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Update to Frozen River Post, 3/09

10 August 2009

A conversation with our friend Kevin made me think some more about this film and how Frozen River was viewed from the Mohawk perspective.

This is from ‘Frozen River’ Draws Mixed Reaction’, an article by Denise A, Raymo published in The Press-Republican (Plattsburgh), March 29.

Glory Cole, director of the Akwesasne Library and Cultural Center,…asked patrons who have checked [the DVD] out and the staff who have watched what they thought of ‘Frozen River.’ “Most of them said it made us look pretty bad. But I told them, ‘It’s just a movie. It’s meant to be entertaining. It wasn’t billed as a documentary.’….But Cole said she does wonder about the impression viewers from other parts of the United States are left with concerning Akwesasne Mohawks and American Indians in general….” A majority of the movie was filmed in Plattsburgh, which is what surprised some Mohawk people who saw it. “The only thing anybody really recognized around here was in the beginning of the movie, and that was the sign on the bridge to Canada,” Cole said…. She said many remarked on the misrepresentation of certain well-known Akwesasne sites, such as the Tribal Council Community Building and the Mohawk Bingo Palace, which are both large, bright structures, not the small, dingy buildings depicted in the film.

Shannon Burns, editor of the Indian Time newspaper on the Mohawk territory, said she interviewed Hunt in 2004, when the director was researching a short feature on the reservation, but could not get her questions answered or telephone calls returned once the full-length movie was out. “The premise of the film isn’t good for Akwesasne,” Burns said in a February editorial. “Camp-dwellers who smuggle humans across the river? It’s not that anyone here thinks we don’t have crime, but don’t we have enough real crime and a bad enough reputation without films that give an entirely false impression of the Mohawk community?”

Doug George-Kanentiio, former editor of Akwesasne Notes and co-founder of the Native American Journalists Association, said ‘Frozen River’ is flawed. “The reservation is perceived as a place to be feared, the Mohawks grim and dangerous,” he said in a recent editorial piece. “There is nothing appealing about reservation life — no mention of our schools, ceremonies, health centers or arena. “We remain a vague people, distrustful of the outside world, even as we seek to use our status as an indigenous community for profit and without any consideration for those we exploit along the way,” George-Kanetiio said. “I hope this movie will result in a better one told from our perspective –someday, perhaps.”

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