MSRP: $26.98
RUNNING TIME: 132 minutes
• Audio commentaries with director Yves Simoneau, Adam Beach and Aidan Quinn
• “Making History” – Behind the Scenes look into the production of the film, including interviews with the cast and crew
• “The Heart of a People” – Historical perspective of the American Indian experience as depicted in the film
• “Telling the Story” – The journey of the book to the screen
• Interactive on-screen historical guide prepared by the film’s screenwriter
• Photo Gallery

The Pitch

“America needs gold, so The Sioux must die.”

The Humans

Aidan Quinn, Adam Beach, Anna Paquin, Wes Studi, Colm Feore and J.K. Simmons


The Nutshell

HBO Films is the home of motion pictures that the bigger studios would kill to have in their Oscar bait slate. 2007 was no exception, as Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee led this year’s Emmy Nominations. Taken from a small section of the original novel, the film follows the Caucasian raised Charles Eastman as he works with Senator Henry Dawes. Together they hope to find a solution to the growing nation’s desire for more land.

The Lowdown

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee debuted on HBO over the Memorial Day Weekend of this year. Marking a break from the final two episodes of The Sopranos, I decided to take a shot on the film. I had picked up the book before, but like most Americans…it went back down and was never opened again.

The film reads as a short trip through the rich history that the novel covers. Years pass in seconds, as director Yves Simoneau forces the conflict between Dawes and Eastman to center stage. Starting with the Battle of Little Big Horn, the film pushes past Custer’s Last Stand and towards the worsening relations between the Native American Tribes of America and the government in Washington.

Anna Paquin always finds a way to work the Billy Idol sneer into all of her films

Charles Eastman is introduced to America by the Washington social circles as being the great hope of the Indians. He’s an Ivy Leagued educated young man who’s going to marry a white schoolteacher. Eastman has made peace with the new government and he can be an example to those that follow Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. Thus, Eastman gets thrust into an awkward position as Senator Henry Dawes pushes Eastman forward as an economic bridge to the West.

The Black Hills have tons of gold and the United States is in the throes of a depression following the massive spending of the American Civil War. Eastman doesn’t appreciate being used as a token representation of the assembled Indian nations, but he knows that by blending the Native Americans in with the United States…it’s their only shot at a continued future.

The time of outward violence is coming to an end for a people that can’t compete with the benefits of an organized First World nation. You can’t outrun trains and you can’t stop the United States Army with arrows. But, the combined stubborn nature of these two men makes the matter worse. They can’t talk to the Indians, they talk at them. Giving them punch card rations to survive the winter, they take away their independence and teach them to become dependent on the U.S. government to provide for them.

The Chief decided to spruce the re-enactments this year with The Battle of Hoth.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
is a hard film to watch, as it should be. Yves Simoneau doesn’t pull any punches with his depiction of the last fifteen years of Sioux independence in the United States. While we don’t get the weepy melodrama that seems to accompany films of this nature, we’re offered the briefest look into what actually happened.

It’s not that brevity poses a disservice to the material; it’s just that a mini-series could’ve opened this difficult era in American History to a new generation. But, we can’t fault HBO for not doing the work that the American Educational System should’ve done. The audience can take solace in the fact that there’s a channel out there dedicated to such high-quality films.

First they check for lice, then they check for the Manitou.

The Package

Packaged in a book style binding similar to HBO’s prior releases of Angels in America and Empire Falls, this film will keep the uniform look of the HBO Films that have made it to DVD. Well, except for Gia. That damn Gia looks at me from my DVD shelf with spite. Sure, you had full frontal nudity, but why can’t you fit the greater design scheme?

In terms of special features, we’re offered a really standard bag. Sure, it does a good job at looking at the road from the Novel to Production. But, there’s not a whole lot of variety. Well, there’s the interactive historical guide that reads as dry as the instructions on the back of a Shampoo bottle. But, where are those features that make you seek this DVD out?

That’s why it falls onto the superb presentation quality found in the feature presentation. A flawless Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is matched by a digitally clean transfer that makes the most out of the resources afforded to it by the luscious landscapes contained in this film.

8.1 out of 10