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Sunday, February 21, 2021

End of the Line: The Women of Standing Rock - Slamdance Documentary Review


The Documentary: End of the Line: The Women of Standing Rock

The Director: Shannon Kring

The Story: Indigenous women unite to stop the oil pipeline that threatens their land, water, and very existence.


The Review:
We all saw these events play out live on TV and on the internet and, as shocking as they were at the time, I don't know if anyone really understood what went down at Standing Rock and why. This documentary, directed by Shannon Kring, focuses on the people who were most affected by the government's efforts to literally bulldoze them out of their pipeline's path of destruction. The footage and the access is very impressive as we get a first hand look from behind the police lines and right in the middle of the action during some of the most violent moments of police action. I read in some press notes that some of the footage was actually provided by a disgraced maw enforcement officer 

I really like that the focus of this documentary is on the indigenous women who took a stand, stood their ground, and recreated the conversations about what was happening on their lands and to their people. Without the strength, resolve, and intelligence exhibited by these women, the outcome would have been drastically different and the impact will be felt for generations. Over the course of the film, we get to know women like Wasté Win Young, Phyllis Young, Sky Roosevelt-Morris, and LaDonna Brave Bull Allard each of whom has their own unique place in this story and also came out of the ordeal more powerful than ever before. I suppose in a way this is sort of a super hero origin story for each of these women as they not only go to great lengths to save their lands and their heritage but they also in no small fashion end up changing the world.

Over the last year, we've seen so many examples of how the government and, more specifically law enforcement, has abused power and abused people and most often people of color. I mean 2020 is going to be a year noted for protests against police brutality and also for removing a toxic and racist presence at the highest level of government and yet I feel like how tat story relates to indigenous people is still very much underrepresented. I mean, the theft of indigenous lands and the slaughter of indigenous people is one of the worst acts of genocide in human history and yet what do we know about except some story about this dude names General Custer and we have a holiday where settlers supposedly sat down and had a meal with indigenous people. Never mind all the looting and burning and raping and pillaging and murder  that took place during that time.

The reason I say all that is because we are so far past being overdue for documentaries like this, stories like this, books like this, and any other way to tell the truth of how indigenous people have been treated over the last several hundred years. This movie is definitely a step in the right direction and it's very well done, very well thought out, and crafted in a way that genuinely shows what's really going on. The stories of these women, what they've been through, and what they've accomplished is fascinating and Kring has put it on screen in a way that really gets to the heart of the emotions and the humanity behind the headlines. Moments in this movie may be shocking but they really shouldn't be because corporate America, the government, and law enforcement have been doing these kinds of things since the country was founded. It's frustrating to see and yet, the documentary is also extremely inspiring.


The Verdict:
End of the Line: The Women of Standing Rock is an essential documentary that recounts the shocking and emotional events that took place at Standing Rock. More importantly, it showcases the brave and powerful women who led the purposefully peaceful charge against the violation of their lands, their history, and their way of life.


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