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The documentary film, Incident at Oglala - The Leonard Peltier Story, released in 1992, was directed by Michael Apted and narrated by Hollywood heavyweight Robert Redford. The film mainly focuses on the shooting of the two FBI agents at an Indian Reservation site, and the…
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Incident at Oglala - The Leonard Peltier Story The documentary film, Incident at Oglala - The Leonard Peltier Story, released in 1992, was directed by Michael Apted and narrated by Hollywood heavyweight Robert Redford. The film mainly focuses on the shooting of the two FBI agents at an Indian Reservation site, and the resultant trial and the conviction of an American Indian activist named Leonard Peltier. Although, the film was produced with the intention to bring to light a supposed unfair conviction of an individual from the minority population, it does not overtly take sides. Instead through a series of recordings of the interviews given by the various American Indians connected to the crime and Peltier, the film ‘allows’ the audience to make up their mind regarding whether Peltier is the real culprit or not. The interviews are inter cut with video shots of the landscape of Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, where the crime takes place, as well as other video footages and the photos related to the issue.
The film documents the killing of the FBI agents, Jack R. Coler and Ronald A. Williams in an Indian Reservation in South Dakota in 1975, by providing various perspectives. However, the perspective of FBI is not included as their representatives refused to give interview to the makers. The film starts of by depicting the tough and abysmal living conditions that existed, in the Pine Ridge Reservation. “Pine Ridge was probably one of the poorest reservations of the United States.” (“Incident at Oglala”). After those initial scenes, the film picks up stem by throwing more light on the background of the issue, as well as on the real stand-offs and the confrontations that took place between the AIM members (American Indian Movement) and the government authorities. Then, the film jumps directly into the crux of the matter. It uses witnesses and other experts to tell their version of events that took place on the day of the shootout. During these eyewitness accounts only, the doubts begun to surface in the minds of the viewers, whether Peltier truly committed the crime. Although, many American Indians were accused in the murder of the FBI agents, all of them were acquitted, with only Peltier being made the ‘scapegoat’. That is, as can be gleaned from the witness accounts, when the FBI agents entered the compound wall, many individuals started firing on them and killed them. Peltier admitted to being a part in that gunfire confrontation with the agents, but denied the charge of killing the agents with his bullets. As mentioned above, although the documentary does not exonerate Peltier of the crimes, it shows how Peltier seems to have not received a fair trail and importantly how all the evidences prepared and provided by the prosecution team is damning. The other perspective the film raises is, the US government and the FBI seems to have bent the rules to convict Peltier. From the accounts of certain American Indians and even legal experts, it seems that the FBI has fabricated the evidences and also coerced many people during the trial in order to make at least one American Indian responsible for the crime. “FBI agents involved had to know that the affidavit were phony were just fraudulent” (“Incident at Oglala”). Thus, the film, Incident at Oglala - The Leonard Peltier Story provides an eye opener of sorts regarding the poverty and also the violence that was visible at the Pine Ridge Reservation, and how that tension led to tragic murders.
Works Cited
“Incident at Oglala - The Leonard Peltier Story.” Google Video, 2009. Web. 4 May
2012
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