Big Bear In two parts – I – 1875, and the buffalo on the verge of disappearance. Cree leader Big Bear is attempting to negotiate for his band with the Canadian government who wish him to sign the treaty and select a reserve. As the band starves and conditions worsen the more radical young warriors, such as his son Little Bad Man, grow in power. Part II: When they hear of the Metis victory at Duck Lake, in the spring of 1885, Little Bad Man and Wandering Spirit (the war chief) take control of the band and attack the whites at the settlement at Frog Lake, later capturing and burning Fort Pitt. They are hunted by government troops whom they force to retreat but Big Bear’s scattered band soon surrenders, resulting in execution for some leaders and prison for Big Bear.
A mini epic with a subject matter and artistic style worthy of the length
Big Bear, Canada just keeps getting better at making these pioneer pieces. BIG BEAR is a mini-epic that tells the story of a rebel chief who refused to accept inferior land from the Canadian government at the expense of a better, long term future for his people. Although his decision brought short term tragedies to his people and himself, his name remains synonymous with one who has enough foresight and will power to not compromise his principles. The short term tragedies are heart wrenching: the killing of dogs and horses to stave off starvation, the prostitution of young women to get meat from the powers that be, the pressure put on them by other First Nations people to accept the treaty land, and the sub plot of defending Louis Riel and the Metis. This is Gil Cardinal’s best film to date. Yes, nepotism abounds: the film has more Cardinals than the Vatican. However, that this film is a quasi-family affair only accentuates the love Cardinal has put into this film. The camera work symbolism(the buffalo vanishing off the face of the earth, Big Bear’s spirit shape shifting into a block of stone)all come off masterfully. Co-author Rudy Wiebe’s white man “garble talk” is a nice in-joke penance to all the Hollywood films that had the Indians speaking gibberish.
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