Friday, December 25, 2015
December 25, 2015: Wishes for the AmericanStudies Elves: To Save the Man
[For each of the last few holiday seasons, I’ve made some requests to the AmericanStudies Elves. This year, I thought I’d highlight some amazing American stories that are ripe for telling in historical fiction films, novels, TV shows, you name it. Share the stories you’d like to see told, or any other wishes for the AS Elves, ahead of a wish-full crowd-sourced weekend post!]
On the wish that’s already been granted, in a historical film I can’t wait to see.
I’ve written in this space once or twice or a half-dozen times—or, well, an entire week’s series of posts on top of those individual ones—about John Sayles. What can I say, I don’t know of any other filmmaker who has probed our national histories, identities, and communities more consistently and more successfully than Sayles. He’s already made a number of historical films, including: the very underrated Amigo (2010), which focuses on one of the histories that I believe all Americans should better remember, our post-Spanish American War imperialistic occupation of and war in the Philippines; and the slightly higher rated but still too-often-overlooked Matewan (1987), which focuses on another such under-remembered history, the 1920 West Virginia coal wars. I know lots of film fans would hope that Steven Spielberg or Martin Scorcese might tackle a tough historical subject, but for me nothing can replace the excitement I feel when I hear that Sayles is doing so once more.
A few months ago I felt that excitement again, not only because I learned that Sayles’ next film will be such a historical drama, but also because in it he’ll be tackling an even more difficult and complex and absolutely crucial American history and story. In his upcoming To Save the Man (still in development, but I’m certainly hoping for a 2016 release), Sayles will tell the story of the young Native American students who were brought to Carlisle, Pennsylvania’s Carlisle Indian Industrial School, one of the early Native American boarding schools created as our national policies toward this community moved to embrace Captain Richard Henry Pratt (the Carlisle founder)’s motto of “Kill the Indian: Save the Man.” One of the first announced steps toward this film was a nationwide casting call for young Native American actors, a move that didn’t surprise me in the slightest but that nonetheless ramped up my excitement level for this project that much more.
You’ve already answered this wish, AmericanStudies Elves—now get to work on the other four from this week, as well as any shared in comments! Tough work, I know, but I have faith.
Crowd-sourced post this weekend,
PS. What do you think? Other wishes you’d share?