Neither Wolf Nor Dog comes to Halifax this weekend on a wave of grassroots success—crowdfunded to start, nearly 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, starring a 95-year-old Lakota elder who lived through D-Day, worked with Marilyn Monroe, was Errol Flynn's stunt double and was born and died at 97, in 2016, on the Cheyenne River Sioux reservation in South Dakota.
Based on Kent Nerbun's novel—he's played by Christopher Sweeney here—Neither Wolf Nor Dog follows Nerbun, a writer and collector of Indigenous stories, when he is summoned by an elder named Dan (Bald Eagle) to write his life story. Nerburn doesn't feel worthy—he's white, to start—but Dan insists, taking him around the area to sacred places, detailing the blood shed by colonizers., ending at Wounded Knee.
The beautifully photographed film—DP and director Steven Lewis Simpson is inspired by Ken Loach and it shows—is earnestly reverent to its star and subject matter. We open with Nerburn but he quickly cedes the film to Dan; Bald Eagle's performance is naturalistic and deeply felt, with flashes of good humour bordering on impishness. It's a gentle, educational ride, and Canadians will see the parallels in the two countries' treatment of its Indigenous citizens.