Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota

Red Eye Video
Minneapolis, MN
(53 minutes)

Not often do I get to do a movie review, but I just wanted to share with you my impressions of Deb Wallwork's new film Dirty Work: The Story of Elsie's Farm.

Dirty Work is a look into the workings of a year in the life of Elsie's Farm, a Ridgeland Wisconsin CSA farm. In addition to showing the cycles of farming from planting, growing and harvest, Dirty Work does something that few other films in this genre do. It shows the heart that goes into small scale direct marketing as well as the heartbreak of how difficult it is to make a profitable business.

The film details the hard work that Don Roberts and Joni Cash do to keep Elsie's Farm running. There are hugs, tears, and lots of head-shaking.

I like this film, because it is realistic about the real difficulties surrounding small scale, sustainable agriculture. This is summed up nicely by Don at the end of the film when he says, The challenge is to keep the bottom line, so that the ideals actually work...that the ideals can be sustainable.

Do we need more sustainable agriculture documentaries like Dirty Work? There sure have been lots of them, and yes, I do think we need more. We need to tell the stories of the work people are doing to attempt to make a living on the land, provide healthy food and build a community around growing good food. Dirty Work does a great job of describing some of the issues we are facing as a movement.

-John Meske, executive director



Native Peoples: Video/ Audio Reviews

Native American Public
Broadcasting Consortium, (NAPT)
Lincoln, Nebraska
(56 minutes)

This is the most well-rounded video I have seen on a Native American subject. Sacred Buffalo People has it all: animation, traditional story-telling (with the trickster Coyote), archival photographs, different music genres, paintings, diagrams, star constellation charts, and interviews with Lakota and Mandan/Hidatsa tribal members, of the talismanic importance of the buffalo to their past, present and future. The video was produced by the Native Amercian Public Broadcasting Consortium (NAPT) which, according to their publicist, creates "public telecommunicatons programs by and about Native Americans". All NAPBC videos are checked for authenticity by a panel of primarily indigenous scholars and traditionalists. That attention to detail is plainly evident in this wonderfully produced work.

The video's premise is simple: the buffalo and the northern prairie tribes have a symbiotic relationship that trandscends mere hunter roles. According to the Lakota and the Mandan, the buffalo is endowed with a spirit by the Creator. The buffalo willingly gives its life sacrificially so theat the tribe may live. This spiritual identification of the tribe with the buffalo is so great that they merge into one identity. Lakota member Pete Catches graphically explains this concept by stating that when a Lakota warrior lost a lot of blood, he would drink the buffalo blood as a method of transfusion; buffalo blood was Lakota blood. General Sheridan knew this, too, when he, in the late 1800's, ordered the extermination of huge buffalo herds as a means of decimating the Northern Plains tribes he warred upon.

Not only is the buffalo a past sumbol for the Lakota and Mandan peoples, but there is also a future relatioonship since a tribal herd is currently being raised on North Dakota's Fort Bethold Reservation. The herd's manager, Dean Fox, speaks with respect of the centrality of the buffalo for his people. The buffalo played such a central role in tribal history that the constellation called Pleiades by the ancient Greeks was envisioned as a bison by pre-contact tribes.

There is a triumphant tone in Sacred Buffalo People. As the buffalo have come back from the brink of extinction, so too have their alter-ego, the Lakota and Mandan peoples. This excellent video is lovingly made. It is a "must-see" for those seeking knowledge of our stewardship of nature, by examing the special relationship between Native peoples of the American prairie and the buffalo.

-David Claudio Iglesias



The Circle: Minneapolis American Indian Center

Native American Public
Broadcasting Consortium, (NAPT)
Lincoln, Nebraska
(56 minutes)

AUDIENCE: Jr. High to Adult

AWARDS: National Indian Education
Association Outstanding Media Award, 1987

It seems as though whenever a non-Indian filmaker does a documentary about Indian people, they feel compelled to explain, clarify and interpret the experiences of Indian people. It's almost as if the words of Indian people need to have special vindication from outsiders to make them believable. It was with these cynical thoughts in mind that I first sat down to review the film Warriors by Deborah Wallwork. In the back of my mind I was thinking that this would be my big chance to get back at all those do-gooders who come into Indian 'country and tell us what we're all about. Heh-heh. Good Luck, Deborah...

Well...ah...after leaving the screening room, I tried to assess the reasons why this film had such a deep emotional impact upon me. What I found was that perhaps for the first time I had witnessed a film by a non-Indian in which Indian people were allowed to express themselves without being interpreted. The emotions expressed by the "Warriors" was so genuine that I couldn't help but feel their hurt, joy, anger, sorrow...

What cause all these various emotions from the "Warriors" is the powerful and lasting experiences of being Indian veterans of the Vietnam war. The film presents some unique insights into why these Indian men went to war, situations they fought under, and what life was like for them when they returned. Most of the veterans that were interviewed are from the Upper Midwest area.

People that conducted the interviews, according to Wallwork, were Indian men who possessed "depth and experience." One of the interviewers, Bob St. John. a Sisseton Wahpeton Sioux, served in the Vietnam era, and was especially good at getting the veterans to relate their experiences for the camera.

-Gordon Rigguinti




Video Rating Guide for Libraries. Vol 1. no.4, page 44

Native American Public
Telecommunications (NAPT)
Lincoln, Nebraska
(58 minutes)

AUDIENCE: Jr. High to Adult

AWARDS: National Indian Education
Association Outstanding Media Award

The admonition of a traditional American Indian song, Keep Your Heart Strong evokes the beauty, power, love and repect that are summoned and affirmed through the dance rituals and ceremonies of Native American powwows. This 1986 documentary is an impressionistic study of powwows as they are practiced by Indians in the Dakotas, and it explores the ways in which tradtional and contemporary elements have been combined to keep the pow-wow culturally viable.

Every summer, Indians of various tribes travel across the Northwest, participating in and competing in pow-wows. These weekend ceremonies are celebrations of continuity and renewal for the participants. As one witness observes, the pow-wow itself is a series of circles within circles, with dancers, drummers, and onlookers ringing each other at the site. For Native Americans, the circle represents life without end.

Steady, seemingly timeless rhythmns of drumming and chanting are the backdrop for this long stream of colorful images videotaped at pow-wows at Bismarck, Fargo, Fort Totten and Twin Buttes. The tape's length creates an important effect: in time, the rhythmns work their way through and one can begin to sense the liberation and strength the dancers speak of when they try to describe the experience of participation in these rituals.

Through the course of the program, we learn about the rich tradition of Native American songs- a tradition that continues to grow as new songs, such as one honoring Vietnam veterans, are are added to the repertoire; about the sacredness of the drum, the prayer-carrying power of eagle feathers; gift-giving rituals; and the extended family orientation practiced by traditional Indian groups.

Information is presented via the testimpny of a series of anonymous speakers. These voice-overs are, at times, a mixed blessing. The audio quality is inconsistant, and while some speakers are eloquent, others have little to add.

The heart of this production, however, is its visuals, and these are fine throughout. Video quality is vivid and rich. This is as it should be, for the viewer is treated to a marvelous array of faces, costumes, and objects, not to mention movement. Here is a sacredness that is at once fimly rooted to the earth and as transcendent as a soaring eagle. It is a fitting introduction to Native American rituals, one likely to stir an appreciation for the importance of tradition and spiritual renewal, among those who have the opportunity to view it. Recommended for secondary school audiences and above.

-David Hoppe


These documentaries are distributed by:

Minnesota Historical Society Online Store

For Wholesale Distribution or Screening Rights Contact:

Red Eye Video
(651) 216-4610

red eye