War Pony

War Pony
War Pony
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War Pony, the first feature film by Cannes Film Festival Caméra d’Or awardee for 2022 is a harrowing story of hardship and plight in Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. War Pony is a desperate journey through poverty, crime and exploitation, which won the 2022 Cannes Film Festival’s Camera d’Or for best first feature film. There are no opportunities at all in such a tough environment so one has to make tough choices. These characters try any direction they can think of with which to move forward from bad situations. Unfortunately, that just makes them dig themselves into deeper holes that they have to climb out of later on. The movie leads to strong physical reactions but you will not be left without tears after looking into this slice of life-drama.

Bill (Whiting) who is twenty-three years old lights up weed whilst listening to loud booming rap music in his old car. Bill comes home where he finds an angry mother (Colhof). Carly is serving time hence she requests him to pay her bail bond. Bill doesn’t have anything except his Playstation 4 console he wants to sell so desperately! He sees a mud-covered poodle sitting in the front yard when he departs from it shortly afterward.Bill picks up the dog and walks down the road trying to find its home.

On another part of the reservation, twelve-year-old Matho (Crazy Thunder) throws a house party with his unruly friends. They decide that Elias (Lone Elk), his abusive and neglectful father, has hidden methamphetamine somewhere on their property and come up with a crazy idea what to do about it. The boys visit drug dens where they mix real drugs with Epsom salt in order to mislead drug addicts. They instead find themselves being chased down by an infuriated customer when he realizes that they had cheated him.Tim is furious with them as this backfires spectacularly.

Bill plans on buying the poodle since there will be some valuable puppies for it. They meet by chance and it leads to a drive looking for people who may want to buy their puppies in the future. He is a white poultry farmer called Tim (Hollander) who has a flat-tire on his truck and a Lakota mistress (Colhoff). Would Bill fix her car and take her home with him, he would offer him a couple of hundred dollars? The fact that Bill keeps this private brings him another job opportunity from Tim. Meanwhile, Elias finds Matho’s theft and attacks the boy as well. As Matho looks for somewhere else to live, Bill gets even further entangled with Tim.

Riley Keough (The Girlfriend Experience) and Gina Gammell (Sweet Lamb of Heaven) have taken the cinéma vérité route when looking at life on Pine Ridge Reservation. In a reverse perspective we are watching bill and mathro like birds over their shoulders.Their wants are immediate in trying to solve them.Bill has two children, an angry ex, and disappointed mother (Schmockel), Echo which is their second son’s name. Since seeing him briefly at the reservation gas station yesterday she can hardly bear to look at him.Matho’s predicament is dire.He’s homeless,penniless,and desperate for shelter.That environment becomes fertile ground for those who would use young kids for wicked purposes.They both become ensnared in deepening conflict that almost ends badly.

There is a realistic frank portraiture of indigenous life. Nobody is rich. There are some hard scrabbles to make money in any way possible. For this reason, theft and drug dealing become easy liquidity routes. This shows that it is not a voluntary enterprise on the part of Keough and Gammell. He takes care of her poodle with all his might that people think he is foolish but see himself breeding dogs for real future years too come and beyond as well as Bill thinks.

It’s a dog light in the night which Bill loves/cant help but embrace. Matho has harder complications as left behind street/band/young one (and 9 other variations). It was pitiful to watch him receive blow after blow. He moves like a tumbleweed blown by the wind even if sometimes can be poetic. I find his scenes drinking, doing drugs and breaking into homes for food highly disturbing.

War Pony loses its footing in a rushed third act (70). It’s not fair to generalize about this since there are certain important points made but the climax doesn’t really add up to the established exposition (72). The relationship with Bill and Tim comes to a head in an artificial way or forced ending (81). Bill isn’t anyone’s yes man or fool, he understands where he belongs in Tim’s world (85). A paycheck keeps him true; through racial insults from Tim’s wife Ashley Shelton, he knows he has got bills to pay (89-94) . His ultimate confrontation with Tim seems like something predetermined towards an action flick script (99).

The ending smacks unbelievable when everything so far had been credible. Similarly, Matho goes against this criticism too because for one thing – who knows what these two words mean? We have characters guided spiritually by Lakota culture according to Keough and Gammell(47). They should stand together by their belief and follow signs that will lead them into the right direction(49). It’s too airy for me. Matho is being educated by public school; a young boy at that. Every teacher sees his or her distress and calls children’s services all the time (54). The practical solution to his problems aren’t cinematic enough (56). It doesn’t have to be. With Matho’s reckless juvenile behavior, the film has already immersed us.

War Pony is at its narrative best when it highlights the extraordinary hardships and economic disparity of reservation life. It’s a state of hopelessness from where there is nothing more you can do but struggle through with minimal living. Lakota people lost their lands, were decimated and underwent re-education calamity(18). Bill and Matho belong to another generation in a line paying for American dream again.

Felix Culpa and Caviar presented War Pony on screen (8). A limited release in theaters right now, with Momentum Pictures offering Video On Demand access beforehand.

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