10 (5) Must-see Native American Films of 2013; Members of NJ Tribe Sue Makers Of Christian Bale Film



Forget The Lone Ranger, 2013 has been a truly outstanding year for Native cinema. In addition to an always-strong slate of documentary films, among them "Indian Relay," "Urban Rez," and "Young Lakota," Native directors and actors turned in exceptional work in a number of movies. If you'd like to see some good contemporary narrative flicks by Natives or featuring Natives, here's a handful of the best:

Rhymes for Young Ghouls

The gist: Dad's a drug kingpin on a First Nations reserve -- but then, so is the teenage daughter. The Indian Agent is scum.

Why you want to see it: Crime, corruption, revenge -- it makes for a coming-of-age story more edgy than most. Throw in a dose of surrealism for good measure.



The Activist

The gist: A fictional drama involving a government plot set against the backdrop of the American Indian Movement in the 1970s.

Why you want to see it: Come on -- a political thriler with AIM at its core? This is the most intriguing idea anyone's had for a quote-unquote Indian movie in a good while.



The Lesser Blessed

At Red Nation, The Lesser Blessed was named Best Picture, and Joel Evans won Best Actor for his portrayal of a troubled teen; up the coast at AIFF, Kiowa Gordon took the prize for Best Supporting Actor. Based on the novella by Richard Van Camp, the film also stars Benjamin Bratt and Chloe Rose.



Winter In the Blood

Starring a who's-who of Native actors that includes Chaske Spencer, Julia Jones, Gary Farmer, Michael Spears and Saginaw Grant, expectations were high for Winter in the Blood, and the film largely delivered. It was the opening-night feature at the L.A. Skins Fest; won the Grand Prize at the Montreal First Peoples Festival; and at AIFF its star Chaske Spencer won Best Actor and the brother team of Alex and Andrew Smith won Best Director. Based on the novel by James Welch.



Road to Paloma

The gist: Tough guys on motorcycles riding through Monument Valley, getting into trouble with guns and sexy women.

Why you want to see it: We can't guarantee you do, actually, and it has barely showed anywhere. But it's the feature-directing debut of Native Hawaiian actor Jason Momoa (most recently seen as a recurring character on Game of Thrones) and the trailer has us intrigued. So does the cast: Lisa Bonet (Momoa's wife in real life), Native actors Wes Studi and Steve Reevis, and Sarah Shahi and Jill Wagner.



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Members of the Ramapough Native American tribe have filed a $50 million lawsuit against the makers of a recent Hollywood movie, "Out of the Furnace," they say depicts their people in a negative light.



The federal suit was filed Monday in New Jersey against the writers and producers of "Out of the Furnace." The suit claims the film makes false representations about the people who live in the Ramapo Mountains along the New York-New Jersey border about 25 miles west of New York City.

It claims that unsavory characters in the film have last names that are common among the Ramapough and that it perpetuates negative and unfounded stereotypes.

Relativity Media, which released the film this month, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press. But a representative told other news outlets that the company couldn't comment because it hadn't seen or had time to review the suit.



The movie stars Christian Bale as a man trying to find his missing brother, who has gotten involved with a bare-knuckle fighting ring in the mountains of New Jersey.

The movie's villain, played by Woody Harrelson, has the last name DeGroat, which is common among the Ramapough. Tribal members identify as descendants of the Lenape or Lunaape Nation, with some Dutch and other European ancestry in their heritage. Most of the 17 plaintiffs in the suit have the DeGroat last name.

Harrelson's character is the leader of a gang of "inbreds," according to the suit, who are depicted as lawless, drug-addicted, poor and violent, and live in the "mountains of New Jersey."

The film also uses the term "Jackson Whites," a historically derogatory term for the Ramapough, and refers to "the inbred mountain folk of Jersey," according to the suit.

The plaintiffs, who are mostly from New Jersey and New York, with one from Tennessee, seek punitive and compensatory damages and allege defamation, mental anguish and emotional distress. They say the use of the names along with the geographic location "make for a ready association between these plaintiffs and the movie."

Ramapough Chief Dwaine Perry, who is not party to the suit, held a news conference when the movie was released to denounce it as a "hate crime."

The Ramapough do not have federal recognition but identify themselves as an American ethnic group recognized as a tribe by New York and New Jersey.

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