An inquiry into the alleged framing of AIM member Leonard Peltier by the FBI. [ Incident at Oglala credits: Dir: Michael Apted/ 90 min/ Documentary-Educational/ Corrupt Government, Government as Bigot]
“A well-made, methodical documentary.”
During the 1970s, the American Indian Movement (AIM) was organized to reform and resist the reservation system that had been imposed on Native Americans over the previous centuries. This documentary takes up the story of a shoot-out in which AIM members allegedly killed two FBI agents.
The FBI naturally sought to avenge these deaths, but as told here, they didn’t seem to care who they convicted. A case is made that Leonard Peltier, the only one actually to serve time for the murders, is innocent. He may or may not be, but what the film does make clear is that none of those charged got a fair trial. FBI tactics included false witnesses, forced confessions, and jury intimidation. This is a classic example of amorphous government power, where evidence and the truth are of such little interest to “public servants” that anyone can get convicted for anything.
A well-made, methodical documentary, Incident at Oglala is at its best in exposing the contempt of government agencies for the “rule of law,” but is less convincing in its principal goal of exonerating Leonard Peltier. Robert Redford lent his narrative voice to this now cause célèbre of the Left. If you like this film, you’ll love Thunderheart, an enjoyable drama by the same director based on related events.