So much of #Sundance is a celebration of storytelling and story. At the world premiere of Akicita: The Battle of Standing Rock, director Cody Lucich noted that he wanted to tell the story of Standing Rock from a Native perspective. And indeed in the film this is what we see — there is almost no mention of the climate change narrative that dominated headlines. The election of Donald Trump comes and goes only in context. As many in the film argue, the person in charge of the nation is less consequential than the broader systems and structures that allowed for just the idea that the pipeline could cut through Native territory, let alone various mechanisms of violence to push the pipeline through despite fierce resistance. As the film notes, the pipeline did eventually go through, and it’s spilled at least 6 times. These are the stakes people face.
Akicita means protector, and many of the water protectors featured in the film were in attendance, seeing themselves on screen and cheering throughout the film. Lucich said the film is a work in progress — I’d agree, but it’s also already a powerful perspective as it is. The film takes an intriguing turn toward the end, highlighting indigenous struggles in Tibet, New Zealand, Norway and Canada, arguing that a new global movement is beginning.