Illustration by Rupert Bottenberg

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Reel Injun, by Neil Diamond (Hour Magazine, cover)

The Real Neil Diamond: Cree documentarian finds his own fame at FIFA

The receptionist at the Palm Springs Hilton doesn’t miss a beat when I dial up and ask for Neil Diamond. Apparently, he’s staying at the hotel under his own name.

The Montreal-based Cree filmmaker Neil Diamond may not yet be as famous as the Jewish Elvis (Montreal Neil isn’t even allowed to use his own name on Facebook), but his documentary Reel Injun: On the Trail of the Hollywood Indian did just close the Agua Caliente Film Festival in Palm Springs, after sold-out premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival last September and, more recently, South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, as well as held-over runs in Toronto and Vancouver.

The film, a co-production by the NFB and Montreal’s esteemed aboriginal-owned production company, Rezolution Pictures, is a groundbreaking work that began, in a sense, when Diamond was a kid in Waskaganish, on James Bay. As he recounts in the intro sequence to Reel Injun, Diamond and his friends spent their childhoods watching all kinds of movies in the church basement, including classic John Ford westerns with cowboys and Indians. And, like everyone else, the Cree kids all rooted for the cowboys. Read article