The Billings Gazette, 1985
"CROW DOCUMENTARY PROMISES HEART, HUMOR
Three Missoula based women-all with strong ties to Montana-have produced "Contrary Warriors", a proud but bittersweet film about the Crow Tribe. Montanans have a chance to see it this evening at Petro Theatre on the Eastern Montanan College campus. The tickets are reasonably priced and any profits will go back into the non-profit Rattlesnake Productions, Inc, a Montana based enterprise dedicated to producing film and text rooted in the region.
The film takes its name from the Crazy Dogs, one of the original Crow warrior societies. These men declared themselves "Contrary Warriors" pledging to risk death in battle. The feel of risk, of gambling, of taking the challenge is a motivating force in the film.
The film also conveys a toughness, a feeling of heart along with grace and humor under pressure. According to Pamela Roberts, one of the producers, "We felt we had something to contribute. We saw something in Crow life that we felt others would identify with and respond to." An admiration and respect for Crow life is apparent in talking to the producers. Roberts grew up on the reservation, her father spoke Ctow and she went to the dances and other social activities. With her own maturity came an understanding of and appreciation fro Crow ways. "This all gave me in-roads and trust," she said.
The film chronicles Crow history through the life and times of Robert Yellowtail, 97-year old tribal leader and the focus of the film. The struggle to retain the language, land and traditions is conveyed through him as the major symbol. In "Warriors" Yellowtail learns the white man's ways in order to play the games and regain what was taken from his people. The elder's eloquence as a young man would prove him well as he grew older. He is still respected and "loves a good fight," says his wife, Dorothy. But he is always remembered for saving the Crow reservation during a series of hearings in Washington, circa 1910, and helping bridge the gap between white and Indian worlds.
"It's a weaving of past into the present," says Connie Poten, another of the producers, explaining that government policies 100 years old still shape the lives of contemporary Crow people. The unemployment, the poverty and the despair are juxtaposed to the celebrations, joys and dreams, she says. "It's not what I would call a happy film, but there is hope within the realism," she says. To do otherwise would be a disservice to her craft and the Crow people, she feels.
Poten came west in 1970 to work on a dude ranch in the Big Horns. After college, she retuned to the west in 1976 and helped with research and writing for the "Hearthland", which with the actors Conchata Ferrell and Rip Torn in the leading roles was destined for awards and much recognition.
"The two of us got together in 1983," says Roberts, referring to herself and Poten, "actually in 1982 when we saw Yellowtail receive an award from the Department of Interior." The third member of the production team, Beth Ferris, had been filming in west sice 1975. In fact she wrote the screenplay for "Heartland" as well as co-produced it, and had her hand in both the production and writing of "Warrior."
Other emerging artists play a part in the film. Actor Peter Coyote narrates it and Todd Boekelheide scored it. (Viewers may remember his contributions of sound and mixing in "Amedeus" and "The Right Stuff".) And many other names grace the credits-photographers, editors and consultants well respected in their fields. Poten says, "The film will be presented free to the Crow people and residents of Big Horn County."Transcribed by Kari
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