|Suggested and recommended movies that may
be of interest to those who are interested in survival, tracking, and nature.
Please note that the movies listed here are more of the
"entertainment" variety, rather than of the "instructional"
send recommendations for the Movie List to
Native People Survival
Tracking The way of the Scout
Social, environmental, and related issues
(released March 14, 2003) Tom Brown Jr. served as Technical
Advisor for this movie.
For lots more info on The Hunted, click
- At Play in the Fields of the Lord
A movie about white people and remote native tribes and the disastrous
consequences of their interaction.
- Black Robe
This is a story of Father Laforgue, a young French Jesuit missionary to
the Huron in Quebec. The year is 1634. The colony leader, Champlain, persuades Chomina, an
Algonquin chief, to escort the priest to Huron country. Chomina is accompanied by his wife
and beautiful daughter (Annuka) and a number of Algonquins who have agreed to act as
guides. The young Danial goes along as interpretor.
Laforgue wants to understand the Indians in order to "save the
savages' souls." But he has severely skewed vision. He is lonely, constantly flashing
back to his youth in France. The lodges the Indians build for shelter at night are crowded
and definitely not private. He is afraid of the forest, which is simultaneously beautiful
and foreboding, threatening. At one point, the Laforgue gets lost in the forest and
becomes absolutely panic stricken. He tells Daniel: 'I am afraid of this country. The
devil rules here. It controls the hearts and minds of these people.This is totally alien
to his Algonquin escorts.
Meanwhile, Daniel finds love in the person of Annuka. Laforgue
flagellates himself to stop from thinking sexual thoughts that started when he witnesses
people making love. The priest can, perhaps, control himself, but he can not find
convincing words to talk Daniel out of the relationship.
Father Laforgue's faith is severely tested, as is his courage when he
and his Algonquin escorts are captured by Iroquois. Some of the party are killed and
others tortured. Laforgue has a finger cut off. The party manages to escape, but Chomina
dies at a place he has seen in his dreams. Meanwhile, the priest has come to a certain
respect for the chief and he discovers a love he had not suspected.
Nobody is really very pretty in this movie, yet beautiful aspects of
Indian life and faith shine through anyway. This film is raw, violent, engaging,
Black Robe is as raw as the times it portrays.
Chomina tells of changes brought by the whites: "But we accepted
their gifts. We have come to need them. This is our undoing. It will be our end." And
in the end we see the devastating effect that European diseases had on Native Americans.
Indian languages are supposedly accurate. There are English subtitles
when people speak native languages.
There are good and bad whites, good and bad Indians. And sometimes the
good and the bad are the same people. After being tortured, the Algonquin chief asks
Daniel "You want to be one of us. What do you think now?" Daniel replies that
the Iroquois are animals. "They are the same as us," Chomina responds. The
Algonquins would have done the same thing to Iroquois prisoners.
We see Christians who are so dogmatic and fanatic in their
righteousness that we understand a little what drove men like Laforgue to travel halfway
around the world to be a martyr.
Details of buildings, hunting methods, cooperation between people to
survive the climate, all are extremely accurate.
Indians are shown with their own religious beliefs, and they neither
want nor need the religion Father Laforgue brings. In other areas of life, they are as
human in and of themselves as the French. But are tender and humorous, vulgar and dirty.
- Dances With Wolves
Set in the days when the "wild west" was indeed wild, this is the
famous movie about an army officer sent to man a post in "Indian country" by
himself. He eventually adopts Native ways, and is given the Indian name,
"Dances With Wolves" by them. A wonderful tale, although some say it is
unrealistic and overly romantices the Native way of life of that period. Starring
- Education of Little Tree - based on the book of the same name
- The Emerald Forest
About a white man's son who is kidnapped as a little boy by natives in South
America. He grows up and is eventually instrumental in stopping a huge dam project
that his father is in charge of.
- Fly With the Hawk
A Canadian movie about a disturbed teenager who is swept downstream after a
canoeing accident. He is rescued by a older man who lives in the woods
primitive-survival-style. The old man teaches the boy everything he knows, then
sends him off to live on his own for the winter. The teenager experiences a personal
transformation and returns to civilization. A wonderful surprise ending (which I
won't tell you here)!
- The Last of the Mohicans
The plot centers on an old Mohican, his son,
and his adopted son, against the backdrop conflict of the wars amongst the
English, French, and Native North Americans. The movie combines
elements of native life, colonial life, romance, adventure, and war; there
are hunters, farmers, wilderness runners, soldiers, and other characters who
are all windows through which the viewer may picture pieces of the recent
history. I believe the movie was filmed in British Columbia, but I
could be wrong. It is definitely worth watching, and should especially
captivate people who are interested in native life and wilderness living.
(review by Jeremy St. Onge)
- The Mission
This movie is a powerful statement about the destruction of the Native way of
life in South America by the missionaries and white people in general.
Pathfinder is a foreign film about the journey of a
young Saami boy who becomes the tribal shaman. It has subtitles, and is very
authentic looking, depicting the life of the people who tend the reindeer in
N. Europe. I have watched it several times and really enjoyed it.
(review by David Smuin)
- Powwow Highway
Philbert Bono stops in for a beer at a place in
Lame Deer, Montana (on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation). We immediately see he is a
different kind of man. When people talk to him he may or may not answer, or even nod, but
just smile. He catches a televised used car salesman wearing a warbonnet: "How,
folks! This old cowboys on the warpath with heap big savings.... Come on down off the res
and pick out your pony today.... Never any money down. Easy credit terms available."
Philbert watches dreamily.
Next day he goes to a local Indian junk lot and tells the guy there
"I want to buy one of your fine ponies." As he looks over the rust-on-wheels
selection, he sees a vision of horses running, and when they horses disappear, he is
looking at one particular hulk, which he buys for pocket money and other items he's
carrying. He names his automotive pony "Protector."
Roger Ebert opens his review of this film this way: "Anyone who
can name his 1964 Buick 'Protector' and talk to it like a pony has a philosophy we can
At the same time, there is a big vote coming up in the tribal council
concerning mineral rights on the reservation. Buddy Red Bow, a modern, type-A Vietnam Vet,
old AIM Radical and fighter at Wounded Knee II, spends a lot of his time and energy trying
to keep the mineral company interests in check. So the powers that be arrest his sister in
New Mexico on trumped up drug charges. When Buddy finds out, he takes a fistful of tribal
money (meant to pay for stud bulls) and gets ready to bail Bonnie out of jail. He
sweettalks Philbert into driving him down there in his new pony, Protector.
But Philbert lives his dreams, and winds up taking the very long way to
New Mexico, much to Buddy's constant exasperation. They visit the Black Hills where Phil
has a vision of being given sacred arrows. Then Philbert won't leave the area until they
go to a powwow at Pine Ridge. As they travel, Buddy asks Philbert what he remembers about
their childhood. We see Buddy's flashback where is is running to catch a football and
slams into a young Philbert who is as heavy as the adult is. Buddy was not nice, taunting:
"Stupid dough-boy. it would have killed me if I hadn't bounced off."
Philbert maintains that he doesn't remember much, that Budy played a
lot of military games like football, but Bonnie was nice to him. Phil's flashback: he is
sitting on the ground after colliding with Buddy, and Bonnie brings him a
hope-you're-all-right offering of a banana. So we see that these two partners on this trip
have known each other forever, but were not necessarily friends.
And Protector keeps chugging away.
Earlier we saw in a very funny scene, that Buddy did not even know what
his people's language sounded like, let alone speak it. He asks Philbert why he doesn't
dress right if he's a real warrior. Phil answers with his mouth full. "That
Cheyenne?" Buddy asks. Philbert rearranges the food and answers again: "I got no
bread for buckskins." When, Phil pulls over and wades out into an icy stream to chant
to the rising sun, we hear Buddy howl - again - "You dumb shit!" He tries to get
Philbert back into the car, and winds up chanting alongside his friend, hesitantly and
very self-consciously, but chanting nonetheless. We get the impression that he is a Modern
Indian on a road of relearning what The People are all about.
At Pine Ridge they meet a couple of Buddy's old war pals, one of whom
is moving to Denver, so they offer him and his wife a ride. Again, Philbert finds a
detour, this time to Ft. Robinson, Nebraska, one of the deadly places for the Northern
Cheyenne on their trek north in 1879.
Philbert tells a wonderful story of Wotiyo the trickster. Buddy makes
fun of Phil for paying so much attention to all the old stories. "Too bad the stories
don't tells us how to keep our reservations from turning into sewers." Philbert
insists that the outside interests won't be able to take away the natural resources.
"Wotiyo the trickster won't let them," he explains. "For Wotiyo is also the
creator of the universe. He will play a little trick on the white man. You wait and
Protector keeps chugging away, though belching a bit more oil-smoke
exhaust than before. Finally they get to Santa Fe and, through a series of tricks
and coincidences, they rescue Bonnie. Everything turns out all right for everybody: Even
the money for the bulls for the tribe that Buddy spent is restored. There is one major
casualty, however. Protector crashes and burns.
As Philbert and Buddy travel, we get the sense
that Philbert does everything from an ancient way of seeing the universe. He never tries
to justify what he's doing, or why. He just does it, ignoring the pleas and protests of
all those around him who simply don't understand. It's almost as if Philbert is a modern
trickster. If those around him can, there is much to learn from him. For the trickster
never played his tricks for fun or to harm; there was always a lesson to be learned.
The film shows a full community of friends and relatives. It shows that
the Indian community still lives and survives in the face of a modern world that sometimes
doesn't even realize there's a battle going on.
- Smoke Signals
--says one Tracker, "Modern day native story. None of the stoic, romantic
hooey, just people. Funny, sad, but very poignant. Native made, native actors."
This movie is about a part-native FBI agent who discovers his native
roots. Actor Graham Greene plays a Native police officer who is skilled in
- Where The River Runs Black
About a boy in the jungles of South America, the son of a native Indian woman
and a young priest (both of whom are dead). He gets kidnapped by white men and the
church tries to "civilize" him. He eventually escapes and returns to his
wilderness home to swim amongst the dolphins who protect him (no, it's not corny).
Based on a legend of the area.
- Nanook of the North
A friend lent me a video, Nanook of the North, a documentary
made by Robert Flaherty, in 1922, about an Eskimo clan living in the Hudson
Bay area. No Hollywood trick photography here, it's awesome if you can find
a copy. I watched the hour long film, five times already. Nanook means bear,
and he has earned his name, he brings eight polar bear hides to the trader
as part of the year's catch, all were killed with a harpoon! The ruggedness
of the land and it's people are depicted, as well as their resourcefulness.
Nanook get drqgged across the ice as he struggles to hold onto a seal he has
harpooned, and a group of them hold onto a sealskiin line, as a two ton
walrus struggles in the surf to escape them, after it was stalked and
harpooned on the beach. Butchering, dogsledding, building an igloo, spearing
salmon while laying on the ice, it's all in there. A condensed version of
one year of his life. My highest recommendations! (review by "Wildman")
- The Fast Runner (aka Atanarjuat)
The movie shows the lifeways of the Inuit people. The
storyline is based on an ancient legend. It was filmed entirely on site by
an all Inuit crew.
Here is their description of the film:
Igloolik is a community of 1200 people located on a small island in the
north Baffin region of the Canadian Arctic with archeological evidence of
4000 years of continuous habitation. Throughout these millennia, with no
written language, untold numbers of nomadic Inuit renewed their culture and
traditional knowledge for every generation entirely through storytelling.
Our film Atanarjuat is part of this continuous stream of oral history
carried forward into the new millennium through a marriage of Inuit
storytelling skills and new technology. Atanarjuat is Canada's first
feature-length fiction film written, produced, directed, and acted by Inuit.
An exciting action thriller set in ancient Igloolik, the film unfolds as a
life-threatening struggle between powerful natural and supernatural
characters. Atanarjuat gives international audiences a more authentic view
of Inuit culture and oral tradition than ever before, from the inside and
through Inuit eyes.
For countless generations, Igloolik elders have kept the legend of
Atanarjuat alive to teach young Inuit the danger of setting personal desire
above the needs of the group.
The tale of making the film is itself made up of many stories..
- Darsu Uzala (is this the correct spelling?) - shows some survival
- The Edge
--one reviewer says, "Excellent survival scenarios, edge of your seat scenes."
--another reviewer says, "Grade A actors in a grade "B" movie. Very
unrealistic and hard-to-believe survival scenes and some very questionable techniques,
such as tossing a torch and suddenly -"poof"- there's a large protective circle
of fire around the characters. In another part of the movie they tan a bear hide in
only a few hours. This movie is definitely not an "in harmony with nature"
movie, with the main characters being relentlessly chased by a mean-spirited bear.
- Naked Into the Wilderness:
John McPherson has put together a series of instructional videos with this title.
Although they move very slowly in parts, they are very detailed. There are many
close-up shots of what is being done.
- Quest For Fire:
Portrays a primitive society in their quest to find a source of fire.
Much of this movie was filmed on the Bruce Peninsula (Ontario, Canada).
- Survival Quest:
"The motion picture Survival Quest tells the exciting
action/adventure story of six people enrolled in a wilderness survival
school. Pushed to their limits by instructor Hank Chambers (played by actor
Lance Henriksen of Millennium, Aliens, etc.), his students learn to
forge raging waters, forage for food, and to trust one another with their
lives. Hank teaches them mountaineering and takes them on an arduous climb
to a snow-covered peak where they must dig into an ice cave to survive the
bitterly cold night. When they are at last ready, their instructor sends
them into the forest alone without equipment or supplies, counseling them
that "...survival in the wilderness is a matter of heart not
hardware". The ultimate test of their newly-acquired skills however, is
suddenly thrust upon them by a horrifying, violent accident that pits them
against an unexpected enemy who sends them on a desperate race for
Writer/Director Don Coscarelli (PHANTASM, BEASTMASTER) takes his talented
young cast, --including Dermot Mulroney (My Best Friend's Wedding, Young Guns)
and Catherine Keener (Walking and Talking, Living in Oblivion) in their
first feature roles -- high into the Sierras to film this sweeping adventure
that contrasts two very different philosophies of survival.
SURVIVAL QUEST is a film that illuminates the beauty and power of the
wilderness in nature as well as the wilderness in the spirit of men."
An independent film made in Australia. Basically it is about 2
British youngsters who somehow get lost in the outback of Australia, wander freely through
the desert and somehow find an oasis. At this oasis they drink all the water they
need and eat the fruit off the trees. After about three days they decide they have
to leave and then all of a sudden an Aboriginie is comes over the dune chasing a lizard
with a spear. So the rest of the movie goes on about how they wander the landscape
and the young warrior hunts, collects plants, medicinal plants and so forth. In the
end the two British youngsters go back to civilization but they dream aboutthe freedom
they received from wandering. An excellent movie.
- My Side Of the Mountain
About a young boy who, inspired by the writings of Walden, leaves home and
goes out into the woods to live. He finds shelter in large hollowed out tree
and lives from the land.
- The Earthling
With Rick Shroder and William Holden, where the two of them survived in the
- Clan of the Cave Bear
- White Water Summer - some skills shown
- Jerimiah Johnson
- Cast Away - A man who works for Fed Ex survives a plane crash in
the South Pacific and is washed up onto an island, where he learns to
- A Cry in the Wild
- Where the Lilies Bloom - Great movie, wildcrafting, and a great
scene (with a young Harry Dean Stanton) about a terrific pneumonia
treatment. -- Jen Kile
Audubon Video Guides to Birds:
There are several videos in this series, which are designed to help the
viewer get to know birds.
A movie by the late Bill Mason depicting the stupendous beauty and wonder of
the north shore of Lake Superior.
Also check out other movies by Bill Mason, such as Path of the Paddle and
Song of the Paddle. For more info on Bill Mason see
and the Mason
family homepage at
Into the Solitude
Made by Robert Perkins: A man's struggle to sort issues out in his life. He
videos himself on a 60 day solo canoe trip on the Back river into the Canadian arctic.
Great movie and true, first person account (no acting).
Social, environment, and related
- L'Erreur Boreale:
Today I saw probably the most disturbing movie I've ever
seen about the environment - disturbing because it confirms exactly what Tom
talks about in some of his more philosophy oriented books. It documents what
has been happening to Quebec's boreal forest over the past century. Yes,
it's in French but has English subtitles. It's similar to the "Dying of
the Trees" in that it involves investigative journalism, but the
situation seems to be a lot worse further north because of the lower
population. 96% of the province's forest is now managed by forestry
companies that are essentially cultivating tree farms, complete with
spraying for undesirable trees and developing trees that grow faster. The
province also guaranteed the companies rights to managed the forests, and
any reclamation costs of the forest to undo past damaged is now in the hands
of the public. To add to this, the environmental reviews are now being
done by the forestry companies themselves and not the government.
One thing that is really mind blowing is an interview
where a company executive actually says "I don't know why people's
rights should be so important."
The situation is similar in other provinces, and Russia's
boreal forest is now next on the list to become "liquidated" by
some international corporations.
I don't know whether the movie is available in the U.S. -
it was produced by the National Film Board of Canada - but I'm going to try
to get a copy to try to educate friends.
Review by Geoff
Based on the well-known novel by George Orwell, he speculated what the world
would be like in 1984. It is a vision of a highly regulated restrictive society in
which individual freedoms are essentially non-existent. Although 1984 has now passed
us by, this movie (& novel) remain as a warning of what could happen to our society.
for more info about "1984".
A very interesting and powerful movie. Consisting entirely of images
and music (no dialogue), the filmmaker took 2 years to make this statement about the state
of the world and humans' place in it. He examines the relationship of humans to the
natural environment, and what they're doing to both it and themselves. He also looks
at the spirtuality of humans, and how we have strayed very far from its essentials.
After watching Baraka you may wish to visit
for detailed info about the film.
For reviews of this film see
- The China Syndrome:
Well-known movie about what could happen when even a small part of a nuclear
reactor fails, and the possible corruption and greed that endangers all of us when it
comes to nuclear power plants.
- Clear Cut:
A somewhat graphic and unforgiving movie about a Native man
who takes direct action against logging companies. This movie contains a rather
graphic scene (not for the squeamish) of a logging company executive being
"There are few films that I can truly say I have found awesome. This is one
of them. Rent it, then add your own review. I cannot tell you how you will
react, but I am certain you will find it well worthwhile." Recommended
by Bret Harris
- Instinct (1999)
(Loosely adapted from the novel Ishmael by Daniel Quinn)
A man who leaves humanity behind to live with animals returns to society under unpleasant
circumstances, but with valuable lessons about human and animal relationships. Anthony
Hopkins stars as Ethan Powell, a noted anthropologist studying the behavior of mountain
gorillas in Rwanda. The longer Powell follows the apes, the more he comes to admire their
simple but peaceful society. He begins to spend most of his time with the apes until one
day he ventures into the jungle and doesn't return. Powell throws in his lot with the
gorillas and lives among them as primitive man once lived in the wild with animals.
However, two years later, a search party finds Powell in the jungle with the apes, and
they're convinced that the animals pose a threat to Powell's safety. They kill several of
the gorillas, and Powell flies into a murderous rage, killing two of the men who attacked
his friends. Extradited to the United States, Powell is sent to a grim maximum-security
prison in Florida, where he will be held while awaiting trail. A psychological evaluation
must be performed on Powell, and the task falls to Theo Caulder (Cuba Gooding Jr.), an
ambitious young psychiatrist who sees this as a case with the potential to make him
famous. However, since Powell initially won't speak to anyone, getting through to him will
be a challenge, and Powell's daughter Lyn (Maura Tierney) has little insight on the father
she barely knew. As Caulder slowly builds a rapport with Powell, he comes to realize what
he has learned from his experience with the gorillas -- and how much he can teach Caulder
about living with others. Loosely adapted from the novel Ishmael by Daniel Quinn, Instinct
also features supporting performances from Donald Sutherland and George Dzundza. -- Mark
Deming, All Movie Guide
- Jonathan Livingston Seagull:
Based on the book of the same name by Richard Bach, with music by Neil
- Princess Mononoke
Animation, by Hayao Miyazaki
About a boy
from a hunter gatherer/agrarian village. He strives to bring a
balance between people and the forest.
All of Hayao Miyazaki's other movies are aimed towards children, but I was
surprised by their depth. They are very enjoyable and very beautiful.
The attention to details in nature are exquisite.
For those of you who don't watch cartoons, don't worry, these are
real movies. In Japan they have embraced animation as a real movie
''I always try to start from the assumption that humans are foolish.
I'm disgusted by the notion that man is the ultimate being, chosen by
God. But I believe there are things in this world that are beautiful,
that are important, that are worth striving for."
Recommendation from the Standard Class
- The Razor's Edge:
About a man's search for spiritual truth. Interesting display of
healing power towards the end. Stars Bill Murray in a completely serious role.
Based on a book of the same name.
By the director Andrei Tarkovsky. It is based on a
science fiction novel in which a meteor-like object hit a region of the Earth and turned
it into a wilderness of "non-ordinary" reality. The only people who can venture
into this wilderness (known as "The Zone") and return safely are called
"Stalkers" (read: trackers). The movie is about the journey or vision quest into
the Zone of a stalker and two outsiders who are called "The Professor" and
"The Writer" and who represent the "civilised mind".
One Tracker says
he has never before seen a movie which so perfectly captured Tom Brown's philosophy,
especially the essence of the vision quest and what it means to be "children of the
On the other hand, you may find this movie to be "a purely
intellectual journey and intensely boring."
- The Lawnmower Man - Challenges one's view of reality.
Very computer-sci-fi oriented, this movie deals with virtual reality becoming just
a little bit too real.
- The Matrix - 1999 - This movie really challenges one's
view of reality, big time! Even if you don't accept the precept of the movie, it
makes you think. Excellent.
- Fight Club - "Watch it several times, and
really listen to the words. It has a deep message about the state of the
world due to civilization. I cannot recommend it enough for anyone with an interest
in our connection to the earth and other humans, or what will happen to us
if we go on like this." - Mary