Empire of Dirt (2013)

Not Rated   |    |  Drama

Empire of Dirt (2013) Poster

Three generations of First Nations women struggle to deal with the demons of their past.


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24 June 2020 | kimmbott
| A twist on a familiar tale
Another user noted that the storyline is somewhat cliched, that is technically true, but in the context of this film it's entirely intentional. The grander framework of the film is one of the most well-known drama cliches but it's the diversions from this--in Native values, viewpoints, and social issues--that are the point of the piece. The main character even calls herself a cliche at one point making it clear that that is only the canvass of the story, the Native perspectives are the paint.

Some of the issues brought up are very real for modern Native folks. The unknowing eye may miss just how much of a threat child services is, even when one is a great parent. The main character Lena is an objectively good an objectively good mother (patient with her teenager, giving back to the community, working hard) yet society continues to treat her as though she is something less. Lena is expertly (despite being a newcomer!) portrayed by Cara Gee in a natural, convincing manner. The only thing that may be truly cliched about the film is the way the teenage daughter interacts with other characters (I believe this is from the writing, as the acting of this part despite the writing is outstanding), and it's quite possible that even that was done to streamline the story so that the viewer could concentrate on the lens of the Native woman at its center.

Honestly, this is a beautifully done story of finding peace. There does not need to be any particular ending. It would easily be 10 stars, especially in light of the acting, but I'm removing just one because I would have liked to have seen the daughter's arc fleshed out a little more. Just adding one more interaction at the end could have done this (although in hindsight I think the fishing scenes were trying to accomplish this). Overall outstanding take on one of our most beloved motifs for film.

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