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Chloe & Theo

Inuit elders have a dream about the sun getting mad and kissing the earth. So they send Theo (Theo Ikummaq) south, to inform world leaders about it, because Theo attended boarding school and speaks English – though he appears to have learned nothing else about American culture during that experience.

The filmmakers seem to have even less understanding of what it’s like to be homeless in New York than they do what it means to be indigenous in the Arctic.  Dakota Johnson, in a performance complete nuance-free, leads a merry band of indigents who feel like they’re straight out of a play written by sixth-graders.  They eat out of the garbage of a different restaraunt every night (Tuesday – pizza night!) and spend most of their time hustling tourists at chess in Central Park. Drugs, alcohol, prostitution, predators, cops, mental illness — none of these things have anything to do with their joyful, jolly lives.

Johnson befriends Theo, and helps him on his mission.  Along the way, weak points are made about skyscrapers and the way we treat our elders. Then Johnson decides the United Nations are the elders Theo really needs to talk to, and they promptly get arrested in the UN lobby, for no good reason (seriously, these have to be the most unintentionally idiotic security guards in the history of cinema) except that’s what the movie needs to happen to keep moving.

Theo finally connects with an activist (Mira Sorvino) who has some connections, decides he needs to climb 67 flights of stairs while those connections are waiting, and seems about to accomplish his mission (on some level – appearing Larry King isn’t exactly the same as speaking to the President, or making a difference) when apparently the filmmakers ran out of money and slapped a corny tragic ending on the whole affair.

There is almost nothing to like about this movie. It props up an indigenous person as a mascot for a cause.  In my mind, that’s not very different from using a Native as a mascot for a football team. It perpetuates stereotypes of Native people as “earth children,” morally pure and naive about the world of the 21st century. It feels like a two hour version of that commercial from the ’70s, where Iron Eyes Cody sheds a tear over pollution.

A much better movie that could’ve been made. It’s been in the news lately that Inuit elders are reporting to astronomers that the earth has shifted on its axis, changing where the sun rises in the morning, and the astronomers are listening.  Surely this was the germ from which this movie sprang. Following that idea would’ve provided opportunities to explore the ways that the Inuit people forecast the weather, as well as its importance to their way of life.  It would’ve given opportunities to explore more complicated relationships between traditional and scientific knowledge, between scientists, elders and activists.  So why did the filmmakers feel the need to invent a dream about the sun getting mad and kissing the earth?  Because, dear reader, they think we are too stupid to handle the real story. Movies can commit a lot of crimes, but to me, the unforgivable sin is insulting my intelligence.

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Posted in All Reviews, by Will Krischke, Native & Indigenous Cinema.

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