War pony

War pony
Original title:War pony
Director:Riley Keough, Gina Gammell
Running time:115 minutes
Release date:Not communicated
Two young men from the Oglala Lakota tribe live on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. At 23, Bill is trying to make ends meet. From making deliveries to raising poodles, he is determined to achieve the American dream. As for 12-year-old Matho, he's eager to become a man. Desperately seeking his young father's approval, Matho makes a series of impulsive decisions that turn his life upside down and leave him unable to face the harsh realities of the world. Bound together by their quest to belong in a society that is hostile to them, Bill and Matho attempt to chart their own path to adulthood.

Mulder's Review

Winner of the Jury Prize and the Louis Roederer Foundation Award for Best Newcomer in 2022 at the 48th Deauville American Film Festival, War Pony Fu was previously presented at the Cannes Film Festival and will be distributed in France in 2023 by Les Films du Losange. The first film co-directed by Riley Keough and Gina Gammell certainly deserves the excellent reception it received from both the public and the critics.

American independent cinema has always known how to capture reality as it is and to be inspired by it. Far from constantly trying to impress the audience with spectacular special effects and twirling action scenes, the lack of means has often allowed young directors to propose subjects that are close to them and that have a particular resonance for them. War Pony is no exception to this rule and places the action in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The living conditions there are very difficult and has led to the emergence of numerous traffics of all kinds to allow people to survive. We will follow the paths of Bill (Jojo Bapteise Whiting) and Matho, 12 years old (LaDainian Crazy Thunder). 

Bill is trying to get back on track and take his role as a young father seriously. After many offenses such as siphoning gasoline and trafficking in opportunity, he sees raising poodles as a way to prosper and live the American dream. He also sees the opportunity to work for a turkey farmer as a way to earn a steady paycheck and be independent. As for Matho, he wants to become an adult and have his father do the same for him. However, his father, a drug dealer, is killed when Matho cuts the drugs and sells them to make some pocket money. War Pony is based on the evolution of these two young Indians and the choices they will have to make, both bad and good, to live in a hostile and dangerous environment.

The directors Riley Keough and Gina Gammell, who are also screenwriters (assisted by Franklin Sioux Bob and Bill Reddy), were able to perfectly capture the difficult living conditions on Indian reservations. By surrounding themselves with non-professional actors, an atmosphere close to reality emerges in which we follow the journey of people who have nothing extraordinary and who only wish to survive even if it means crossing the right side of the law. The careful photography of David Gallego reinforces this sensation of being immersed in the middle of an Indian reserve and enduring what these characters go through.

It is easy to understand that the theme of the passage to adulthood is at the center of this film and especially that innocence has no place in a hostile universe. Practically nobody in this film is really innocent and we discover, without being sentimental, how the Indian reserves have led people to isolate themselves far from the big American cities. We also appreciate the different messages that the film delivers, especially the manipulations within local businesses, such as the racist rancher who manipulates his relatives, lies to his wife and uses his employees to transport his Indian mistresses. 

Of course, the slow pace of the film may not please all viewers, but War Pony deserves to be discovered by the universe it describes and by its will to get out of the repetitive workings of Hollywood studio films. By its originality and its way of advocating realism, War Pony is a punchy film whose images will stay in your head long after you've seen it (especially those appearances of a wild buffalo).

War pony
Directed by Riley Keough, Gina Gammell
Produced by Riley Keough, Gina Gammell, Willi White, Bert Hamelinck, Sacha Ben Harroche, Ryan Zacarias
Written by Riley Keough, Gina Gammell, Franklin Sioux Bob, Bill Reddy
Starring Jojo Bapteise Whiting, Ladainian Crazy Thunder
Music by Christopher Stracey, Mato Wayuhi
Cinematography : David Gallego
Edited by Affonso Gonçalves, Eduardo Serrano
Production companies: Felix Culpa, Caviar, Ward Four, Protagonist Pictures, Quickfire Films, Kaleidoscope Entertainment, Centauri
Distributed by NC
Release date : May 21, 2022 (Cannes)
Running time : 115 minutes

Seen on September 5, 2022 at the Deauville international centre


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