After a young Canadian Aboriginal girl is murdered in 1971, it takes 20 years of inaction and prejudice before the police finally find the real killers. Meanwhile the killers have to live with their own guilt and fear of being caught.
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The true story of Helen Betty Osborne, a 19 year old Indian girl who was brutually murdered and slain on November 12, 1971 in The Pas, Manitoba, Canada and nearly taking 20 years for the police to find the four men who murdered her. Written by
There is a scene in "Midnight Cowboy" in which the newly arrived John Voight is flowing along a New York street with the rest of the pedestrians when, to his awe, the stream bifurcates in order to flow more smoothly around the spread-eagled body of a well-dressed man who had been carrying an attache case. This seems to be emblematic of our attitude toward the death of a stranger, or even an acquaintance, in our midst. Nobody cares. In "River's Edge," the teenagers look wonderingly at the naked dead body of a classmate, and then go about their business, other things, like making out, occupying their minds. Nobody cares. But the late Stanley Milgram's quasi-experiments at Yale suggest the real responses of witnesses are anything but apathetic. They're emotionally aroused when a stranger is in a life-threatening situation; but they don't know what to do. They feel that someone else, somewhere, must have the situation in hand. In "Conspiracy of Silence," Milgram's findings are illustrated in the social dynamics of a small and snow-bound Canadian town. The Cree belong to a different caste than the white people and move in slightly different circles, but everybody soon knows what happened, except the agents of social control whose job it is to see that justice is done. In this superior TV miniseries we see just how things can go wrong. I suspect that the racism may have been exaggerrated to provide an additional dimension to the story here, and that the murderers of a white girl might have taken almost as long to be brought to court. Not sixteen years, maybe, as happened in this case, but probably not overnight either. Canada has always had a pretty fair record with regard to its treatment of Indians. Still, there are too many forces at work in small communities that are inimical to our acting like the upright citizens we like to think we are. It would be relatively simple for the rest of us to make value judgments about the residents of this town, if the town were like the one Rod Steiger tries to ride herd on in "In The Heat of the Night." Even today, in some of the smaller towns in Texas, when a murder is reported, the sheriff is liable to ask, "Did he NEED killin'?" But these Canadians are confused and distraught, not at all complacent. This film is very well done for its kind. The brutality is mostly offscreen or in shadows but is horrifying. The performances are uniformly good. It would have been easy to turn this into a shoddy narrative of prejudice, and of good vs. evil. But everyone concerned with this production avoided the easy way and the effort pays off.
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