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By Ray Pride Pride@moviecitynews.com

The Exiles (1961, ****)



Milestone Films, one of the most important distributors of gone-missing films from international film heritage, including Killer of Sheep and I Am Cuba, releases Kent McKenzie’s The Exiles presented by Charles Burnett and Sherman Alexie, a restoration of an almost-unseen 1961 fiction film in film noir tradition, the story of Native Americans in Los Angeles’ Bunker Hill District as they struggle during the Bureau of Indian Affairs “relocation period.” Glistening with bright light and darkening sorrow, the no-budget Exiles, shot in 1958 on short ends, was indie decades before the slapdash label was applied to many an undernourished project. It’s a narrative based on extensive documentary research that plays out as a day in the life of several native Americans in their twenties who have left the reservation for the big city, and the result is mood and moment, anthropology and melancholy. The sound design is unusually strong, creating a sense of a bustling, vital world now passed, and the general enterprise bears modest comparison to the early work of Cassavetes. It’s also a fugitive capsule of a moment, shaped, heightened, at small remove from its practical locations captured on-screen. It’s an action movie, in the best sense of the phrase. The double-disc edition includes scenes from Bunker Hill in 1956 and “Bunker Hill: A Tale of Urban Renewal”; clips from Thom Andersen’s Los Angeles Plays Itself, commentary by Sherman Alexie and Sean Axmaker; shorts by Mackenzie, and “the first Native American Film,” “White Fawn’s Devotion,” as well as a stills gallery, an episode of the Leonard Lopate Show with Sherman Alexie and Charles Burnett. Text material includes a production history, a 1956 funding proposal, the final script and original publicity material from 1963, along with Mackenzie’s master’s thesis on the making of the film and his last resume. [Ray Pride.] Film website. And a tribute skateboard design.

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