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'Epic, brutal' documentary about Native American gang life in MN premieres


A documentary that premiered this week at the Berlin Film Festival paints an intimate portrait of Native American gang life in rural Minnesota.

"The Seventh Fire" focuses on two Ojibwe community members of Pine Point, a town on the White Earth Reservation – one is in the waning stages of his criminal career, the other hoping to climb a few more rungs to reach the top.

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The elder is Rob Brown, a "gang kingpin" who is now in his 30s and about to head to prison for the fifth time, Red Power Media writes. But he has a sense of remorse, regretting how his actions affected his community.

Then there's 17-year-old Kevin Fineday, described as Brown's protege. His goal? To succeed Brown as the man at the top, becoming the biggest drug-dealer on the reservation.

Screen Daily reports director Jack Pettibone Riccobono spent 2 1/2 years filming there, including giving some locals pocket cameras to shoot with as well.

“When I did the short, I didn’t take my camera out for the first three days," he said. "You are just there as a human being. That’s the only way to build up trust.”

He was familiar with the area. In 2007 he released a short film called "The Sacred Food" which was filmed on the same reservation.

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There's some real Hollywood power behind the production. It's "presented" by acclaimed director Terrence Malick, and produced by actress Natalie Portman.

"I had the great honor of working with Terry a few years ago, and when I saw the film, I told Jack I’d love to share this with him," Portman told The Hollywood Reporter. "[Malick’s] generosity with fostering young talents is unparalleled, and he said he loved the film and would do whatever he could to help it."

Said Riccobono so Screen Daily: “These are American issues, not just Native American issues. “

The early reviews?

While critics frequently offer their take on festival films, there appear to only be a couple of reviews for "The Seventh Fire."

The Hollywood Reporter says it starts slow, but is ultimately a "fascinating and important" documentary.

Over at The Upcoming, it's described as "an epic, brutal and challenging watch," and notes the film gives the American Indian community "a chance to express themselves" – an opportunity they are rarely afforded on the big screen.

There are currently no specific release plans outlined.

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