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Dances with Wolves

    Over the holidays I spent a lot of time with my family and finally saw Dances with Wolves. It was a great father-sons bonding experience since it’s my dad’s most favourite movie. The director’s cut is close to 4 hours long so it’s not exactly a short and easy movie to watch. You need patience and dedication, but you will be rewarded with one of the most immersive cinematic experiences ever made.

    The movie came out in 1990 and won 7 Oscars, establishing Kevin Costner as one of the great Hollywood stars at the time. It’s the epic story of a man, who searches for a meaning in the great American frontier. After a heroic act during a battle, set in the midst of the Civil War, he is sent to the west and instructed to settle at an outpost and wait for reinforcements. He waits for months and slowly loses hope that anyone will come. He improves the outpost, befriends a lone wolf and eventually comes into contact with a tribe of native americans. A close relationship between them slowly develops, which leads to further complications, considering he is a soldier of the US Army.

    The movie is full of breathtaking landscapes, which should be seen on the biggest screen you can possibly find – I hope there’s an IMAX re-release at some point. There are a lot of great stunts, the best of which occur during an epic buffalo hunt. The scene is a logistical achievement, considering back then everything was done in camera with little to no trickery and visual effects. The beautiful soundtrack is memorable and will echo in your brain for a long time after you’ve seen the movie.

    The presentation of the native American lifestyle is one of the best portrayals of the culture I have seen. All the actors speak in their native tongue and language is presented as an important barrier the protagonist has to overcome. I learned a lot about their customs, beliefs and fears, which considering how history went, can only make you sad about their inevitable fate. This leads us to the heart of the movie – building bridges between cultures, overcoming differences and learning to communicate and collaborate. It’s a timeless message and one can learn a lot from the dedication, with which both sides are trying to establish a connection and understand each other.

    In my experience with people from different cultures, I always found it interesting to explore their language, cuisine and traditions. Learning about other people’s fears, hopes, customs, politics and religion can help us overcome the stereotypes we so easily accept. Like the protagonist, spreading hands and riding a horse into the enemy lines, a leap of faith is necessary to overcome our own limitations and biases and accept other human beings and their culture.