Alexie on The Exiles

Sherman Alexie—novelist, poet, filmmaker, and Sonics fan—has been making the interview rounds on behalf of The Exiles, a 1961 film by Kent Mackenzie about Native Americans living in Los Angeles’ Bunker Hill neighborhood. Alexie, with the assistance of filmmaker Charles Burnett (Killer of Sheep), helped resurrect the film, which is screening for a few more days at New York’s IFC Center. Time‘s Richard Corliss has an appreciation of the film, and Alexie discusses some of the film’s unique qualities with IndieWire:

[O]ne of the great things about the film is that it’s about urban Indians. Much of my written work is about the urban experience. Indian artists have been doing very little with that. We’re very reservation-centric. The fact that a film from the 1950s is urban, while we have failed to do that much ourselves, is very interesting.

iW: Why is that?

SA: I think it’s the idea — the misconception — that reservations are more authentic. When you’re talking about Native artists, by and large, you’re talking about people who never lived on the res, or left the res. We use our art to feel more connected to the tribe. It seems the way we do it is by writing about the res. I think the art has always been trying to find an identity, rather than writing about the identity it actually has.

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