The Seventh Fire
Jack Pettibone Riccobono’s debut feature-length documentary The Seventh Fire redefines viewers’ understanding of tradition and culture as they know it, exploring the effects mass colonisation has had on the Native American community in America.
Pine Point, a small town in Minnesota situated on the White Earth Indian Reservation, is home to the kindly criminal Robert Brown and his tenderfoot protégé Kevin Fineday Jr; both of are part of a whitewashed community that has largely abandoned traditional beliefs for a world consumed by drugs, alcohol and violence. Brown and Fineday are at pinnacle yet opposing moments in their lives, with Fineday possessing the freedom to change his future that Brown so sorely lacks. Both represent the generational differences and similarities within the community at large, showing how the debilitating habits of the townsfolk have now been passed down to their younger cohorts.
The narrative spans a period of several years, however, the direction is not always seamless and can evoke feeling of being a little lost in time. One must make presumptive guesses about the time period, based on the ageing of the characters and the expansion of their family trees. This being said, the film is aesthetically beautiful and possesses a serene quality that, in stark contrast with the dark undertones of the film, can be slightly jarring. The cinematography certainly echoes the experimental nature of a Terrence Malick flick, where the handheld camerawork and fluid, picturesque tracking shots paint an almost poetic effect.
Brown closes the film with his interpretation of tradition as being something “a culture or group does repeatedly” so that it then becomes embodied in their nature. This statement speaks volumes, confirming the saddening reality that traditions do change and, with the influence of Western technology and societal norms, age-old beliefs are soon abandoned for iPhones and narcotics. This is a crucial story that is screaming to be told if the audience is willing enough to hear it.
The Seventh Fire is released in selected cinems on 13th May 2016.
Watch the trailer for The Seventh Fire here: