“Neither Wolf Nor Dog,” an independent film that has played in U.S. theaters longer than any other movie in a decade, is widening perspectives at 7 p.m. Friday at the Welder Center for the Performing Arts.
The film is about a Native American elder who convinces a white author to write a book about his life. The resulting road trip takes them on a journey through more than just Indian reservations in South Dakota. The film’s three protagonists are Dan the Elder played by Dave Bald Eagle, who was 95 during filming, the author Ken Nerbum played by Christopher Sweeney, and the elder’s friend Grover played by Richard Ray Whitman.
“Confronted with different perspectives on history and what it meant to them, they confront their biases,” said Omotola Lajubutu, film distribution and media coordinator. “The film challenges people to see the world differently.”
Before they became actors, Dave Bald Eagle served on D-Day during World War II and Sweeney earned the Silver Star for his service during the Gulf War. The two war veterans from different eras saw extreme combat and related to each other during the film shoot in a way that was not in the same realm with the others, said Steven Lewis Simpson, Scottish director of the film. Whitman never served in the military but spent the most number of days, 71, under fire as an activist during the occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973.
In Hollywood, this film would have addressed prejudice much like the movie “Green Book,” Simpson said. But the author in this film is a white liberal intellectual who already considers himself one of the “cool guys.” So this film shows his realization that many preconceptions exist even for him as his thoughts, attitudes and feelings are challenged along the way by first-hand experiences.
Simpson said the film appeals to an older generation searching for movies like those Hollywood used to make. This audience is not interested in Hollywood’s loud comic book movies or the cold, distant arthouse films. While many small, self-distributed independent films never see the inside of a theater, “Neither Wolf Nor Dog” has played in 200 theaters. Simpson called the fact that audiences have championed his film a “wonderful thing.”
“It means something to me to be part of something that is trying to transcend cultural barriers and bring people together, or at least widen perspectives,” Lajubutu said. “That is something I try to do in my own life, and this film played a part in helping to achieve that life philosophy.”