"An insightful, quietly moving study not just of character but of a fraught and under-documented aspect of contemporary American life." – Screen Daily
"[Non Western] manages to explore identity, relationships and traditions in a way like no other." – Loud and Clear Reviews
"Nonpartisan and nonconformist when it comes to describing its conflicted protagonists, as well as their motivations." – Cineeuropa
- Visions du Reel
- Morelia IFF
This heartfelt account follows the relationship of a Native American man and a White American woman to explore the intersection of cultural norms, gender and race.
In the United States, long known as a melting pot, ethnicities have often mixed with each other to form a variety of different American identities. At the same time, certain cultures remain fearful that assimilation will rob them of their traditions and customs. Perhaps no culture is more threatened by this loss than the Native Americans who, through years of government and civilian persecution, are forced to live on reservations and cling to a way of life that has become increasingly difficult to maintain in the twenty-first century. Marriage between a Native American and a white American, then, is a true test to see if the cultural norms of the individuals will survive the union.
Non Western takes the individual example of the pending marriage between Thaddaeus and Nanci, two Montana residents, the former Native, the latter white, and investigates how difficult love can be with such radically different cultural expectations. For example, Thad wants his mother to perform a traditional Cheyenne wedding ceremony but she criticizes Nanci for her work outside of the home which clashes with the traditional Cheyenne’s wife’s role as homemaker; Nanci, for her part, wants to please her future mother-in-law but as a well-respected professor of children’s literature, she doesn’t want to give up her academic pursuits. Thad and Nanci frequently quarrel over Native and Western traditions and audiences might be forgiven for wondering what these two individuals actually have in common. Yet their identities are not so clear cut as first appears. Nanci, although white, was raised in a Lakota household after she and her mother fled from an abusive father and husband. Thad, though Native, was adopted by a Christian family when he left the reservation to seek out a better life for himself—and was subsequently disowned by his Native family. Even Thad’s elderly mother was ripped from her family as a child and raised by a Catholic mission. The rigidity with which these individuals cling to their traditions becomes more understandable when seen in the light of these past traumas.
Ultimately, Non Western aims to show that identity is a slippery ideal, especially in the face of romance. Every relationship requires change but to give up a sense of self is a truly difficult sacrifice. With beautiful cinematography of rural Montana as a backdrop and even a subplot of Thad’s rancher friend and his problems with reservation property rights, Non Western emphasizes even in its title that this is not a film in the Western genre with cowboys and Indians in the roles of “good” or “bad” guys. Every individual must make his or her own choices, leaving behind traditions while also forging new ones. Only by overcoming these struggles with their past can these characters achieve happiness together and find their place in the world.
93 Minutes | English
Directed by Laura Plancarte
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