Neither Wolf Nor Dog Showing
September 15-22, 2017
The Valley Cinema
3331 E Old Matanuska Rd. Wasilla
The success of Scottish director, Steven Lewis Simpson's film adaptation of best-selling Native American novel, Neither Wolf Nor Dog, is defying logic - Hollywood logic that is. Audience financed, 18 shoot days in the poorest part of the US, an average crew of two people (no one else in prep or post), had a 95 year old star (Dave Bald Eagle), was self-distributed and began its release in small towns instead of big cities, and yet it has outperformed Hollywood blockbusters and notched up phenomenal audience scores of 8.4/10 on IMDB and a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes and subsequently found itself next to summer blockbusters in multiplexes. In Bemidji, Minnesota, it was David defeating nine Hollywood Goliath's to the box office top spot, (marketing budget = $4.34 for Facebook ads). 1,600 people saw it in a town of 15,000 as folks drove up to 300 miles to see it. As a result of it proving itself the hard way, the film’s Minneapolis opening at the Lagoon Theatre outperformed the screen averages of every other film in the country in terms of admissions and all done without publicists. In another theatre, it did better than 11 of the 12 summer blockbusters playing nearby.
The film features an incredible performance by elder, Dave Bald Eagle, who leaves audiences riveted to their seats. During the climax at the site of the Wounded Knee massacre, the script was discarded so that Dave could speak words that he had bottled up for 95 years. At the time of his passing, NPR discussed whether he was, “The most interesting man in the world.” After 20 years of empty Hollywood promises, author, Kent Nerburn, is thrilled with the result. Four theatres in Alaska are showing the film - more than most of the major studio-released independent films.
“Hollywood has a very simplistic view of looking at the audience throughout the US. I flipped the usual model of major metro first to landing the film in the heart of its audience first. To be a big fish in a small pond rather than a minnow in an ocean. Thanks to the incredible audience support, we're no longer perceived as a minnow.” - Simpson.
The story follows a Lakota elder and his protective friend as they suck a white author into the heart of Lakota Country, encouraging him to see their reality without falling prey to white men guilt-ridden clichés, so it can be distilled into a book that the old man can leave future generations. Dave Bald Eagle and his character represent the end of an era, and the climax at Wounded Knee is infused with the echo of genocide that permeated his whole being.
The film’s star, Dave Bald Eagle, passed away in July at 97 years old. It was widely reported and was the most read story in the world on the BBC for a time. Christopher Sweeney, Richard Ray Whitman, Roseanne Supernault, Tatanka Means, Zahn McClarnon (best known from the TV series Fargo and Longmire) and newcomer, Harlen Standing Bear Sr. make up the outstanding cast. “Only Dave Bald Eagle could have played Dan. He is beyond perfect. Audiences are falling in love with him on screen. He saw it before he passed and said, 'It's the only film he's been in about his people that told the truth.’.” - Simpson. Though Scottish, it's Simpson's third feature film made in South Dakota.
The film shows the beauty, tragedy, humour and power of Lakota Country. It became known as “the great unmade Native American novel” in Hollywood as producers tried and failed to produce it for over 20 years. Simpson was approached by the author seven years-ago. “I took almost a year to commit to Kent that I'd board the project, because when I do, I keep moving forward till the film is made by any means necessary.”
In the end, the shoestring budget came from fans through Kickstarter. To keep costs down, Simpson did all the technical roles other than location sound. They filmed at a breakneck speed and could only film for 18 short days due to the age of the star. “With a 95 year old star, it couldn't have been conventionally financed as insurance would have been impossible.”
Dave Bald Eagle was left for dead during D-Day. Christopher Sweeney was awarded the Silver Star from the Gulf War. Yet it was Richard Ray Whitman who was never in the service that the most days under fire during the 71-day occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973 where the government fired hundreds of thousands of bullets at American Indian movement activists. Dave Bald Eagle had relatives at the infamous Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890. Our film's climax was filmed at Wounded Knee. Sacred ground for our stars. This wasn't your average movie shoot.
“Yes, Steven changed the book. Yes, he adapted it; yes, he augmented it. But he nailed it. The choices he made were exquisite. His film is at once different from the book and better than the book. In an act of astonishing creative transformation, one stubborn, incredibly talented man with a camera did something I did not think was possible: He made a completely new work of art that honored the original work of art while carrying it to a new level. He took my literary child and made a man of it.” - Kent Nerburn, author of Neither Wolf Nor Dog
For tickets to see Neither Wolf Nor Dog, visit this link: