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Series/Festivals 

Week of October 20, 2004

Black Robe Bruce Beresford. (R) Historically accurate in details of clothing and food, music and values, Black Robe unromantically chronicles the daunting, 1500-mile canoe journey in 1634 by Jesuit Father Laforgue (Lotaire Bluteau) from a northern Quebec outpost to a Huron mission far upriver. Led by Algonquin chiefs paid by the church, Laforgue finds his faith on a collision course and in crisis as he confronts radically different appearances (shaved heads, painted faces) and behavior (sharing of food and sexual activity amongst tribal members, horrendously cruel treatment of outsiders whose spirits had to be broken lest they haunt the captor for life). Shot on location in breathtaking landscapes during freezing winter months (actors wore wetsuits under their furs), this portrayal of the cultural mismatch between the French Jesuits and the tribes they sought to convert demonstrates the profound tragedy of this devastatingly misguided venture, and Beresford conveys the message not with condescension but with intense regret for what was destroyed. Black Robe screens at 8 p.m. Sunday, October 24, in the Moore Auditorium on the campus of Webster University, 470 E. Lockwood Avenue. Call 314-968-7487 for more information. (Diane Carson)

Coming to Light and Navajo Boy (both unrated) Dramatically different documentaries contribute heart and history to Webster's Indigenous Cinema series. Anne Makepeace's Coming to Light presents a wealth of images and information on Edward S. Curtis' life work: 10,000 recordings, an ethnographic film, and 20 volumes on North American Indians from 40,000 photographs. Insightful analysis examines charges of Curtis' exploiting and romanticizing Native Americans -- exactly the kind of misguided presentation exhibited in Rex Fleming's 26-minute "Navajo Boy: The Monument Valley Story" (1953). The hourlong follow-up, "The Return of Navajo Boy" (2000), shows the tragic consequences of the uranium mine on the baby taken from his Navajo family. John Cly's emotional reunion at 42 is an emblematic and heartbreaking reminder of the impact of myopic policies. Coming to Light and Curtis' 1914 In the Land of War Canoes screen at 8 p.m. Friday, October 22, with director Makepeace in attendance. Both Navajo Boy films screen at 8 p.m. Saturday, October 23, in the Moore Auditorium on the campus of Webster University, 470 E. Lockwood Avenue. Call 314-968-7487 for more information. (Diane Carson)

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