Granted, there is controversy about what happened between the Pilgrims from the Mayflower and the local Native Americans. As the Ojibwa say, "there are two sides to every story, and then there's the truth."
What this two-part series demonstrates is that it's not just the clash of cultures that creates tension: it's the political strife within cultures. Saints & Strangers brings these tensions, misunderstandings and conflicts to the forefront to make what we've all told is a simple story the more true reality of how complex the interactions actually were.
Attention to historical detail, including in costume design and makeup, is impeccable. The use of what would have been the language of the Native Americans (barely preserved by the dialect coach from people he knew because he didn't want to see the language die) is a side benefit of the enterprise and makes the portrayals of the main Native American roles not only believable, but compelling. Dialog between key characters illuminates the realization of the difficult enterprise resulting from arriving in an unknown place. Freedom from cultural restraints is replaced by awareness that no matter where we are, there are always social constraints.
This project must become a classic. It reveals that our sentimental notions about Thanksgiving don't reveal the truth. European settlement on this continent wasn't what anyone thought it would be -- neither the Europeans nor the Native Americans who had to navigate how to interact with each other, whether to trust each other, and what to learn from one another.
Saints & Strangers is both an homage to the people who came together, under trying circumstances, as well as a cautionary tale. It paints clearly that there is no "good" or "bad" side: that politics, no matter our skin color, always attempts to cloud our judgment. In the end, it also shows that no matter who we are, or from where we have come, we are ultimately all cut from the same cloth.
Isabeau Vollhardt, author, The Casebook of Elisha Grey e-book series
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