It is hard to explain what an amazing night Friday the 14th of June was, at the World Premiere of Neither Wolf Nor Dog. After committing to the project over 5 years ago, and after author Kent Nerburn waited 22 years to see it brought to the big screen, it was going to be interesting sharing the final result with an audience for the first time.
First of all it was a promising sign that the second of our two screenings was one of the first in the entire festival to sell out, and then on the night of our screening, in the second biggest venue at the festival, our presenter, Ian, informed me that it was the busiest he had seen it for any film at the festival.
After a quick intro from myself and Chris Sweeney, who plays Nerburn in the film, I headed out. I have seen the film a million times and the weird thing for a film-maker is that when you watch with an audience, it feels like the film is moving at half the normal speed.
I returned though just before the climax of the film, which all you lovers of the novel know is at Wounded Knee. You could have heard a pin drop in the packed cinema. Then as the emotional scene played out, sniffling started to echo through the cinema. It is amazing to experience a mass, emotional response to a film you have made.
The film is deliberately uncompromising when it comes to the Native reality. We totally avoided Hollywoodizing any aspect of it. Same with the humor as it always had to be real, and just sprinkled in there in the driest way. I imagined that much of it would only get laughs in Indian Country as it should have gone over the heads of most folks, and particularly a foreign audience. I was thrilled to discover how wrong I was. Once the film transitioned into the lighter scenes past the sad climax, the audience laughed at every single nuanced remark. It was stunning. Not just because they were getting the gags but after the long journey through the film, they were still entirely present with the characters.
This was personified by the final scene. I shall tell you nothing about what happens, but in many ways, it is my favorite in the film. When you write any film you are always in search of the perfect way to tell each moment. With an adaptation, there are a different set of complications. But if there was probably one unanimous verdict on the film, from Kent and myself on, it is that the final scene is just perfect.
The Q&A went down a storm and tears began to flow again as Christopher went into moving detail about the importance of the film to him and tied it in with his personal journey through that period up till now.
We had a sell-out screening the next day, which went as wonderfully well.
I was touched by all of those who came up to us afterward to pay tribute to the film and how moved they were by it. I was very gratified to hear the broad range of things people took from the film. Many of the more subtle scenes resonated deeply, which was gratifying.
But most special was how people’s eyes had been opened to a deeply tragic part of North American history that most knew little about. Every artform has a different reach, but a huge part of the power of a movie is empathy. By having the audience fall madly in love with Dave Bald Eagle’s Dan, it allows their heart to be opened by the time he takes us deep into that dark history. To all of those who love Dan in the novel, once you see the film you will appreciate that the character now belongs to Dave, his performance is that transcendent.
There has been just one print review so for from the screening but it was an amazing 5-star review. Click to read review
Now we have to build the films festival campaign to increase the films profile before being ready for release.
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