Monday, March 31, 2008

Movie Review: The Trail of Tears

We are heading to The Great Smoky Mountains in a couple of weeks, and one of the things we plan to do is visit the Museum of the Cherokee Indian in North Carolina. I checked out a few books at the library, but couldn't find anything inviting which discussed The Trail of Tears. So I checked Netflix, where I've had great luck with this sort of thing in the past, but they had absolutely nothing on The Cherokee Indians, or The Trail of Tears. Finally I went a head and spent a few bucks and bought this over at Amazon, knowing that my children will pretty much watch anything I put in front of them, as long as it doesn't "count" toward their allotted "TV time". It was worth every penny.

Trail of Tears: Cherokee Legacy is not rated, but I'd give it a PG. There was one PG-13 part where a woman shared a story about a young girl being "attacked" by soldiers, who each waited their turn while the parents had to listen in the other room, but I fast forwarded that, having been prepared by pre-screening. It's unfortunate that that part was left in, as the rest of the movie was acceptable for my 11- and seven-year-olds. There was one part where the murder of a chief was described as having happened by him being stabbed five times, while the visual showed the rise and fall of sticks behind shrubs. All the realities of the story were presented in a way which conveyed their seriousness without the graphic violence.

I would definitely recommend watching this with children, and not leaving it to them to watch alone.

Trail of Tears: Cherokee Legacy was produced by Rich-Heape Films, which is a Native American owned production company. I therefore feel confident in the accuracy of the film. Several present-day Cherokees, including one who spoke in the Cherokee language, historians, and the narrator James Earl Jones, wove the story together beautifully. It was a polished combination of narrative, over acting in period costume.

From the back of the DVD box: "Thousands of Cherokees died during the Trail of Tears, nearly a quarter of the Nation. They suffered beyond imagination...and when they finally arrived in Indian Territory, they arrived almost without any children and with very few elders. In a way they arrived with no past and no future." I was happy when this quote came up in the movie itself and my 11-year-old said "I get that". My seven-year-old played with his cars in the room at the beginning, but started paying attention when the actual walking of the trail was portrayed.

I highly recommend this movie. It is an engaging way to learn about what happened to The Cherokees; to understand the hardship they faced and the realities of the government we are part of. I feel my children and I are better for having watched it.

And I look forward to stepping into history and learning more on our vacation.