A shocking crime covered up in childhood bubbles back to the surface for two estranged Ojibwe men in a relentless debut feature from Native American director Lyle Mitchell Corbine Jr.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2021
“The title of Wild Indian is as much of a provocation as the movie itself. Set in the 1980s and the present day, with a prologue set centuries in the past, it’s about a couple of Ojibwe boys from a reservation who cover up the murder of a classmate, then carry guilt over their shared participation in that crime into adulthood.
Michael Greyeyes plays the adult version of the killer, Mak’wa, who changes his name to Michael and gets a respectable office job at a white-owned company... plus a blond Anglo wife (Kate Bosworth) and a beautiful baby. The grownup incarnation of his co-conspirator, Ted’O, aka Teddo (Chaske Spencer), ends up in prison, then eventually gets out and has trouble finding a job because of his criminal record and facial tattoos. It's only a matter of time before the men's paths cross again...
[T]his intimate, unrelenting debut feature from Ojibwe writer/director Lyle Mitchell Corbine, Jr. takes the bold step of insisting we treat it as astory of a couple of men who share a terrible secret before we try to frame it as a story that's mainly “about” indigenous cultures... the characters stand alone as thorny individuals whose decisions remain mysterious though the last scene...It seems clear that Corbine wanted to make a personal movie, not a history lesson or morality play aimed at hypothetical white viewers, and it’s impossible to look at the finished product without feeling that he succeeded.” — Matt Zoller Seitz, RogerEbert.com