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THE SILENT ENEMY (1930) is a stunning film. Shot on location in northern Ontario and in Alaska with a completely native cast none of whom spent a second in acting school the picture is filled with riveting performances which are unaffected, natural and thrilling to watch. The story is abundantly told on other sites.  The screenplay, written by W. Douglas Burden, Richard Carver and Julian Johnson , has a medicine man blinded by lust who is a real peace of work.

The film reminded me of a moment years ago when I was posting flyers for my ongoing film and lecture programs around Toronto. I passed a group of people panhandling for money. A little further on I passed an Indigenous man who asked for spare change. I said, “You do not have the aura of a beggar? What the Hell is going on here?”

He said, “I was a Chief among my people. The priest told me to go out and find GOD.”

I said, “You just met me. You and I have to talk. Let’s go into this restaurant.”

He said, “I can’t. I’m responsible for those people.” He pointed to the ones I had just passed.

I said, “Call them over. I will buy them something to eat. You and I have to talk.”

He did. They took a booth at the back of the restaurant.

After we had spoken together for about an hour the man said, “Thank you. I see my way now.”

The point of this story is that the Medicine Man claims to have revelations from The Great Spirit.

Who can argue?

There were and are authentic Medicine Men. This man is not one of them.

Sort that out for yourself.

The Flicker Alley Blu-ray includes an Audio Interview an edited series of vintage interviews with the film’s producer, W. Douglas Burden, conducted by celebrated author and film historian Kevin Brownlow.

This is enormously valuable not only in detailing the struggle to produce this film but also in giving us an insight into the difference between the people indigenous to this land when our ancestors came here and ourselves.

It is a big difference as well as an important one.

The people indigenous to this land were able to live here for centuries without polluting it.

We are burning it up.

THE SILENT ENEMY (1930) is set long before Christopher Columbus set foot on the land this side of the great water.

Where this presentation fails is in the choice of music used to accompany the story.

It is the whiteman’s music used the way whitemen use it.

Buy the Blu-ray.

Turn off the soundtrack.

Watch it with this wonderful Ojibwe music.

Don’t worry about synchronizing it with the plot.

I have a strong feeling that if Paramount had done this in 1930 the picture would have been a hit.

As for Medicine Men, I have it on the authority of Jerzy Zaborski, an archaeologist, Egyptologist and Sumerologist who came to my spoken word presentation on the Sumerian story of GILGAMESH that I am a “Crazy-Wisdom-Yogin.”

When he said that I laughed and said, “I get called crazy often enough. What does the rest of that mean?”

He said, “It is the highest compliment I, as a Buddhist, can pay.”

Jerzy was a Medicine Man of the highest order. He accompanied The Dalai Lama on his first journey across Canada. We spoke from 9pm until near dawn about things only Medicine Men can talk about.

If you, dear reader, think I’m full of it, well, we don’t get listed among the greatest speakers ever for not knowing what were talking about.

For two years Cree Artist Rene Highway lived me. From him and the people I met through him I learned a great deal about his people.

“Why are the bugs attacking us and not you?” some non-Anishinaabe with whom he was picking berries asked Rene.

He replied, “Before I began to pick berries I told them I would leave them some.”

THE SILENT ENEMY (1930) does his people justice.

–Reg Hartt




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