#CANNES22: “WAR PONY” REVIEW
Review by Amanda Gilmore for Mr. Will Wong
This impressive First-Feature Debut by Co-Directors Riley Keough and Gina Gammell follows two Oglala Lakota boys on Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Bill (Jojo Bapteise Whiting) is a 23-year-old trying to make some money. When he finds an abandoned poodle, he starts his own dog breeding business. While Matho (Ladainian Crazy Thunder) is a 12-year-old desperate for his father’s approval. When the unexpected happens, Matho sees no other way but to follow in his father’s footsteps. Bound by their shared search for belonging, they grapple with identity, family, and loss, as they navigate their unique paths to manhood.
Keough and Gammell observe their endearing characters navigate reservation life. Although this is more of a character-driven piece, it’s more captivating than plot-focused narratives. Their two storylines give a ranged look at what these young men need to do to survive in a world that’s abandoned them. The Co-Directors use the two interlocking storylines as a way to give an authentic look into the lives of those on reservations.
Bill is a go-getter who’s trying to start his own business. His drive to succeed is infectious. Additionally, he’s a goofball who wants to get the mother of one of his children back. His endearing quality is that things never quite go right in his romantic life. Bapteise Whiting gives a star-making performance. We see the struggle he’s lived through, his desire to succeed and the bond that grows between him and his Poodle.
Matho’s story is much darker. He’s forced to act beyond his years due to his home life. He’s surrounded by a particular style of living and only wants his father’s approval. In seeking that, it backfires and his father kicks him out of the house. Forcing this 12-year-old to provide for himself, leads him right down the life his father led. Crazy Thunder gives a heartbreaking performance as the young boy who’s trying to find a way to survive.
The Co-Directors and Writers, with the help of Co-Writers Franklin Sioux Bob and Bill Reddy, bring in Native American beliefs through the use of the American Buffalo. The Lakota believe the American buffalo is a symbol that one does not have to struggle to survive if the right action is joined by the right prayer. The American buffalo is witnessed by both Bill and Matho at different moments. This, in addition to the editing by Affonso Gonçalves and Eduardo Serrano, brings these two young men together.
War Pony screens at Cannes ’22:
Sat, May 21 at 2:15 PM at SALLE DEBUSSY
Sun, May 22 at 8:30 AM at SALLE DEBUSSY
Sun, May 22 at 12:00 PM at CINEUM AURORE
Mon, May 23 at 11:30 AM at LICORNE
Mon, May 23 at 1:15 PM at CINEUM SCREEN X