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THE EXILES

USA, 1961 (MIFF 1964)

Director: Kent MacKenzie

In July 1957, Kent Mac-Kenzie began a survey of Ameri­can Indian life at several Southwest Indian reservations. He found that the younger generation nowadays tends to gravitate to the big cities, and his enquiry ended fn ihe downtown slums of Los Angeles. Here be made friends with a group of young Indians who consented to a film being made about their lives. With MacKenzie as the central directing intelligence, the film was made over a period of nearly four years, with a constantly changing crew of cameramen, editors, and sound-technicians. It is a film which challenges comparison wiih previous attempts lo turn the camera on life. The young Indians play themselves, they improvise their own dialogue. The continuity is based on their sugges­tions.

These Indians, from many dfiferent tribes, lead the sad life of Ihe city's underprivileged and uneducated. Their evenings lead ihem from bar to card game, and back lo bar. The womenfolk try to make homes in conditions of overcrowding, living usually on their own earnings. Children watch the synthetic prairie of the television programmes; wives dream of better, urban, lives while al the cinema; the men drive around, pick up girls, fight, make friends; when the bars close ihe exiles try for a few hours to revive past grandeur, to cement the present togetherness of once warring tribes, to express their still unconquered defiance of the paleface in whose gutters they are now to he found. On a hill overlooking Los Angeles the drums once more ring out the challenge, but it is a grotesque version of their longings that emerges.

The Exiles has great social implications; it is also a film of interest with regard to the development of the documentary technique.

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