qathet film society presents
3 Ears Indigenous Film Festival

War Pony

War Pony

Sunday October 1 — 7 pm

Director: Riley Keough, Gina Gammell
With: Anjeliq Aurora, Sean Baker, Iona Red Bear
1h 55m

At 23, Bill (Jojo Bapteise Whiting) just wants to make something of himself. Whether it’s siphoning gas, delivering goods or breeding Poodles, he is determined to hustle his way to the “American Dream”. Meanwhile, 12-year-old Matho (LaDainian Crazy Thunder) can’t wait to become a man. Desperate for approval from his young father, a series of impulsive decisions turns Matho’s life upside down and he finds himself unequipped to deal with the harsh realities of the adult world.

The tenderness, wisdom and instinct to survive of two teenage males is beautifully observed in actor-turned-director Riley Keough’s debut feature. It’s an evocative tale of recurrent tribulation and dogged community spirit—Native strivers and hustlers roam the brutal clime of the Pine Ridge Reservation in search of a life raft to another day. To understand the plight affecting those Oglala Lakota and Sicangu Lakota citizens of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and Rosebud Sioux Tribe, one must first be aware of the broken treaties that lead to their contemporary settlement and the tribal sovereignty that now governs these areas.

The film won the Caméra d’Or for best first feature at last year’s Cannes film festival, but as Gammell and Keough would be the first to admit, this is not a film driven by an overriding directorial vision. Instead, it’s a collaborative work, woven from the first-hand experiences of the film’s Native American co-writers, Franklin Sioux Bob and Bill Reddy. They give a vivid, fleshed-out account of Pine Ridge, but are not, it’s fair to say, in the business of romanticising the realities of reservation living.

Awards and Accolades

2022 – Cannes Film Festival: Winner: Camera d’Or

2022 – Valladolid International Film Festival: Meeting Point Best Feature

2022 – Deauville Film Festival: The Louis Roederer Foundation Revelation Prize

2022 – Deauville Film Festival: Jury Prize

2022 – Munich Film Festival: Honorable Mention: CineVision Award

2022 – Zurich Film Festival: Special Mention: Golden Eye (Feature Film)

2022 – Torino Film Festival: Holden Award for Best Script

2022 – Torino Film Festival: Best Actor