News Column

'Lone Ranger' is a missed opportunity

July 5, 2013

YellowBrix

July 05--I was afraid that Johnny Depp's portrayal of Comanche warrior Tonto in the new "The Lone Ranger" was going to be all caricature.

Well, it's just mostly caricature. And it's sort of a compilation of characters he's played before. That's the danger of casting a superstar in a high-profile role.

While the film is mostly entertaining, it's entirely too long and weighed down by an excessively bloated third act. It turned into one of the "Pirates of the Carribean" sequels, which I hated (same director here, Gore Verbinski). Sensory overload and no story.

But what's most disappointing about the film is that it flirts with bigger-picture topics about genocide or otherworldly mysticism ("nature is out of balance"), then ditches them for explosions or laughs. It's more preoccupied with being a carnival ride than a cinematic experience.

Other performances are passable. Armie Hammer as John Reid, the hero, is amiable but ultimately less interesting than Tonto.

And I still think that's why Disney and Hollywood missed a royal opportunity to give an unknown (or known) Native American actor the part. I'm grateful that the film employed several Native actors in supporting roles. It's just too bad they still had to play the same roles they've played countless times before.

At a screening I attended, some audience members came dressed as "Indians," with face paint and cheap, circus-quality headdresses, and they saw nothing wrong with it. I'm sure they meant no harm and were just in the spirit of supporting the film, but it still made me cringe (I am Comanche). I think "The Lone Ranger" may be digging up old stereotypes.

I guess we still have a long way to go to get where I thought we were.

Film contest -- The American Indian Festival will be held next weekend, and will feature Native American dancing, singing and arts and crafts. And for the first time, it will feature a film contest.

The Mid-America All-Indian Center, which hosts the festival, is partnering with the Tallgrass Filmmakers Lab to present the American Indian Festival Film Contest. Filmmakers of all ages are invited to create a documentary-style film that best captures the spirit and excitement of the third annual festival, to be held Saturday and July 14 at Century II's Expo Hall.

Entry forms and contest rules can be found online at theindiancenter.org. There is a $20 entry fee until Wednesday. Last-minute entries taken at the festival will be $30.

Each contest participant will receive free admission into the festival to shoot his or her documentary. Entries should be between eight and 10 minutes long, and be burned onto a DVD. The completed films must be received at the Indian Center by 4 p.m. July 22.

I will be on the judging panel, as will Nick Pope, co-director of programming for the Tallgrass Film Association, and representatives from the Indian Center.

The first-place award is $500. Second place is $200 and a family membership to the Indian Center (valued at $100). Third place is a 2013 Tallgrass Film Festival TALLpass (valued at $195).

The winners will be announced at 2 p.m. July 28 at the Indian Center during a free screening of the top 10 entries. The public will have the opportunity to vote on their favorite to receive an audience choice award.

The three winners will be invited to introduce their films at the 2014 American Indian Festival Preview Party.

For more information about the contest, contact April Scott at 316-350-3341 or by e-mail at ascott@wichita.gov.

Reach Rod Pocowatchit at 316-268-6638 or rpocowatchit@wichitaeagle.com.

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(c)2013 The Wichita Eagle (Wichita, Kan.)

Visit The Wichita Eagle (Wichita, Kan.) at www.kansas.com

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