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2009 Film Festival -- 'Good Indian,' 'Grace B. Jones,' 'Youssou N'dour'

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 19, 2009 - The Only Good Indian Directed by Kevin Willmott In John Ford's "The Searchers," a man (John Wayne) searches for his niece who was captured by Indians. "The Only Good Indian," which frames its story in a direct tribute to the classic Western, turns the premise upside down.

In the early 1900s, a young Native American boy (Winter Fox Frank) is forcibly taken away by whites to attend a boarding school that will obliterate his Indian culture and turn him into a white man. His hair is cut, his name is changed, and he is forbidden to speak his native tongue. "Charlie" rebels and soon escapes, only to find a bounty hunter -- an acculturated Cherokee named Sam Franklin (Wes Studi) -- after him. Sam wants the money, of course, but he also believes that the only way for the Indian to survive is to adopt the white man's ways.

The movie traces the journey, both literal and metaphorical, of this pair, who are then stalked by an Indian-killing sheriff. Sometimes the story-telling gets a little too clunky and didactic. But the film is worth seeing for a glimpse into an often invisible chapter of American history, Studi's nuanced performance and the golden beauty of the American heartland. -- Reviewed by Susan Hegger | Beacon staff

Saving Grace B. Jones A lot of the buzz around this movie set in central Missouri in the '50s concerns its director: Connie Stevens, who's remembered fondly by legions as Cricket Blake on "Hawaiian Eye." She has a top flight cast with Michael Biehn, Penelope Ann Miller, Piper Laurie and Tatum O'Neal, in a strong, disturbing portrayal of the title character. Landy (Biehn) is on a mission to reintegrate his sister -- who has spent more than 15 years in a gruesome asylum - into her old community in Boonville. But the story is as heavy as the clouds that dump yards of driving rain throughout the movie.

"Saving Grace B. Jones" has a lot of good elements - acting, story, visuals - but the movie also has too much of everything. It sorely needed an editor. -- Revewed by Donna Korando | Beacon staff

Youssou N'dour, Directed by Chai Vasarhelyi.

Youssou N'Dour is the best-known musician in Africa, but a few years ago he risked alienating much of his audience by composing and performing an opera meant to celebrate Islam. Many Muslims were horrified at what they saw as a profane mixing of pop music with their religion. But many others embraced the opera, called "Egypt." The movie, "Youssou N'Dour: I Bring What I Love," follows the controversy and mixes in a biographical profile of the great singer. There are concert scenes and some samples of his earlier music. I would have liked more music. -- Reviewed by Harper Barnes | Special to the Beacon