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Laramie Movie Scope:
The Education of Little Tree

Growing up in extra hard times

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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April 29, 2006 -- Growing up during the Great Depression of the 1930s was tough enough, but growing up in a situation where most of your immediate family members die, and at the same time belonging to a scorned-upon racial minority with few legal rights made it doubly difficult. That is the situation faced by Little Tree in this movie. The fact that the movie manages to be mostly upbeat is more than one might expect from such a situation.

Ten-year-old Little Tree (played by Joseph Ashton) goes to live with his grandfather (James Cromwell of “The Sum of All Fears”) and grandmother, (Tantoo Cardinal of “Legends of the Fall”) a full-blooded Cherokee Indian in the southern United States. High in the mountains, Little Tree learns the fine art of making moonshine and learns woodcraft from his grandparents and family friend Willow John (Graham Greene of “Thunderheart”). He learns the history and ways of his people before state welfare officials take him away to a boarding school for Native Americans. Little Tree's removal from his home is the result of a family dispute between Little Tree and his aunt. Little Tree's parents died.

Although Little Tree's grandfather is white, he has fully adopted the native ways. He teaches Little Tree valuable lessons about how to earn a living, how to grow food without overtaxing the land, how to get along with people, how to be at peace with life and death. The sum of all these things is called “the way.” The pace of the movie is slow and the emotions are generally low-key, but it is a watchable, enjoyable film.

The genesis of the story is unusual. The screenplay is based on a book by Forrest Carter which was originally sold as non-fiction. It is, in fact, fiction, and Carter's real first name is Asa. Carter is a well-known segregationist. The author's chosen first name of Forrest is reportedly taken from Bedford Forrest, founder of the Ku Klux Klan (as was the case with the fictional character Forrest Gump in the film of the same name). Regardless of Carter's motives for writing the book, it remains popular. I don't know if the movie follows the book very closely or not, but it is a compelling, mostly positive story, despite Little Tree's bad luck, told mainly from a child's point of view. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2006 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)