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The body of Annie Mae Aquash, a young American Indian woman who fought for social justice, was found in aravine on the Pine Ridge Reservation in 1 976. Her death was attributed to exposure, her hands severed and sent to Washington, D.C.. ostensibly for identification, and she was buried in an unmarked grave. Later, the body was exhumed and a second pathologist found a bullet in her brain.
Annie Mae's migration is traced in first person narrative trom her reservation to urban existence and back to the reservation, where she was arrested without a warrant during a paramilitary invasion of an Indian spiritual gathering. Traditional and reportage documentary style are used to explore Annie Mae's life as pertinent questions are answered by friends, family, political compatriot and adversary.
In following Annie Mae's life, the film sheds light on government efforts to immobilize the American Indian Movement, particularly after two FBI agents were killed on the Pine Ridge Reservation in 1 975. Factual information is supported by stock footage of the Trail of Broken Treaties, Custer Court House Incident, Wounded Knee Occupation and relevant newscasts, as well as graphics, historical and personal photographs.
Although the film is a portrait of Annie Mae — what she lived for and ultimately died for — a personal perspective of recent Native American history also emerges.
Lan Brookes Ritz moved to film from an art and design background with a first credit as costumer on an independent feature starring Martin Sheen and directed by Clyde Ware. In broadening her experience on other independent features, commercials and documentaries, Ms Ritz held positions as set decorator, prop-mistress, second unit script supervisor. production photographer, assistant to the producer and floor manager on a cable TV series. Pursuing her own vision. Ms Ritz planned an aesthetic and lyrical film about a south-western Pueblo, but in the research stage the project took on a more serious form as she dedicated her efforts to Annie Mae — Brave Hearted Woman, a feature-length documentary which has consumed her attention for the past four years. The film, winner of several awards, focuses on the long-standing and pervasive problems of Native Americans and was written, produced and directed by Lan Brookes Ritz.