– Be the director who will make a film that the film industry has never seen before – Martin Scorsese heard from Jim Gray, former chief of the Osedjas, great-grandson of one of the heroes of the film “The Bloody Moon”. The latest work by one of the greatest filmmakers in history is a gripping study of greed and systemic violence against the weak, born of the fact that some people “love money very much.” At the same time, it is a must-see in the autumn cinema repertoire. Review by Tomasz-Marcin Wrona.
The Osedj people – also referred to as the “People of the Middle Waters” – are a tribe whose history dates back to the 7th century BC. The tribe then formed as one of the communities of the Great Prairie Plain, in the valleys between the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. In the 19th century, they settled between the Missouri and Mississippi rivers (among other areas of the present state), and at the beginning of the 19th century, the Osedj were one of the most powerful tribes in the region. By Europeans or descendants of European settlers, the Osedj were described as the tallest people in North America, the most handsome, and extremely brave. and brave.
In 1872, a transaction was finalized under which the Osedj family purchased an area of approximately 5,900 km.2, which is part of the current state of Oklahoma and here they created their reservation. At the same time, it is also now Osage County. Thanks to the fact that the tribe had its own land and they did not settle the so-called Indian Territory, were given greater rights to their land and somewhat greater independence from the federal government compared to other Native nations. Thus, the Osedj abandoned many of their traditions, including the nomadic lifestyle.
In the late 1870s, the Osedo were the first Native American nation to negotiate an agreement with the federal government under which they began to receive annual compensation in cash, rather than food or medical supplies as before. Thanks to this, the Osedj regained their tribal strength. Federal authorities, out of concern for the best interests of Native Americans, pushed for their further assimilation into the rest of society of European descent. At the end of the 19th century, Congress adopted laws that not only abolished tribal government structures, but also introduced restrictions on land ownership.
This coincided with the outbreak of the “black gold rush” – i.e. the discovery of further oil and natural gas deposits. Thanks to the involvement of the then chief – James Bigheart – in 1907, an agreement was signed under which the tribe’s ownership rights to the minerals located on the reserve lands were recognized. A little later it turned out that the Osedjs had exploitation rights to very rich oil deposits. Thanks to the fees derived from the lease of reserve lands for the extraction of energy resources, the Osedjs became “the richest people in the world.”
A bloody chapter in the history of the Osedj family
This, in a nutshell, brings us to the moment in the history of the Osedż family, when the action of Martin Scorsese’s latest film “The Bloody Moon” begins. The screenplay by Eric Roth and Scorsese himself was based on David Grann’s famous book of the same title from 2017 (“The Time of the Blood Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI”, translated into Polish by Piotr Grzegorzewski). While in Grann’s reportage the narrative is told from the perspective of Tom White – an agent of the then developing Bureau of Investigation, transformed in 1935 into the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Scorsese adopted a slightly different perspective in the film. The filmmaker tells the bloody period in the history of the Osedjas, bearing signs of ethnic cleansing, through the prism of Ernest Burkhart, who has just returned to Oklahoma from Europe, where he fought in World War I. Burkhart was played by Leonardo DiCaprio, creating one of his best acting performances. Burkhart, at the encouragement of his uncle William Hale, decided to marry into a family of “full-blooded” owners of exploitation rights, and his chosen one was Mollie Kyle (played by the amazing Lily Gladstone).
It is also important that in the early 1920s, the Congress introduced institutions of “guardians” who were to take care of the wealth and how it was spent by the “incompetent” Settlers. Moreover, many whites tried to marry into Osedj families to gain the rights to exploit the deposits, which were divided at the beginning of the 20th century by the decision of the tribal council. There were also those who were attracted by the wealth of Native Americans and decided to obtain it at all costs. In the years 1921-26 there were a series of deaths among those Osedj who had the greatest exploitation rights. To this day, it is not known exactly how many people died, but Grann mentions in the book that the never-explained deaths of representatives of this tribe could be counted in hundreds.
In recent interviews, Scorsese explained that the most important part of this story for him were the Osedos and it was their fate that he wanted to focus on. However, there was criticism in the American media that the film still featured a white man – Ernest Burkhart. That maybe Mollie should be at the forefront. However, it’s hard to argue with artistic ones elections Scorsese, had and has every right to his vision.
“Be the director who will make a film that the film industry has never seen before”
What is important, however, is that from the very beginning of the idea for the film in 2019, Scorsese openly responded to appeals from the Osage family who wanted to get involved in bringing their own story to the big screen. According to CNN, the creators of “The Time of the Blood Moon” repeatedly met with representatives of the Osedj people, who were afraid that their tribe and culture would be portrayed in a biased, Western way.
– I was afraid that we would once again fall victim to exploitation. This time we will not lose our resources or lands, but our history of how our resources and land were taken away will be used, former Osedi chief Jim Gray told CNN.
In 2019, Scorsese met, among others, Geoffrey Standing Bear, a viewer of The Judges, who offered the filmmaker substantive support. Language consultants, among others, were involved in the production of the film. In the same year, the film crew met with the inhabitants of one of the main towns in Settlement – Gray Horse. Many of them are descendants of the victims of the series of murders mentioned in the film. The above-mentioned Jim Gray is the great-grandson of Henry Roan-Osedż, after whose death federal investigators found a clue to solving the mystery of the bloody murders.
On CNN News, Gray recalled the words he told Scorsese: – Be the director who will make a film that the film industry has never seen before. One that will make others say: this is the one that worked for us. In an interview with CNN, Gray also expressed that he was not sure how much the filmmaker took his words to heart.
“The Time of the Blood Moon”, an in-depth study of greed
Scorsese, who has often looked at human nature in a variety of ways throughout his career, told the story of the Osedjas in the best possible way, creating a multi-threaded, nuanced study of greed and evil, born of the fact that some people “love money very much.” And he did it in such a way that “The Time of the Blood Moon” is not only one of the most important films of recent years, but also one of his best.
Scorsese managed to capture the image of, as Grann himself called it, the “culture of killing and culture of complicity” prevailing at that time. It represented not only acts of violence and exploitation of Native Americans, but also systemic – ultimately sanctioned by the federal government – injustice. The “white gloves” tried to take away their lands and wealth from the Osedjas and finally completely exterminate them. Am I exaggerating? Why, it all appears in the dialogues and has its historical justification. Suffice it to say that due to the inaction of the services of Osage County and the state of Oklahoma, the tribal council had to pay 20,000. dollars for federal authorities to take an interest in the case of unsolved murders.
“The Time of the Blood Moon” is not only an outstanding example of a film adaptation of an otherwise great book reportage. There is something of Tarantino’s perversity in this film, an artistic rebellion against existing patterns and patterns. Scorsese plays with the elements of a classic Western, turning them on their heads. This applies primarily to the boringly recreated, machismo figure of a white cowboy who defends the weaker, bringing justice and a sense of security in the Wild West. It’s hard to find such a character in “The Time of the Blood Moon.” Instead, the history of American Native Nations has been disenchanted, with the Seychelles regaining their rightful place and voice. They are not “savages” attacking defenseless residents. They are not the ones who violate legal provisions and norms. Of course, they succumb to temptations, abuse alcohol – they are just people. In all this, however, they are presented as full of wisdom, well-behaved, intelligent members of a society that does not want to treat them on an equal footing with white colonizers and settlers.
And of course, the locomotive that drives this three-and-a-half-hour plot is the brilliant cast. Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Lily Gladstone, Brendan Fraser, Jesse Plemons, Janae Collins – these are just some of the names. And it was worth waiting for two of his acting favorites to appear in one Scorsese film: DiCaprio and De Niro. This duo is eaten with spoons. As for DiCaprio himself (who is to play the main roles in Scorsese’s next two films), as Burkhart he reminded us that he is an outstanding actor.
Main photo source: United International Pictures Poland