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Historian 03-18-2005 02:34 PM

"Black Cloud" - the Movie
Review taken from:

Los Angeles CityBeat Movie Review - 18 March 2005
by Wade Major

Black Cloud
Black Cloud (Eddie Spears), an angry, frustrated young Navajo trapped in a dead-end reservation life, turns to boxing as a personal outlet and a chance for escape, the latter coming by way of an invitation to try out for the U.S. Olympic team. But he still must deal with his on-again, off-again relationship with his trainer/surrogate father (Russell Means); a girlfriend (Julia Jones) who’s growing weary of his adolescent insecurities; and a personal feud with a troublemaking rodeo cowboy (Rick Schroder, who also wrote and directed). Veteran actor Schroder’s writing/directing debut was made before Clint Eastwood’s similar-sounding Million Dollar Baby, winning a variety of festival accolades before working its way across the country in independent release. Schroder’s work here is very impressive – sensitive, technically proficient, and impressively mature in all respects, stylish but never overtly showy, with dazzling fight sequences and slickly conceived shamanistic surrealism seamlessly integrated into a simple, powerfully humanistic tale.

Taken from:

Actor Schroder took 'Black Cloud' to tribes
Los Angeles Times
Posted on Thu, Mar. 17, 2005

It was the waning days of Rick Schroder's run on "NYPD Blue." The blond-haired, blue-eyed former child actor faced an uncertain future. The meaty acting roles he craved rarely seemed to come his way. Worse, he and his wife were still struggling with the bottomless grief of a late-term miscarriage.

Drawing on this reservoir of anger and pain, Schroder picked up a pen and his journal and began writing a screenplay, in longhand.

Instead of being a release, the resulting story about an American Indian boxer --"Black Cloud" -- kicked up more angst. "I got all these reasons why it wouldn't work," he recalled. Agents said it wasn't commercial enough. Studios turned him down again and again. Wondering if he could make the movie on his own, Schroder turned to an unlikely source for financing: Indian tribes.

The actor crisscrossed the country to visit about 50 tribes. "I showed them the screenplay and let them read it. My pitch was, 'Dances with Wolves' changed how I perceived Indian people. That movie showed them making love, laughing and raising kids, and it showed them as human beings in the first way that I had ever experienced that. My pitch was 'Black Cloud' would follow the same path."

Schroder didn't know it then, but his request came at just the right time. The National Indian Gaming Association, a trade group representing 184 tribes nationwide, quietly has been embarking on an agenda of its own, encouraging members to invest some of those funds in the arts as a way to advance the language, culture and traditions of Indian people.

Swayed by its realistic portrayal of Indian culture, tribes -- along with individual American Indian investors -- contributed nearly $1 million to cover production costs, and Schroder kicked in the rest.

The result is a "Rocky"-like story set on an Indian reservation, written, produced and directed by Schroder, 34, who also appears on screen as the villain of the piece.

"Black Cloud" debuted in October in Arizona and Oklahoma City -- regions with large American Indian populations -- and opened in limited release Friday in Los Angeles, New York, Boston and four other cities. The movie has been screened for U.S. armed forces overseas, and has received honors at several film festivals, including the best picture audience award at this year's Phoenix Film Festival.

The first tribe Schroder contacted was the Chickasaw nation in Oklahoma. "I sat down to dinner with them and they said, 'Rick, we look at this project not as a financial investment, because we think it's risky. It's a movie and we don't know anything about it. But we look at this film as an opportunity to create good public relations for Indian people." '

It's a far cry from the way Hollywood traditionally has treated Indians and their stories. Tribes have never forgiven the industry for shamelessly casting whites as Indians. Jeff Chandler played Cochise in "Broken Arrow" and Burt Lancaster played Massai, the last Apache warrior captured, in "Apache," and also the American Indian athlete title character in "Jim Thorpe -- All-American."

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