How ‘Wild Indian’ breaks the mold for indigenous storytelling [SUNDANCE STUDIO]

Filmmaker Lyle Mitchell Corbine Jr. made numerous short films in his 20s, but none connected his love of storytelling with his personal background.

“I’ve never written anything about my native heritage before,” Corbine, who grew up on Native American reservations in Wisconsin and Minnesota, tells Gold Derby. “It was something I never really wanted to touch.”

Struggling to find his voice, Corbine says, “I just started writing one night. I was frustrated I wasn’t getting through and wasn’t making the work I wanted to make. I wrote it in one night and it felt great.”

Twenty drafts and seven years later, the fruit of that evening is finally here. “Wild Indian,” Corbine’s debut feature, premieres at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. The thriller stars Michael Greyeyes and Chaske Spencer as Anishinaabe childhood friends who become estranged following a shocking act of violence perpetrated by Greyeyes’ character. Decades later they reconnect after taking wildly different paths, leading each man on an emotional and surprising journey.

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“I loved the script the moment I read it,” Greyeyes says. The actor, who has appeared in “Fear the Walking Dead” and “True Detective” among dozens of other projects, says Corbine’s screenplay stood out because of its authenticity.

“The entire drama is set within ourselves. There are non-native characters, but really the protagonist, the antagonist — all the drama is coming from within our own community,” he says. “There are no tropes of outsiders looking in on us, there’s no oppressor — like a character from a colonial position. We’re duking it out within ourselves, within our family. That appealed to me immediately because it breaks all kinds of molds, all kinds of rules about how indigenous stories can be told in our industry.”

“Wild Indian” is in competition at the Sundance Film Festival.

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