2023 Milwaukee Film Festival: Day Four “Lakota Nation vs. United States”

What a joy it is to see a Sunday afternoon documentary practically sold out at the Times. It’s like a return to pre-pandemic times.

Milwaukee Film describes LAKOTA NATION VS. UNITED STATES as follows:

A chronicle about the Očéti Šakówi and their decades-long fight to reclaim control of the Black Hills, LAKOTA NATION VS. UNITED STATES is a powerful glimpse behind the global land back movements from co-directors Jesse Short Bull and Laura Tomaselli. Featuring analysis of treaties and interviews with Native leaders and powerful poetry from writer/narrator Layli Long Soldier, this film is a stirring call to justice and a testament to the strength of the Oyate.”

LAKOTA NATION VS. UNITED STATES is a powerful documentary that makes its case of the injustices done to the Lakota by the United States felt strongly by all those who watch. It’s eloquent both in its language and images that it uses to convey the film’s messages. Even better it’s satisfying intellectually and is confident enough in its arguments that the more information it shares, the more clear its case is. Better yet, by having a strong series of interviewees it makes the case that the injustices of the past are still being felt in the present, and at least, the near future. It’s a triumph of messaging.

It’s also a pretty compelling triumph of craft too. The Black Hills are a holy place for the Lakota. The images chosen back up that belief in their natural beauty. It’s also edited distinctively with classic westerns and historic footage intermingled with modern concerns. The past is ever present in the film. There’s a unity of theme and craft that makes it a compelling viewing experience. These aren’t just grievances being aired, these are modern problems that need to move towards accommodation and solution.

Is there a solution presented or a call to action? Not really, although the film is clearly behind the Land Back movement. That doesn’t seem particularly likely, but the ideal of the moment. Otherwise, this is a compelling and artful documentary that I expect to stand among the best at year’s end. Certainly one of the strongest and most powerful films to appear at the Milwaukee Film Festival this year to date. It should be considered a can’t miss if you’re attending the film festival.

LAKOTA NATION VS. UNITED STATES has one more screening at the Milwaukee Film Festival on Thursday, May 4 at 4:00 pm at the Oriental Theatre. The 2023 Milwaukee Film Festival runs from April 20, 2023 until May 4, 2023. Tickets can be purchased via MKEFILM.ORG.