Dear Film Executives, Due to the overwhelming success of the musical film La La Land, I would like to run a pitch by you that was inspired by the close-but-no-cigar Best Picture. I mean, hey, glitches aside, it practically won the Oscar, am I right? For sure it won the Oscar for most gracious hand-over. My film idea takes the raw energy of La La Land and mixes it with the most extraordinary social action and environmental justice event of our time—I’m talking about the No Dakota Access Pipeline Action (NoDAPL) at Standing Rock.
I see drums, and lots and lots of singing and dancing. I see heartbeats of many nations, I see Red Pride, and healing, journeying and good medicine. I see persistence and grit, ancestor fueled strength, I see a people coming up against a fortress of corporate greed…a movie of plain, old fashioned values, a kind of nostalgia if you will, a movie of the proverbial good v. evil. A new kind of frontier adventure film, a re-imagined kind of western that reaches beyond “cowboys and Indians.”
Now sit back, close your eyes and picture the opening at Standing Rock …
The scene opens to water protectors gathered on the main highway. Traffic is backed up and drivers sit impatiently at a standstill while armored police vehicles idle behind a wall of concrete barriers. The sheriff’s department is in the middle of arresting dozens and dozens of demonstrators, and there are hundreds of police officers standing by in riot gear.
In the distance the sound of helicopters and military-grade Humvees keep watch over the frontline camp just east of Highway 1806. Tension and a sense of danger fill the air. The water protectors, armed with sage and sweetgrass bundles begin to trill.
The camera from the perspective of a drone, glides, swirls, and pans to the passengers on the highway as they emerge, one by one, from their cars and dance on top of them. A man opens his car door and climbs on top of his car. He begins dancing and singing. Soon another passenger nearby does the same, she climbs to the top of her car and trills, LE LE LE LE LE! And then another and another. LE LE LE LE! A victory yell of triumph and joy.
A cop breaks from the offense line and grabs the hand of another cop. They climb on top of one of the Humvees, and begin to jitterbug and pirouette with wild abandonment. Soon everyone else begins to follow suit, until all of the previous tension dissolves. The people who were being arrested are let go, and everyone is laughing and singing and dancing to the songs of several northern style drum groups.
The sound of Lele’ing sparks into the air like elegant lightning. A title appears on the screen: Le Le Le Le Land, Standing Rock the Musical.
Tiffany Midge is an assistant poetry editor at The Rumpus, and an award-winning author of The Woman Who Married a Bear. Her work is featured in McSweeney's, The Rumpus, Okey-Pankey, The Butter, Waxwing, and Moss. She is Hunkpapa Lakota. Follow her on Twitter @TiffanyMidge