SUNDANCE: Lyle Mitchell Corbine Jr.’s debut film “WILD INDIAN” digs deep into two mens’ mutual and dark secret

A secret tragedy that two men carry into adulthood. A tragedy born from hundreds of years of betrayal, genocide and the lasting effect this country’s racism and constant suppression of the Native American people and their way of life has had.

Throughout the decades, there have been films (but not nearly enough) that honestly attempt to transmit the narrative of Native Americans’ life. Yet, only a handful of these stores are created, written, and, or directed, by Indigenous people.

Lyle Mitchell Corbine Jr.’s “Wild Indian” is a bold and emotionally gripping film that tells the story of two Anishinaabe childhood friends who share a violent past tragedy. Because of this, as adults, the lives of the two men have taken quite different paths. But the memory that remains has shaped who they are.

Michael Greyeyes (featured image) is Makwa, a man raised by alcoholic parents who carries around a self-hatred burnished into him by the treatment received by said parents and the Christian school he attended.

Makwa is now called Michael and has a wife (Kate Bosworth) and a baby, yet is as distanced from them as he is everything else in his life. This character has a debilitating anger and self-loathing within him born from a disconnect from his culture.

It is a challenging role and Michael Greyeyes gives a tremendously intense and personal performance.

Chaske Spencer plays Teddo, a heartbreaking figure. Coming out of jail, he is defeated by his past and carries with him a shame. Spencer shows us a man who wants to change and find the inherent kindness that is buried inside him, but Teddo must exorcise this dark memory. The actor plays his character with a sensitivity that gives the audience hope that Teddo can find his way to a better life. But this is not to be.

Time has forced two men to wipe away the detritus they have left behind and confront the history that has defined them.

Teddo is on a mission to cleanse his soul. Michael refuses to be confronted with a memory he buried and does everything he can to remove himself from any guilt or responsibility.

The character of Michael does bad things. He acts out his rage in dangerous ways. Dangerous to those around him and dangerous to his soul. Michael does bad things but is not necessarily a bad person. Toward the film’s end, we begin to see deeper inside this man as he digs into his own character.

Corbine Jr.’s first feature film about identity proves the filmmaker to be an intense storyteller.

This piece is one of atonement for its characters. Teddo has come as far as he can go. Michael still has a long path to take.

There can be no peace for Michael, but perhaps understanding and self-forgiveness can be found.

A wound in Michael’s arm will not heal because he ignores it. It is symbolic of the wound that the Native American people feel every day and have felt for generations. A constant open wound that only gets worse with time.

It is past time to see the stories of Native Americans existing in a country that was stolen from them and one that has all but turned its back on their culture and their people. We need to see the effect a distorted history has on the Indigenous people of this country.

Lyle Mitchell Carbine Jr.’s “Wild Indian” is a powerful and raw film that tears into the emotions of its characters. A film about tragedy that also coaxes the good out of broken souls.