"BROKEN RAINBOW," last year's consciousness-raising, Oscar-winning documentary, ought to be required viewing for all Americans. It is a labor of love directed by anthropologist Victoria Mudd, passionate advocate of the Big Mountain Peoples of Arizona -- the Hopi and Navajo tribes now being forced from their homelands by a government edict.
Central to the controversy is a law that partitions 1.8 million acres of northeastern Arizona between the tribes and forces members of both to relocate. Producers Mudd and Maria Florio argue that the law is part of an ongoing program of genocide, and the evidence they present is as compelling as it is one-sided. From broken arrows to broken dreams to broken rainbows.
The government says it is settling a land dispute between the tribes, but relocation only facilitates energy development, the filmmakers say. Sacred mesas and revered mountains are being strip-mined to light the Vegas strip and power L.A.
In contrast, wise and wrinkled shepherds sit outside their hogans and wonder at the immaturity of this white man called Washington. They fear for his sanity and the sanctity of the land. It may only be manipulative movie-making, but their warning goes to your bones.
The movie coincidentally protests the loss of America's conscience and sense of values. And maybe we have been so self-satisfied and smug here in America that we need this documentary like a slap in the face. By focusing on people who call themselves the caretakers of the earth, the filmmakers expose the environmental devastation in the West, without setting themselves above the rest of us. They don't see themselves as saints. They simply tell the story, articulately and persuasively, letting the native leaders speak eloquently for themselves.
"In our traditional tongue there is no word for relocation," says Navajo Pauline Whitesinger. "To move away means to disappear and never be seen again." -- Rita Kempley. BROKEN RAINBOW (Unrated) -- At the West End 1-4.