16 user 18 critic

Trudell (2005)

A chronicle of legendary Native American poet/activist John Trudell's travels, spoken word performances and politics.


Heather Rae
2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »




Credited cast:
Robert Redford ... Himself
Kris Kristofferson ... Himself
Sam Shepard ... Himself
Amy Ray ... Herself
Val Kilmer ... Himself
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Jackson Browne ... Himself
Darelle 'Dino' Butler Darelle 'Dino' Butler ... Himself
Wilma Mankiller Wilma Mankiller ... Herself
Bonnie Raitt ... Herself
John Trudell ... Himself


A chronicle of legendary Native American poet/activist John Trudell's travels, spoken word performances and politics.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A documentary about legendary Native American poet and activist, John Trudell.



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for thematic material including violent images, language and some smoking


Official Sites:

Official site





Release Date:

20 January 2005 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Trudell: The Lives and Words of John Trudell See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$1,447, 10 February 2006, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$21,844, 26 March 2006
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Appaloosa Pictures See more »
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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:



See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Marcheline Bertrand's final film. See more »


John Trudell: Crazy horse, we hear what you say. One earth, one mother, one does not sell the earth that people walk upon. We are the land, how do we sell our mother? How do we sell the star? How do we sell the air? Crazy horse, we hear what you say. The spirit of life is almost non-existent in the perceptual reality of the society that we're in. It is almost non-existent. They got religion, they got civilization, they got military, they have politics, they have education, they have all the stuff, but they ...
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User Reviews

A Charismatic Activist and Artist Caught on Film Throughout Decades of a Passionate Life
15 March 2006 | by noraleeSee all my reviews

John Trudell is such a charismatic man, with such a dramatic adult life story and articulate passion in word and song that the documentary "Trudell" is fascinating despite the frustrating limitations in the film.

While Trudell's early biography is very briefly covered in the first five minutes, the writing/directing team of Russell Friedenberg and Heather Rae are at their best throughout in uncovering a broad range of period news coverage, video and film, from U.S. and international sources, home collections, and more, from news events to interviews to rallies to performances.

While the bare, contextual historical documentation of the 1960's and 1970's was probably limited by the budget, as it includes many stock stereotyped shots, including old Hollywood images of Indians, what comes across strongly is how consistent Trudell has been throughout his life as a forceful spokesman for Native American rights and related environmental stewardship. How many baby boomers or older could appear next to old footage of themselves and appear so consistent, visually and politically and still an activist?

As someone who became more aware of Trudell's contributions through his music (and I still haven't seen either Michael Apted's documentary "Incident at Oglala", which is excerpted in this film, or his fictionalized adaptation "Thunderheart" in which Trudell also appeared and its star Val Kilmer is quoted here), the film is very frustrating in passing over his art, except as therapy in getting over politically tainted tragedies. The film particularly neglects how his songs extend beyond narrow issues to the broader culture, such as his classic "Baby Boom Che" which metaphorizes enlisting in Elvis's Army, an influence that does not come across in the film. We only see a verse or two of mostly political songs, as well as a lovely romantic remembrance of his late wife and not even one full concert performance, some with annoying music video pretensions. We get more banal, predictable endorsements from musicians like Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne and an Indigo Girl than actually hearing his music. His combination of rock with native cultural percussion and vocalization is covered, though not how this has influenced the growing bands of rez rockers. The closing song over the credits is Kris Kristofferson's song about Trudell.

What we do get extensively is Trudell's overarching philosophy. While he is eloquent, he does talk in whole paragraphs, so I can understand why artsy images are inserted during his long monologues. The last time I heard a similar brilliant environmentalist speak so extensively extemporaneously with such a three-dimensional ideology that encompassed everything was R. Buckminster Fuller who could also talk for hours at a time.

The more recent biographical elements of a healing life and second family in Canada were very confusing factually, as I wasn't clear of the relation of some of the family members interviewed.

I would have liked for the film to include Native American issues in the post-casino corruption world. The film does include natural resources exploitation issues and we get some hints of conservative tribal elders vs. activists but not much.

I wasn't able to get in to see the film at the Tribeca Film Festival, so appreciated being among the few at a matinée screening during its one week commercial run in NYC.

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