Published January 8, 2018
WASHINGTON – The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) is celebrating Entertainment Studios’ film Hostiles for its culturally accurate portrayal of Native peoples with a screening on Wednesday, January 10, 2018 in Washington, D.C. NCAI partnered with The Native Networkers (TNN) and the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) to host the screening of the feature film starring Christian Bale and Wes Studi.
To achieve accuracy and depth in the Native-focused content of the movie, director Scott Cooper worked with acclaimed Native filmmaker Chris Eyre (Smoke Signals, Skins), and Native academic Dr. Joely Proudfit as consultants. Their organization, The Native Networkers, has a mission to build bridges of understanding through media and enhance cultural knowledge and understanding through Native representation.
The involvement of Eyre, Proudfit, and the film’s other Native consultants made an indelible impression on Cooper. “The consultants on this film have been extraordinary and have taught me things that my research never could have,” he says. “They were on set every day to help the actors with language, with gestures, with rituals. Their work was of the utmost importance, and it was deeply gratifying for all of us.”
A significant amount of Hostiles’ dialogue is spoken in the rarely heard Northern Cheyenne dialect. Eyre was tasked with finding the Native team that not only spoke fluently but could teach the language and have knowledge of how Native speakers would have sounded at the end of the 19th century.
“The biggest request that Scott and Christian had is that we, as Cheyenne consultants, get it right,” says Eyre. “Just because you’re a Native person doesn’t mean you’ll know all things Native. I was able to bring Chief Phillip Whiteman and Alana Buffalo Spirit to the project. To hear the language spoken in the right dialect and in a respectful way by Christian and Wes is something great to see on screen. It’s just a victory that millions of people will get to hear this rare language.”
Chief Phillip Whiteman, worked with Bale, who at first struggled mightily to get the words out. “It’s bloody difficult,” Bale laughs, “but it’s wonderful. Speaking the language correctly is also allowing me to understand a bit of the Cheyenne belief system. I’ve been so surprised because it seems impossible but there’s such a natural flow to it.”
“The National Congress of American Indians applauds the efforts by the makers of HOSTILES to help lead Hollywood towards more truthful and appropriate portrayals of Indigenous peoples in film, in particular by casting Native actors to play Native roles,” said NCAI President Jefferson Keel. “We look forward to the upcoming screening of the film and hope to see a continued effort for diversity, inclusion, and authenticity in Hollywood.”
Hostiles takes place in 1892 and tells the story of an Army Captain (Christian Bale) who reluctantly agrees to escort a dying Cheyenne chief (Wes Studi) and his family back to tribal lands. On the journey, they meet a widow (Rosamund Pike) whose family was murdered on the plains and offer their help. As the former rivals make their way from an isolated Army outpost in New Mexico to the grasslands of Montana, their relationship moves from antagonism to compassion, demonstrating humans’ capacity for change. The ensemble cast also includes Ben Foster, Timothée Chalamet, Jesse Plemons, Q’orianka Kilcher, Rory Cochrane and Adam Beach.