As thirtysomething Native American Rob Brown contemplates leaving his Minnesota reservation to serve his fifth prison stretch, he laments his involvement with the gang culture that has corrupted his tribe, yet which greatly appeals to 17 year-old drug pusher, Kevin Findlay.
Much will be made of the fact that this documentary about life on the White Earth Reservation has been 'presented' by Terrence Malick and executive produced by Natalie Portman. But the more significant name among the exec credits is that of Chris Eyre, whose Smoke Signals was unique in boasting an all-Native American cast and crew and his participation gives a certain cachet and seal of authenticity to Jack Pettibone Riccobono's scattershot debut, which takes its title from the Seven Fires Prophecy that the youth of the Ojibwe nation will arrest the decimation of their culture by restoring traditional values.
Sadly, the fulfilment of this prognostication seems a long way off judging by the conditions in Pine Point, a remote community awash with cheap booze and drugs. Teenager Kevin Findlay is a petty dealer whose big-time ambitions are tempered by the nagging suspicion he might be better off doing something legitimate. He idolises gang member Rob Brown, who is about to begin a 57-month sentence and warns him against seeing jail as an occupational hazard. But, before he turns 18, the Scarface-obsessed Findlay will be busted, sent to rehab and disowned by his mentor.
It's clear from the potted history Brown reads from his rap sheet that the odds are stacked against the men of P-Town. But their womenfolk are second-class citizens who are left to raise kids while their fathers stray or do time. Brown adores his daughter, Persephone, and a very different side emerges when he plays with her or settles to write his poetry. However, such sensitivity is a rarity in a macho society where violence is as much a part of everyday life as poverty, addiction, deceit and neglect. Consequently, the vicious circle tightens and signs of hope grow dimmer.
A gruelling watch and a searing indictment of America's disregard for its indigenous peoples.