Circle Cinema in Tulsa, Okla. (Photo by Latoya Lonelodge)
Published December 30, 2017
TULSA, OKLAHOMA – Where previously famous films and iconic figures were once shown, Circle Cinema has been a familiar theatre in the world of film. The same place where Ponyboy Curtis from the movie The Outsiders was filmed and inspired the first line, ‘I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house’ in The Outsiders novel.
On Dec. 29, Circle Cinema hosted Tribal Film Festival’s (TFF) showcase and premiere of the movie Hostiles in Tulsa, Okla.
Circle Cinema was first built in 1928, most notable for Tulsa’s own community neighborhood theatre and nonprofit cinema. Independent, foreign, documentary, classics and live theatre are showcased at the theatre year round.
“At Circle we try to find really good stories to be told and I feel like Native American stories, for a long time were under-represented or represented by non-native people, we always try to find original stories like those told by Native American people of their own stories, not made up stories by non-natives or romanticized stories of Native Americans, we try to find authentic films. Tribal Film Festival is a collection of all those things, with “Hostiles,” it was available and Celia Xavier helped secure that at this screening and it evolved into this huge event, all these people wanted to be involved with it,” Chuck Foxen, Circle Cinema film programmer said.
Circle Cinema invited TFF to showcase their movie at the theatre in an effort to bring in community involvement and celebrating November as National Native American Heritage month.
“I just hope that people have a good time tonight and I hope that maybe some things are talked about that haven’t been, I want this place to be a venue for conversation and so I hope some of that comes out tonight,” Foxen said.
TFF first took initiative in 2014, working to showcase native and indigenous films.
“We saw a huge gap in festivals where there was no indigenous or native film festival that was in Oklahoma, there’s some in California and sometimes in order for films to be there, the filmmaker has to be indigenous but there’s all these films being made by non-indigenous filmmakers that are incredible. There’s this massive gap there, nobody was showing these films and so that’s where we saw the opportunity and seized it,” Celia Xavier, TFF founder said.
The film Hostiles is set in 1892 and tells the story of an Army Captain, played by Christian Bale, who escorts a dying Cheyenne war chief, played by Wes Studi, and his family back to their tribal home lands. The film sets the tone of a western film of two rivalries coming together to overcome the hostile environment and endure a dangerous journey ahead.
Oklahoma born and internationally acclaimed native actor, Wes Studi, is of the
Cherokee tribe. His presence in the movie Hostiles sets the stage for his well known accredited background and acting that forever changed the Hollywood stereotype.
“My character is Yellowhawk, who has been in prison for the past seven to eight years by the U.S. Army in a fort in Southern New Mexico, as a matter of political expediency some politicians have decided it was a good time to let his people go,” Studi said.
Chief Yellowhawk is a dying man who wishes to return to his homeland and Captain Blocker, played by Christian Bale, is settled with the chore of escorting Chief Yellowhawk back to his homeland.
“Which is a good distance from Southern New Mexico and that’s our road movie in a way, it trails back to the Valley of the Bears, it’s where he wishes to return to as he’s slowly dying, that’s his final wish is to be able to die in his homeland and we encounter a number of obstacles along the way, which turns out to be the real heart of the story and how people deal with one another, being enemies, friend enemies, allies, or whatever positions are relating to one another,” Studi said.
In playing the part of a dying character, Studi, who has acted in over 80 films, explained firsthand what it was like working with the film in a western setting.
“It’s a western, it’s an outdoor film, I think I only had one interior shot in the entire film and everything else is outdoors under the raining skies, thundering skies, lightening, in pretty rough weather and heat, you name it, everything that nature has to offer,” Studi said.
Studi said that one of the more open places for American Indians to get into film is with westerns, “That’s one of the larger doors into the business, that was certainly my introduction into it, is in westerns. From that point on I think it’s a matter of simply Native Americans have to stick to the point of being actors rather than Native American actors or I think the whole quest is to prove your self as an actor and continue to work. I think it all depends on how much you’re willing to put into it, how much effort you’re willing to give to attain your goal.”
In the heart of the film Hostiles, important concepts and factors are emphasized, some more notable than others.
“I would pay attention to how the antagonist and protagonist start out and see where in the world is it that things change for one or the other and watch their whole arch of development from beginning to end, where and when and what makes them change their mind, or come to a turning point in their own thinking as well as in their own actions, that’s an interesting part of the story itself,” Studi said.
For more cultural authenticity, Cheyenne and Arapaho tribal member and filmmaker, Chris Eyre, was also involved in the making of the film.
“I got a call about this movie Hostiles and from the title I was interested, I read the script and it was a story of reconciliation and humanity between two old advocacies that in the end of the movie come together in a beautiful way in which they finally respect one another and I thought this is was very true to life and the history that I’ve seen,” Eyre said.
For the future of native cinema and film, Eyre said he hopes to see diversity.
“When I say that, I mean there’s no one native person, there’s no one native tribe. I think what’s interesting about Indian country is that we are diverse and we are eclectic and we live in cities and small towns and reservations and we have different economics, different social traditions, cultures, structures, religions and so there’s many things that bind us together as commonalities as being native but I also see the electiveness of native people that I don’t think the majority of Native Americans always see,” Eyre said.
Through native filmmaking, Eyres states the importance of diversity.
“It’s not just one perspective, it’s not any one story teller that happens to be native’s perspective on what ‘Indian’ is. Indian is vast, Indian is a living culture, Indian is a spirited, passionate person and culture,” Eyre said.
Following the premiere of the sold out film Hostiles, a Question and Answer (Q&A) with special guests Studi, Dr. Joely Proudfit, Chris Eyre was moderated by Christina Burke. Studi was also presented and honored with a Career Achievement Award at the TFF.
Chief George Tiger of the Muscogee Creek Nation was also invited to be Master of Ceremonies for the premiere.
“I’m a big advocate for anything that we do to promote our tradition, our culture and our people. This is a great venue to have it. Circle Cinema is a neat place to have events, it has a lot of tradition in Oklahoma as well, I know it’s held a number of events that were Indian themed and I just think it’s a great evening and to be with the people that came to support it, with Wes, Chris and others, it’s great,” Chief Tiger said.
Chief Tiger said that within his tribe more students were getting involved in the area of film.
“In my ten years as chief, students are getting involved with learning the languages and trying to get involved with their traditional culture, it all intertwines and looking at the future of what we’re going to see here is bright for us because I think our future generation knows the importance of carrying those traditions and culture for previous generations and provided for following generations,” Chief Tiger said.
As the first Oklahoma premiere at Circle Cinema, “Hostiles” film will integrate the emphasis on the meaning of the title relating to vast cultures.
“This film shows us all that really when it comes right down to it there isn’t any one group of people that are hostiles, I think we are all hostiles, one way or another,” Studi said.