Thursday, August 18, 2005

Review for "Into the West (2005)"

TNT DreamWorks Television

Mini-series with a powerful message!

“Into the West (2005)” is made for television mini-series that aired on TNT (DreamWorks Television) for six weeks. Each episode was two hour in length. This epic film takes place in the 1800’s emerging Western Territories. The monumental task for filming fell on six different directors for each two hour segment. There were eight producers including Executive Producer Steven Spielberg.

The main scriptwriter was William Mastrosimone. He had three other scriptwriters take some of the duties to bring these six episodes together. The flow and main overall scene theme was well maintained between the directors. The script writing was well written for that era. The actors did pull off the dialogue and dialect. The Lakota language was spoken true to form for the non Lakota members and a big thank you should go to the language instructor.

The scene transitions from each week are difficult to catch up because of the passage of time that was used and not explained. Also, with the accumulation of age for the actors, it is hard to distinguish who is who. Some of the main characters change actors so their look is different and offspring of the main family is hard to keep track of. Hopefully the forthcoming DVD will make this transition smoother. The use of the subtitles for the Lakota language gives the film authenticity to the difficulties of the language barrier during that time.

The use of Native American actors and behind the scenes personnel gives this film some creditability within the Native American community. The tendency in the past for Hollywood seems to bypass input from any Native American Tribe to get the real historical story. Hopefully this film stops that trend.

The mini-series follows two families, the Wheeler family and members of the Lakota tribe. The mini-series takes a multi-generation view into their struggles, triumphs and historical significance for each family. The points of view of family members are followed as they explore the Western Territories searching for a better life. From the gold rush, cross country railroad, ethnic diversity, Native perspective and use of Lakota language, the directors tried to be as accurate and detailed in authenticity. Of course there are going to be some inaccuracies made, but overall the film depicts the true hardships, cruelty of the time. Can you call it a Native American only film? No. But the film tries to give a history lesson from two perspectives which I think it accomplishes.

The one star drawback is that is tries to cover too much historical events in one film. And cannot give the true depiction needed. Sometimes it seems like it was a second thought on the significant relationship with the main characters. The Massacre at Wounded Knee was very accurate with the slaughter of innocent woman and children. But were the responsible people accountable for their actions?

The cast of actors is a who’s who of recognizable actors. The six episode name list is “Wheel to the Stars”, “Manifest”, “Dreams and Schemes”, “Hell on Wheels”, “Causalities of War” and “Ghost Dance.”

The upcoming DVD (Set to release/ship Oct. 4, 2005) will include; “Interview with Executive Producer Steven Spielberg” “The Making of”, “Communications Gap-use of the Indian Lakota language”, “The Cast of”, “Family Tree”, deleted scenes and episode transitions.

I highly recommend purchasing this DVD when it is available. I am on the preorder list.


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