Two things the film-maker said: Since yesterday, we’ve read a few more synopses of Kind Hearted Woman, the Frontline/Independent Lens film now available to you right there on your home computer.
To watch the film, click here.
For our money, Elizabeth Jensen’s treatment in the New York Times may give you a sense of this film’s purview and range. Her opening thumbnail sketch ends with a key observation:
JENSEN (3/24/13): It took a powerful, disturbing dream from which she awoke sobbing to convince Robin Charboneau, an Oglala Sioux and member of North Dakota's Spirit Lake tribe, that ''I needed to open my mouth, and I needed to speak.'' So she let the documentary filmmaker David Sutherland follow her for more than three years as she struggled to raise her family as a single mother while confronting her alcoholism and the scars of being sexually abused as a child.We’ll second that last observation, although Charboneau is very soulful and very bright and has a two-year college degree. As we watched Sutherland’s film this week, we often thought of the indifference the press corps brings to the lives of regular people of the kind portrayed in this piece.
What she did not know was that her decision would temporarily cost her custody of her two children in tribal court, or that her teenage daughter would disclose that she too had been sexually abused—by her own father, a development that led to a federal trial and, for the filmmaker and the producers, ethical soul searching.
Ms. Charboneau's story and that of her children—Darian, now 17, and Anthony, 14–unspool in Mr. Sutherland's ''Kind Hearted Woman,'' a five-hour presentation on the PBS series ''Frontline'' and ''Independent Lens'' on April 1 and 2. Like Mr. Sutherland's 1998 film ''The Farmer's Wife,'' chronicling the challenges of a Nebraska farm couple, and the 2006 ''Country Boys,'' which follows two high school students in Appalachia, ''Kind Hearted Woman'' is a detailed portrait of the kind of lives rarely given a media spotlight, those lived on the margins of rural America, where money and education are scarce.
We were also struck by the decency of so many people in the film, a type of decency rarely observed on cable.
We’ll also recommend Joseph Kahn’s Q-and-A with the film-maker in the Boston Globe. Kahn asks Sutherland how he chose Robin Charboneau as his subject. As part of his answer, Sutherland said this:
“I chose Robin in part because her kids were so magical. And so outspoken.”
We’ll stick with the “magical” part. We didn’t want to recommend the film on the basis of such a subjective reaction. But we were stunned, all through this film, by the mystery of those astonishing children.
Now that Sutherland has said this thing, we will say it too.
In an interview with the AP, Sutherland explains the purpose of his films. "My goal is that you care about her," he says, referring to Charboneau.
His technique worked for us. As Jensen suggests, Sutherland took us into those parts of the world which are “rarely given a media spotlight.”
Yes, the film is five hours long. That said, our cable channels blast that much crap every night of the week.