Neither Wolf Nor Dog
by Alba Lopes Da Silva
On the 7th of June at 8:15pm, The Belmont Filmhouse is welcoming Aberdonian filmmaker Steven Lewis Simpson’s landmark Native American film Neither Wolf Nor Dog. Adapted from Kent Nerburn’s award-winning novel, Neither Wolf Nor Dog takes the audience through a poignant and emotional road trip through the heart of contemporary Native American Life by a 95-year old Lakota elder and his side-kick. The movie is currently in the midst of the longest theatrical run in the USA in over a decade. The success of Simpson’s adaptation lies primarily in its extraordinary release and distribution strategy: the film has, in fact, completely bypassed standard Hollywoodian methods of theatrical distribution. Simpson decided to self-distribute his movie – produced and financed by his Scottish company ‘Roaring Fire Films’ – to small towns, primarily located in Minnesota and South Dakota where the movie is set. A risqué move that proved itself to be highly successful as the movie is now outperforming Hollywood Blockbusters when head-to-head, and has become the most successful self-distributed movie of 2017 and 2018 in the US. Avoiding Hollywood budgets or sensibilities, averted a complete distortion of the original narrative (since as we know it, Hollywood’s treatment of Native Americans has not always been positive); by dodging the Hollywoodian treatment and by giving voice to the Native American perspective, Simpson’s exceptional movie provides a refreshing and emotional change on the Big Screen.
‘For me there is a great importance of having my latest movie showing back in Aberdeen’, says Simpson. His film company ‘Roaring Fire Films’ was, as a matter of fact, founded in Aberdeen in the 90s when Simpson was only 19. He explains that ‘back then, there was no group making films, so I set one up’ and since then, he has directed numerous movies, documentaries and TV shows in the UK and in the USA. At 23 he shot Ties, his first feature film which he completely wrote, produced and edited and which later won Best British Film at the Cherbourg Film Festival. Among his other works we can notably include Rez Bomb, a movie he shot on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in Dakota and A Thunder – Being Nation, an epic documentary made over 13 years which retails the history and contemporary life of the Oglala Lakota of Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
Neither Wolf Nor Dog is an incredibly rare movie in the sense that the film has been completely self-produced and self-released and has not required the help of any other sector of the film industry other than cinemas. For the Aberdonian director, filming Neither Wolf Nor Dog and introducing its star, the 95-year old Lakota elder Dave Bald eagle to the world, was a great honour. His magical, emotional and unique performance is unlike any other you’ve seen before. Neither Wolf Nor Dog is a remarkable movie offering a true glimpse into the present day Native life and into an extraordinarily rich culture. The movie will only be shown once on the 7th of June at the Belmont Filmhouse, followed by a Q&A by the film-maker himself. The stunning performances of the cast and the emotional story make this movie one of the most important Native American films ever made; this special showing by the Belmont Filmhouse is one you should not miss.