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Categories: Movie Reviews

Jack Pettibone Riccobono’s documentary, co-executive produced by Terrence Malick, is a worthwhile watch.

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At first glance, I can understand why maverick film-maker Terrence Malick (who co-exec-produces The Seventh Fire alongside Chris Eyre and Natalie Portman, who also co-produced her recent Western starrer Jane Got a Gun), would pick this as a suitable subject for a documentary. It very much captures the very kind of world he likes to inhabit, of communities and cultures at a point of change or decline. Be it Sheen and Spacek in Badlands or the soldiers heading to battle in The Thin Red Line, Malick is very much a commentator on how those elements are defined.

Shot on digital and directed by Jack Pettibone Riccobono, The Seventh Fire is set against the backdrop of a White Earth Indian Reservation in Pine Point, Minnesota. It chronicles the lives and desperation of people who have come to accept that the history and definition of their culture is in decline, whilst not attempting to adapt to a better sense of belonging. Drugs and addiction are standard and the lack of consideration for consequences prevail.

Politicians often ignore these types of communities, focusing on the technological and social infrastructure in more urban contexts, but they can only be partly to blame, as the inhabitants on this community have self-inflicted a lot of their problems. As one individual notes towards the end of the film, it is very much about tradition whilst appreciating that there is a need to break the cycle of tradition to improve their standing and perspective in the world. Drugs and violence are infectious and certainly don’t contribute any real desire to change what most of them want. The sad reality of this community is that they are clearly a smart, intelligent community, but have come to accept their lot in life.

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At 72 minutes long, it is a compact analysis of the world, and by focusing on one or two individuals within what is clearly a broad spectrum of concern and problem, it does succeed for the most part in conveying the desperation and complacency of people who are trapped by their circumstances and actions. One upside of the documentary is that it could increase awareness of the community and perhaps, like An Inconvenient Truth, heighten the desire to improve their lot. There are possibilities and programs that are referred to in the documentary and indeed, one of the young men does speak to a representative about possibly attending. Will he capitalize? Who knows.

Overall, though, the film will not get as wide exposure in a theatrical context as something like a Michael Moore film or An Inconvenient Truth might, which is a shame considering the producing talent. It’s length makes it more suitable to a 9pm slot on prime-time television, but the level of profanity might also work against it, along with moments of grounded violence encompassing the frustrations of the people. 

All things considered, do seek out The Seventh Fire where possible. It does make a valid statement and point about an ever-declining society.

The Seventh Fire is out now on DVD.

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Posted on Jun 27, 2016

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