A Different American Dream

Simon Brook and Jane Wells
2016 | 84 minutes
Countries of Production: USA, France
Countries or Cultures Featured: USA, Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation
US Premiere | Director in Attendance
Saturday, October 15 | 5:30 pm | Program F8

On the edge of the Badlands in western North Dakota lies the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, home to 6,500 members of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation. When the largest shale oil field in North America was discovered on the reservation, the explosion of industry brought sweeping changes to daily life. The landscape is now littered with oil wells, fracking towers, and toxic waste dumps and the average life expectancy on the reservation has dropped to an alarming 57, compared to 79 in the rest of the state. Some members of the tribe have profited from mineral rights, but this fleeting bubble of wealth, alongside widespread poverty, threatens to destroy the social fabric of the community. Follow the story of this upheaval and the remarkable attempts of some tribal leaders to save their land and the future of their society. 

Co-Presented by the Environmental Film Festival

Re:Frame, My Perspective

“Simon Brook and I went to North Dakota expecting to tell one story and ultimately came away with a quite different one. For us the unexpected was the magnificence of the land itself. We are both foreigners, born in the U.K., and the landscape we found at Fort Berthold was a one of aching beauty and power.

So what we set out to create was both a portrait of that landscape as well as of members of the MHA Nation, the original human inhabitants and owners of that land.

As non-Native filmmakers telling this story we wanted to celebrate the majesty of the landscape and acknowledge its spiritual power. We chose to do this through the eyes of tribal members for whom the desecration of their ancestral land is understood as part of a long history of disrespect and trauma. The title of our film, a quote from one of the tribal members in the film, references the aspirations of many contemporary Native Americans.

As we told our story it fell naturally to identify the outsiders. The ‘other‘ in our framing of this story are Big Oil, the oil companies and their workers. As filmmakers we chose to keep them mostly offscreen.”

—Jane Wells | Producer, A Different American Dream

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