Shadowheart came out in 2009 and was set in the years of the civil war. Despite its intro scene which features a Navaho dancer, and the marketing push which states that there's a lot of Native American aspects to the movie, it is primarily about a white couple. We begin with the boy and girl in love in the town of Legend, New Mexico. The music seems almost lifted directly from Lord of the Rings scenes of the Shire. After the boy's father is slain he runs off, experiences the horrors of war, then returns home to make things right. Much of the movie is fairly stereotypical complete with slick-back-hair bad guy and his sneaky sidekick.

The funniest part of the entire movie has to be the existence of Vampire People in Legend. I watched this movie twice, two years apart, and each time I burst out laughing when I saw their evidence. But we'll get to that in a minute.

The movie promotes heavily its native American layers - and indeed the title Shadowheart refers to how dark the hero feels. However, there are only random glimpses of native Americans here. First, as Shadowheart is bounty hunting after his civil war stint, he runs into a small group of Navaho who have been rousted from their home in Tsegi, Arizona and are being brought to live on a reservation. He gives a knife to two of them so they can escape. This brother and sister pair are played by Michael Spears and Tonantzin Carmelo. Michael is Sioux. He played "Otter" in Dances with Wolves. Tonantzin is half Tongva / Kumeyaay - tribes of southern California. The movie was filmed in California, too. Maybe I'm too picky, but it always bothers me when they film something that is all about a "place" with certain "people" and then neither are accurate.

I could also complain that their clothes seemed to be Western clothes, but maybe we could say that they were stripped of their normal clothes when taken to the reservation and forced to wear these. Maybe all they were allowed to retain were two strings of beads each.


Back to the story. There is of course conflict between the good guys and bad guys, and the two Navajo have to come in and help out. I won't give away any spoilers, but the movie is certainly not focused on the native American aspect of things, which the rest of the marketing might lead one to believe. It's primarily an Old West love / revenge story. I will comment that they have the Navajos speaking in Navajo without subtitles for a few scenes, which is a nice touch.

Now, as to the Vampire People. Or maybe they're zombies. In any case, they are some sort of people who don't age at all despite the passage of ten years. At the beginning of the film, the main lovers are maybe 11 or 12. Young love. As they first get into the town of Legend, a very distinctive pair of women are walking on the street with giant parasols. One parasol is white, the other black. It's hard to miss them. A guy to the left lounges in a fringed shirt with white pants. In the photo below, the horse on the right is the one his girl-love is riding back to her home.


Then we fast forward to when Shadowheart returns to town after his years of civil war grief and bounty hunting. He strolls back into his home town for the first time in a decade or more. Look! It is the EXACT SAME PEOPLE in the exact same positions standing in the street! What, is this where they stand all the time, waiting for him to see them? They haven't aged a day, they haven't changed their clothes, they are maintaining the same relative position to each other.



In any case, watching this once was not overly exciting, and watching it a second time just reminded me of the silliness from the first time. The saving grace is that I loved the characters of the surveyors. They were minor characters, but so well done. They really came to life. It made me realize as an author that this was something to aim for, to give even minor characters this kind of vitality.

Native American Movie Listing by Title:
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z | Lisa's Picks

Native American Movies
Native American Wedding Traditions

Weddings and Courtships Series by Lisa Shea
Irish Weddings and Courtships
Italian Weddings and Courtships
French Weddings and Courtships