Sundance 2021 Review: Wild Indian

Written by Taylor Baker


In an effort to define a train of experience for Native life Wild Indian starts in the 1800’s with a man who appears to have the pox wandering west. It quickly changes course to the 1980’s where a young boy commits a murder and his friend witnesses it. We then jump time once again to 2019. It’s unclear which adult actor is portraying which child, and right when you think you have it figured out a pivotal and violent scene in a strip club occurs. Acted out by Michael Greyeyes’ M’kwa. The previous portion of the film until we arrive at this timeline was uneven at best. In this newer adult aged portion of the story though, we see grounded heart-pulling performances and a vast improvement to the editing. In the pivotal murder scene in the 1980’s there was an editing flub that undid a lot of the gravity of the moment.

Lyle Mitchell Corbine Jr. demonstrates an original voice in his directorial debut, smoothly stringing together lens movement, committed performances, a ringing tone of guilt, and an almost lovable anti-hero. It should be noted that this not only serves as his directorial debut but the first feature film screenplay he’s written. There are some exterior shots that lose the pace a bit, and editing fades that leave much to be desired. But there’s talent on display here, and when Corbine Jr. let’s the performers go the film jumps to life. I’d love to see him re-team with Greyeyes in the future.

The dramatic beats lean heavily on Gavin Brivik’s score, that’s swells queue a compassion for our anti-hero that would be hard to muster without. Eli Born provides a consistently clean shot. His images are never ugly and occasionally border on gorgeous. There’s few filmmakers at Sundance thus far that have put the ownness on the performer to make a film sing and wrote their screenplay to adequately set their performers up to do so. Though the ending doesn’t provide the payoff we as an audience want, our longing for more clarity shows how effectively it’s narrative worked.

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