Directed by: Preston Randolph
Written by: #PrestonRandolph
Starring: Grant Bulltail
Return to Foretop's Father Movie Review
The Native American story is one of the US’s greatest shames (and that seems like it's saying something, given their current political climate). Having been marginalised, stripped of their lands, and all but forgotten by European settlers, Native Americans form a tiny proportion of modern American society and rarely find a place amongst its mostly white culture. It is their connection to nature and the land, though, that documentary #filmmaker Preston Randolph is more focused on with his short doc Return to Foretop’s Father.
Starring Grant Bulltail, a Native American elder, who is passionate about telling the stories of his ancestors and keeping their memory alive, whilst campaigning for a change in what he sees as the destructive forces in modern society. He challenges advances in technology and industry by relating them to his childhood memories of a land barely recognisable now. Where he once roamed freely and was able to see nature flourish, the land is now carved up by fences, roads, railways, and other things that divide us. His monologue becomes a call-to-arms by the final third, as Randolph adopts some theatrical techniques in order to add gravitas to the words being spoken.
Climate change is unsexy (which is why the government bods changed it from Global Warming, so we would all pipe down) and filmmakers attempting to engage audiences with #documentaries about the ailing health of our planet, regrettably, need to bring their full utility belt of tricks if they are looking to grapple the audience in. Return to Foretop’s Father does have moments of compelling cinema that use the nature of storytelling to create a powerful effect. Grant Bulltail’s narration seems bursting with wisdom and emotion, and the stunning scenery (including some impressive aerial shots) paints a picture which is vividly tragic and yet hopeful.
Regrettably, the short documentary is also dense with repetitive condemnations of modern society which leak their potency as the piece develops. Bulltail bemoans the youth’s reliance on technology like he’s saddled up to a bar and giving the same speech he gives to anyone who will listen. There is no real balance to the piece, no objection to his rhetoric - not even from himself, and the film as a whole doesn’t seem too concerned with unpicking his thoughts, rather just presenting them as promotion for his wider appeal (there is a website).
Celebrity-fronted climate change documentaries such as An Inconvenient Truth or Before the Flood have tried to grab the attention of viewers to mild effect. Preston Randolph makes a decent stab at coalescing the bleak future we face if we don’t consider our past mistakes by paralleling it with the Native American experience. However, the content needs to be far more enthralling, distressing, and willing to self-examine than this if it is going to wake anyone up.