The Last of His Tribe

(Harry Hook, USA, 1992)


The Last of His Tribe is a quality telemovie of noble intention – and the first in a line of films about the plight of the American Indian made in the wake of Dances with Wolves (1990).

Featuring Graham Greene (Thunderheart, 1992) as Ishi, the noble, silently suffering remnant of a tribe massacred in 1911, it is a true and depressing story of cultural incompatibility.

Taken in hand by a team of scientists and historians led by Jon Voight, Ishi is analysed, subjugated, and even a little loved, but the trauma of genocide that he has witnessed is a truth that few around him seem willing to hear or comprehend.

As directed by Harry Hook (who made the 1990 version of Lord of the Flies), the story predictably portrays its white characters strictly as either ugly racists or benevolent liberals, while romanticising Ishi as a veritable fountain of native spirituality and sensuality.

However, in its emphasis on Voight's vacillating sympathy, its admirably downbeat resolution, and its convincing condemnation of scientific rationalism, the film is ultimately both persuasive and moving.

© Adrian Martin July 1993

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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