'N. Scott Momaday: Words from a Bear'
(N. Scott Momaday / DVD / PG / 2019 / PBS)
Overview: 'Words from a Bear' gives a thorough survey of Momadays most prolific years as a doctorate fellow at Stanford University, his achievement of the Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 1969, and his later works that solidified his place as the founding member of the Native American Renaissance in art and literature; influencing a generation of Native American artists, scholars, and political activists.
DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, N. (Navarre) Scott Momaday is a Kiowa novelist, short story writer, essayist, and poet.
His novel House Made of Dawn was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1969, and is considered the first major work of the Native American Renaissance.
His follow-up work The Way to Rainy Mountain blended folklore with memoir.
Momaday received the National Medal of Arts in 2007 for his work's celebration and preservation of indigenous oral and art tradition.
He holds twenty honorary degrees from colleges and universities, and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
For my money, 'Words from a Bear' is an excitingly fresh and distinctive approach to biographical storytelling quite like I've never seen or heard of before.
Cinematically, this story takes audiences on a spiritual journey through the expansive landscapes of the West, when Momaday's Kiowa ancestry roamed the Great Plains with herds of buffalo, to the sand-painted valleys of Jemez Pueblo, New Mexico where his imagination ripened and he showed superior writing skills as a young mission student.
As aforementioned, this rather in depth biography gives a thorough survey of Momaday's most prolific years as a doctorate fellow at Stanford University, his achievements, his latter day works in both art and literature, and shines a light on how he influenced a generation of Native American artists, scholars, and political activists.
Although his unique heritage is a central theme of the narrative, Momaday's work asks the questions every audience can relate to: what are our origins and how do we connect to them through our collective memories?
Ergo, through his literature and the cinematic visuals, the film lovingly illuminates how Momaday has grappled with these basic questions of human existence and his very own identity.
The film also reveals the most intimate details of the writer's personal life as revealed through his literary texts, along with the trials and tribulations he faced as a Native American artist in the twentieth and twenty first century.
Historical photos, original animation, and stunning aerials of landscapes, roll out to deservedly complement captivating interviews with Robert Redford, Jeff Bridges, Beau Bridges, James Earle Jones, and Joy Harjo, to bring audiences inside the creative core of this American Master. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
A reading from N. Scott Momaday's novel, In the bear's House, by James Earl Jones and Flynn Jones
Dialogues with N. Scott Momaday and Robert Redford in Santa Fe, NM
An interview with N. Scott Momaday's former editor, Francis McCullough