Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Exiles Coming

Thanks to author Sherman Alexie and director Charles Burnett, we in Los Angeles get to see a 1961 film about young Native Americans living in the Bunker Hill area. The film, from the description, seems a documentary with scenes re-created by the people who are being interviewed, all non-actors.

The Los Angeles Times calls the ending "almost unbearably intimate. " The New York Times says the film is "A beautifully photographed slice of down-and-almost-out life, a near-heavenly vision of a near-hell that [director] Mr. Mackenzie situated at the juncture of nonfiction and fiction. He tapped into the despair of this obscured world while also making room for the poetry and derelict beauty of its dilapidated buildings, neon signs, peeling walls and downcast faces."

Drumming and drinking, belonging and not belonging, are themes. The old mansions of Bunker Hill and the downtown bar area of the late 1950s should lure anyone with an interest in Los Angeles' history to this movie, though.

Kent Mackenzie directed the film, assembling it over 3 years to debut at the Berlin International Film Festival in July 1961. Has it been seen since? Don't think so, and the very limited list of world-wide showings at the website lasts through November, so I wouldn't expect to pick it up on Netflix before the end of the year.

UCLA's Billy Wilder Theater is showing The Exiles from Friday, August 15 (with a special, tba guest) through Saturday, August 23, at various times. The theater is at the courtyard level of the Hammer Museum, at Wilshire and Westwood.

imdb has the trailer, but you can also see that and a lot more at the film's website,

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