Film - Running Eagle

Susan Omand heads for the freedom of the vast plains with a short film called Running Eagle from Konrad Thọ Fiedler, shown recently as part of Raindance Film Festival...

An American Indian girl, on the run across the Great Plains, fights winter back to Blackfeet Country. She walks holy - breath to wind, boot to snow.

If anyone tries to convince you that there’s not enough time in a short film to tell a powerful story with rich characterisation, you need to point them towards this one.

The first thing that hits you about the film is the cold. The clear sky, the howling wind and the utter exhaustion of the main character, a Native American girl, as she struggles her way across the snow covered plains, with only an Eagle feather to look to for comfort and support. And you can see that she prizes it, as would any Native American, as feathers, but especially eagle feathers, are full of symbolism. In receiving it, as a handed down heirloom, she was given strength, honour, wisdom, power, trust and freedom – all traits that she has to call on during her journey, which we experience in flashback. With minimal dialogue, the power of Running Eagle comes from three things for me. Firstly there’s the soundtrack of evocative Blackfeet tribal song that underplays the imagery of her journey, getting louder and stronger the closer she comes to returning home, interspersed with an almost shocking use of silence when it’s needed to convey a point. Secondly, the perfect selection of locations, each of which are beautifully shot, from the timeless, almost dreamlike, reverence of the vast snowy plains to the transient nature of the truck stops and the brash and tawdry motel room and shopping arcade that bring the story very much into the moment. Lastly, and most importantly, there is the acting of Devery Jacobs, who manages to eloquently convey such a range of emotion in just a glance, just a gesture, that any more dialogue in the story would have been superfluous. You know who her character is, you know what she's been through, what she's going through, just from the look in her eyes - it's a stunning portrayal.

I was not familiar with the novel that Fiedler based his characters and the story around, Dakota by Gwen Florio, but, having now read a bit about the book and getting that this short film is the prologue to the main story, I’m intrigued to see how Fiedler handles the action in the feature length adaptation of the whole novel that he is working on, having managed to build up such a rich foundation with Running Eagle.

Image - Raindance
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