performed by Sigur Ros
Published by Universal Music Publishing
Courtesy of Universal Music Canada

“Indian Reservation”
Written by John D. Loudermilk
Performed by The Raiders
Published by SONY/ATV Acuff Rose Music
Courtesy of Sony Music Canada

“Run to the Hills”
Written by Stephen Percy Harris
Performed by Iron Maiden
Published by Universal Music Publishing
Courtesy of EMI Music Canada

“Three Hours”
Written by Nicholas Rodney Drake
Performed by Nick Drake
Published by Evergreen Copyright o/b/o/ Warlock Music Ltd
Courtesy of Universal Music Canada

Written and Performed by Neil Young
Published by Wixen Music Publishing o/b/o/ Silver Fiddle Music
Courtesy of Warner Music Canada

Funding Provided by
Telefilm Canada
Rogers Documentary Fund

Reel Injun: On the Trail of the Hollywood Indian was produced by Rezolution Pictures (Reel Injun), Inc. in co-production with the National Film Board of Canada, in association with CBC News Network, ARTE Germany, Documentary Channel Canada, Radio-Canada, ARTV, Knowledge Network, APTN, and AVRO.

Produced with the participation of the Canadian Television Fund and the Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit.

This program is a co-production of Rezolution Pictures (Reel Injun), Inc. and the National Film Board of Canada, who are solely responsible for its content.

© 2010 Rezolution Pictures (Reel Injun) Inc. and the National Film Board of Canada. All rights reserved.

Do you feel that Hollywood’s overarching portrayal of Indians has hurt the Native cause for sovereignty and justice? Discuss your favorite Native films, actors, and portrayals with other viewers.


  • 2011 George Foster Peabody Award
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Do you feel that Hollywood’s overarching portrayal of Indians has hurt the Native cause for sovereignty and justice? Discuss your favorite Native films, actors, and portrayals with other viewers.