ABOUT: “War Pony” follows the interlocking stories of two young Oglala Lakota men growing up on the Pine Ridge Reservation. At 23, Bill just wants to make something of himself. Whether it’s delivering goods or breeding Poodles, he is determined to hustle his way to the “American Dream”. Meanwhile, 12-year-old Matho can’t wait to become a man. Desperate for approval from his young father, a series of impulsive decisions turns Matho’s life upside down and he finds himself unequipped to deal with the harsh realities of the adult world. Bound by their shared search for belonging, each of the boys grapple with identity, family, and loss, as they navigate their unique paths to manhood.
JASON’S REACTION: I am glad to see actor-turned-filmmaker Riley Keough (most famous to me for her role in my favourite movie of the 2010s, MAD MAX FURY ROAD) as a part of telling this coming of age story. Being from Canada, this depiction is a far cry than what Native Canadian stories typically do, and it’s quite interesting to see a few unique subjects hanging on as best as they can while also trying to maintain family and their work with a lot of troubling, conflicting people around our leads.
Not all of the subjects are awesome people and not without their flaws, but I admired how the filmmakers took their time and let the actors improvise and a lot of interesting themes played out in an interesting way. It’s also a very good looking picture, shot with anamorphic lenses and making great use of the wide frame. Ultimately this will be a hard sell with wider audiences but I am very happy I gave this one a shot. It’s still playing in festivals (ever since Cannes, where the SxSW programming team mentioned where they saw the picture) and I’m unsure where it would really go from here as it only had the single screening at the festival and hasn’t played much elsewhere, but certainly worth a look if you can find it.
This film and many others like it showed at South By Southwest this year from March 10-19. For more information on this and other titles, point your browser to www.sxsw.com!