While Valerie Red-Horse Mohl's Mankiller never quite lives up to the legendary status of its namesake, Wilma Mankiller, the film's straightforward approach to telling Mankiller's story works quite nicely in sharing the story of a woman who overcame rampant sexism and immense personal challenges to become the Cherokee Nation's first woman Principal Chief in 1985.
It was under Mankiller's leadership that the Cherokee Nation became one of the most economically and culturally successful tribes in America, yet the woman who started out life the daughter of a Native American and European and married young grew into her leadership slowly, patiently as she embraced her heritage and worked with the Black Panther and Alcatraz occupation movements after relocating from Oklahoma to San Francisco then moving back to Oklahoma in the 70's.
While Mankiller may be a straightforward documentary, Wilma Mankiller has anything but a straightforward story and with a patient, quiet filmmaking style Valerie Red-Horse Mohl embraces Mankiller's steady approach to leadership and is very similar in the way she constructs this never less than involving feature doc that will screen as an Official Selection during the 2018 Heartland International Film Festival in Indianapolis from Oct. 11-21, 2018.
Mankiller has already proven to be successful on the festival circuit with prizes at BZN International Film Festival (Jury Award, BZN Spirit Award), Maoriland Film Festival (Best Documentary Feature), Palm Springs International Film Festival (Audience Award), Rome International Film Festival, USA (Best Documentary Feature), Tulsa American Film Festival (Best Documentary Feature), and United Nations Association Film Festival (UNAFF/Stanford Video Award for Editing).
Mankiller would be a marvelous companion doc feature to this year's RBG, the latter being a more familiar doc about a more familiar badass superhero of sorts in Ruth Bader-Ginsburg. While Mankiller may be less known, she's certainly no less badass.
Mankiller, who passed away in 2010 from complications related to cancer, dipped into personal strengths and cultural experiences never before seen in Indigenous leadership when she became the Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation. Openly acknowledging that she experienced far greater discrimination as a woman than she ever did as an Indian, Mankiller's intelligence, perseverance, and passion for her people is so inspirational that it largely overcomes the doc's mostly paint-by-numbers approach to telling her story.
In an age, however, when far too many docs rely on gimmicks and special effects, it's rather refreshing to have a documentary that simply tells the story and, indeed, what an incredible story is being told here.
Mankiller will screen three times during Heartland:
- Oct. 12th @ 8:45pm - AMC Castleton Square 14
- Oct. 14th @ 8:00pm - AMC Showplace Traders Point 12
- Oct. 18th @ 12:00 pm - AMC Castleton Square 14
For ticket information, visit the Heartland website.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic